Good customer service is becoming expected. Except, sadly, even average customer service is a rarity, despite all the technology being brought to bear, says Ian Gotts in a new column launched this month about Customer Service. So what can you do about it?
Welcome to Mr Angry’s new column on Customer Service. This regular new column will highlight both good and bad examples of customer service. It will discuss trends and make you think about things differently. Each article will try and give you practical, simple and implementable ideas.
But it is also intended to be the springboard for discussion, both positive and negative. So don’t hold back. If you don’t agree let me know. If one of the ideas here worked, then let me know so that others can follow you.
Why it is on the PEX Network? Because I believe passionately that process excellence is at the heart of great customer service. Certainly staff heroics can deliver a great customer experience but a repeatable service for all channels across the entire business takes more than that.
Customer Service as competitive advantage
Good customer service is becoming expected. Except, sadly, even average customer service is a rarity, despite all the technology being brought to bear. In fact, great customer service is a true competitive advantage with direct contribution to the bottom line. How? Great customer service combined with a good (but not necessarily great) product means you can charge premium prices.
Who is building your corporate brand?
More and more companies in the Western world are becoming service companies, or their market perception is heavily influenced by their customer interactions. No matter how good the product is, it will be overshadowed if the customer has a poor experience getting it ordered, delivered, connected, billed or fixed.
And who is talking to your customer? The lowest paid people in your company. The call centre staff, sales assistants or maintenance team. And these people have the highest turnover and are therefore less likely to have had the length of service to really live and breathe the company.
Sometimes it's even worse. For cost reasons (or better customer service you may claim) you may be forcing customers to a poorly thought through website or an incomprehensible automated call handling system.
And if that isn’t bad enough you may have outsourced calls to a 3rd party call centre manned by staff who have no allegiance to your brand. (In fact, there has been a big backlash and some companies are now advertising as a benefit that they don’t use offshore call centres.)
Technology is making it worse not better
More technology is being poured into companies with the aim of improving customer service and reducing costs. Or maybe that should be with the aim of reducing costs and hopefully improving customer service. Cynical maybe, but you get what you aim for. So is the primary driver customer satisfaction or margin?
The consumerisation of technology (ie the consumer has more technology than you and their technology is evolving faster than your) is making customer service immeasurably more complicated. The number of channels has exploded with social media.
Now a consumer can contact you and expect an answer by:.
writing a letter
faxing a letter
filling out a contact form on your website
posting a comment on your blog
writing on your Facebook wall
commenting on your YouTube channel
Is technology helping or hindering customer service?
Time for a refresh / reset
This change has really taken hold in the last 2-3 years and therefore many company’s customer experience strategy has not reflected it - if in fact you even had a customer experience strategy at all.
DO you even know how good or poor your customer processes are. Have you tried navigating your way through the call routing system, or tried complaining and returning a faulty product?
Now is the time to take a step back and approach it Outside-In – from the customer’s perspective - and re-design the "front office" of your company. And then you can see the impact on the back-office functions and address it.
I may have a solution - here's my first idea (others to follow in subsequent columns):
Create the post of Customer Experience Czar
Sounds far fetched, outside your budget, impossible? Think again. My suggestion is the Czar is a young high-flier plucked out of their role or project for a maximum of 2 months. The role reports directly to the CEO which means they get great senior level visibility so it is a great career move. It is only for 2 months so the effort is focused. They are young enough to have an open mind and understand the new customer engagement styles.
The role is to ‘exercise’ all the customer facing processes; a formal structured ‘mystery shopper’ exercise. The report they produce is of the critical importance and they should have the ear of the CEO.
Now you have a basis for change and importantly a senior level mandate.
Sounds great. Where do I sign up?