How have you been? Thanks for your time and suggestions on the last article .. I appreciate every minute that you spend on my blog and deeply care for the suggestions and recommendations that you make. Many of you have requested that I keep the customer experience series going. Your wish is my command, in every sense of the expression. This is the fourth one that we are doing today, together as always. I shall link the other three at the end of this blog, to save you time and effort of finding it, in case you happen to be one who is reading this articles as the first one from the series. Well, then let’s get started!
Customer service for the future; is what we shall explore today. BTW, do we still just use customer ‘service’? Service is undeniably critical but, if I may say so, has outlived its utility. Service alone isn’t exciting anymore, so much so that excellent customer service practices of yesterday has become “hygiene” for operation today & are listed in the bucket labeled “bare minimum” in the minds of the customers. The customer is that one person or group that keep us going .. that is where the payment for all that we offer comes from … therefore imp, isn’t it?
The transformation that we are going thru is rapid, every sphere of life is undergoing massive modification as we speak. We do not do things the way we used to let’s say a decade ago. In very little time .. a lot has changed and perhaps forever. How many of us write letters now? Do you even recall walking to a bank branch for withdrawing cash or even making a deposit? The favorite bookstore for most of us is no longer crosswords but Flipkart.com / amazon.com – not to say that we do not like stores but we prefer shopping from our homes more. Fundamentally, things have changed, instead of us reaching the goods/services, the goods /services travel to reach us and on that organization compete .. who reaches faster .. fresher .. fuller etc. Take a look at the humble Pizza, ’30 minutes delivery or free’ has become more imp than the pizza itself, at least from the narrative that is being built. A whole lot of organizations, some close to a billion dollars have come into being, aggregating stuff .. Ola, Uber, Zomato, Swiggy; you name it – ridding on this wind of change.
The moot point that I’m trying to make here is that; the wind of change is not just blowing but is sweeping everything that is coming in its way and it is all for the good – I can say this today, not sure how will it be seen a decade from now. When we have all depleted natural resources greatly to fuel our outrageous ambitions; but then we must leave that discussion for some other time ( do hit me on my email if you’d like to hear the environmentalist, that I hide inside me, glaring about the changes that I see). Considerable change in customer expectations is putting a tough challenge to the organization to manage, meet and exceed what is to be delivered to the customer, day in and day out.
Before we get into specifics let’s just get the definition out of the way.
When you fix a problem that the customer has reported and done it promptly, polity and in a manner that makes the customer feel safe, it can easily be called service. Customer experience, however, is a different ball game it is not only about reactive care/support but also all the proactive measures that you take to ensure that customers do not go thru any of this ever on your platform. In one of my articles, I’ve argued that a set up that minimizes or better yet completely eliminates the need for customer service is the best firm for customer service. Attaining that is not easy, it would mean every nut and bolt of the organization is tightened and enough that before something reaches the customer it is 100% complete, and what follows it is a series of customer education; one that brings the customer up to speed. There the level of customer education is elevated … to the standard of advisory!! You need to make sure that you advise your customers on matters that matter to him, and the quality of advisory is so good that they become dependent on you. More like a dictionary .. when you do not know a word .. that is the only solution that you have .. you consume it on the web or flip physical pages .. .it is dictionary service that gets you to the meaning. That is what is needed for brands to create dictionary grade accuracy and reality and recognition.
What is also abundantly clear is that incremental enhancements to do with reducing cost can no longer be passed to the customers as a gesture of service, let alone, experience. You can no longer shut the telephone line and say that we are doing so because we care for our customers, phone in our view is an intrusive method so we decided to go all and ‘only’ digital. Your customer will read right thru it and know that you are cutting corners to grow your balance sheets fatter at the cost of customer experience and they will not miss a beat in choosing your competition over you should there be any offering what in their mind is better customer support. We need to understand that free flow of information is now a reality, customers can read reviews, learn about how others have experienced your brand in a matter of moments – it is all out there available and free! The way we learn about a product or a service, the way we compare and the purchase decision that we make today is supplied with a decent amount of data & research. Impulsive purchases are no longer the largest contributors of growth and certainly not a reason for a repeat purchase. A continued association is only possible if you service your customer well. There is no other way, really.
It is as simple as this; if you want the customers to remain loyal to you and get you more users you’ll have to invest in their experience, sweat for them to feel the breeze of convenience. If you do not make “customer experience” your priority you will no longer remain your customer’s either. Make the choice, while you still can!
