Archives : January 2007
Customer Service: How the Consumer REALLY feels
For some time now, in the notoriously non-service oriented UK, Customer service has finally been seen as the behaviour that can have the most significant impact on a company’s top and bottom line performance. In our own experience with existing clients and new customers, we’ve found that one of the key characteristics of consistently successful businesses is their willingness and ability to create and implement a set of brand defining, distinctive and hard-to-replicate capabilities – which are led by those related to customer service – that set them apart from other rivals in their chosen market places.
To those of us who have suffered continual poor service as consumers in the UK, it is no great surprise that recent research into the behaviour of top-performing companies shows that customer service is critical to developing and consistently delivering a strong, branded customer experience. In turn, this is a key contributor to creating strong customer loyalty and higher lifetime customer value. In short, the way you look after your customers – existing and new - often spells the difference between being a mediocre company with poor performance and being a market leader, whose customers come back to them time and again.
So now that we’ve finally accepted that providing great service is absolutely critical, there is bad news for those companies thinking that getting it right is a quick fix. The truth is that it is one of the most difficult things to achieve. This is reflected in the fact that what most companies often believe is “good” service may not be held in the same regard by their customers. In fact, it’s not at all uncommon for companies to spend huge sums on new customer service technology solutions and processes – believing they are improving their capabilities in this critical area, only to see customer complaints and defections rise – because they have forgotten to focus on customers first and then look at processes and technology to support an excellent customer service philosophy. To repeat that, because it is important, the priority and focus should be: People, Processes and Technology.
Hence when looking at how your customers feel about you, in order to understand how you can serve them better, perhaps the following areas should be looked at carefully
- How satisfied are customers with the different methods of customer service that you use or could use?
- What impact does technology and its’ deployment really have on service quality?
- What do they find most frustrating aspects when they deal with customer service representatives?
- How do they feel about the action you take when they have had a poor service experience?
- As one of your customers, what do they feel are the most important aspects when providing a satisfying customer service experience?
Customer surveys should be run constantly but should be simple and unobtrusive. Above all, you must ensure that you do use the output to change our behaviour and ensure your customers know this – in it’s own way, this can provide a closer bond when consumers know they are making a difference. Responses from survey participants are always illuminating, and will suggest numerous opportunities for you to improve the way that you look after your consumers and how you handle and resolve customer issues. In this way, you can create some of the distinctive capabilities that are key factors in achieving high performance, at the same time as retaining and growing your customer base.
Next time, we’ll look at some of the output of such a survey and look at how it can change your business behaviour for the better.
Providing the Right Customer Experience
It's an age old problem and one that companies across all b2C sectors are increasingly facing: How can they deliver the most satisfying service experience,attract more customers, increase revenues from them at the same time as reducing costs? In the past, it's been a difficult objective to achieve but with the growth of multi-channel contact, coupled with an ever demanding and informed consumer, it's critical that companies aim for it today. If they don't, the consequences are stark. In our experience of markets such as Retail, Telco, Outsourcing etc, delivering a differentiated, branded customer experience plays a major role in improving customer satisfaction and all the benefits this brings: increased customer loyalty, which in turn drives high performance through better margins, revenue growth and shareholder value.
Sadly, in many companies, the traditional approach to managing customer contacts in a way that balances cost and satisfaction is not working because the primary focus is cost not the customer and the Contact Centre is seen as a necessary and costly evil, not a strategic weapon for the business. In the communications industry, for example, losing one-fourth of customers each year is fairly typical with Airlines losing about 40 percent of their customers and Insurance companies 30 percent.
So why is this and what is the fundamental problem? Companies are providing self-service solutions that cut costs, but which also alienate customers because they lack personalisation and intimacy and they also imply a degree of knowledge and effort from the customer. For example, they don't effectively identify those high-value customers who must be given special care and attention. Also while companies are implementing agent desktop tools, they miss the point by not preparing those agents who actually have to deliver a better experience to the customer and so in consequence make matters worse. Problems are increased when different departments in the business, crucial for providing input that assists the response to the customer, aren't or can't communicate with each other e.g marketing is going in one direction, operations another.
To combat these types of situations, companies need to build a complete customer experience master plan. This will aim to provide the foundation that allows a company to deliver a superior and ever improving customer experience across all channels of customer contact and their corresponding value chains. Whether a company is servicing a low-value customer or a platinum account, the master plan mandates the right customer experience for each customer type, makes the design of each experience achievable and provides an underlying financial model to track operational improvements and the impact the bottom-line impact. The master plan ensures that companies achieve the right balance between customer satisfaction and what it costs to serve the customer.