Championing the cause of customer is rather easy if you are a small org or let’s say a single identity; it is that much more difficult if you have a group of companies or an org that is well spread out in vast geographies. But there is a way out and I’m here to present that to you in what I call a customer experience toolkit 🙂
It has five elements; much like our universe that is made up of five elements ( air, water, earth, sky, & fire); accordingly to the wisdom of the Vedas ( Veda for some other time).
Here is the list in no particular order.
- Create customer centricity organization/Group.
- Integrate customer touch points
- Customer interface based innovation
- Sell “service” for revenue
- Build high-performance operations.
Let’s get down to each one of them, individually.
Create customer centricity organization/ Group: Our values are important because they help us to grow and develop. They help us to create the future we want to experience. Every individual and every organization is involved in making hundreds of decisions every day. The decisions we make are a reflection of our values and beliefs, and they are always directed towards a specific purpose. And purpose singularly should be “customer satisfaction”. You’ve to encourage all your people to think from the customer’s perspective. Everyone has to do it not just customer-facing units. From person working the accounts, the tech guys designing systems, to the IT personal fixing computers to the pantry staff to the security guard, everyone right up till the CEO/MD must make sure that every decision that they make; is made for the customer. I’m not saying make your organization non-profit charity but you have to make it sensitive to what your customers care about .. and that will be a good beginning.
Integrate customer touch points: Synergy gets built when you integrate smartly, you have to integrate your product lines; you can’t be selling one thing from one store and another from some other even if they are related. It is like selling a pen at one store and ink at the other to create a specialization, while it helps your logistics it doesn’t help the customer. The customer would want both the fountain pen and the ink to be available at the same store, placed beside each other. If you are a group that offers multiple products .. you got to integrate similar ones together. This integration will keep your customers from getting confused. After product lines coming together comes Sale and service integration; You can’t deny service at the point of sale, for all practical purposes it is the point of sale that the customer first gets introduced to, you have to make use of that familiarity to make your service outlet coexist with POS. Service where you sell and sell more because of your good service.( that is what Apple does). And then comes the touch point integration; Go omnichannel, make use of customer history and profile information to make your pitch contextual and win the customer over with detail, quality, and speed.
Customer interface based innovation: Organization needs to keep reinventing themselves by shifting their focus to truly reshaping the customer interface as a core driver for new value. Again, technology and service innovation is no longer solely used to enhance productivity and drive down staff costs. You have to be on the latest technology platform and keep your plan for migration into the future techs ready. Deploy state-of-the-art voice recognition systems not only to understand what customers say using natural language but also to detect emotional “vibes” thus making the routing system that delivers the call intuitive and intelligent. In addition to applying channel-specific technology innovations, more companies are leveraging technology to enhance the interplay of channels. Turn the ordinary business of technology troubleshooting into a customer adventure, a game for instance. Classic Web service features include live chats with service agents, moderated communities and forums, employee and user blogs, and product demonstration videos. Two-way interfaces capture customer suggestions and allow service agents to comment or directly follow up. Striking a smart balance between contact automation and human interaction is a key success factor for service organizations.
Sell “service” for revenue: Service is of strategic importance in a market that is crowded with low-cost options, the way for you to gain customer’s attention is by serving them right. A shift in mindset from contact avoidance to active contact management is one of the most fundamental changes in next-generation customer service. Rather than decreasing contact time with the customer to reduce cost, organizations must discover new value by using each contact to generate new consumer insights, build loyalty, and leverage the interaction for cross-selling and up-selling. Make customer- specific recommendations, for example, the system displays products and services already purchased by the customer on the line, automatically proposes new products and services, and simultaneously provides the agent with a script to help pitch those recommendations. This can also be applied to larger groups who have more than one organization. When you make a pitch for one service .. make sure you let your customers also know about some of the other capabilities that your company has to offer.
Build high-performance operations: Before we get into explaining why high-performance operations is non-negotiable, let us take a moment to understand how imp it is to keep the workforce meaningfully engaged, highly motivated and goal oriented. An unhappy person can never generate great results.. you have to work towards making sure that you pay right, you pay on time, you give your staff the tools and space needed to perform and above all make them feel needed. Value the person behind the title and it will all start falling into place. You have to, however, make sure that from a design perspective your companies/groups goal is very well distributed towards each function and all employees .. KRA and goal setting is a great tool to apply in this case. Poor service actually drives customers away; in others, inefficient processes are inordinately expensive. Focus primarily on changing or optimizing existing operations—processes, systems, and staff qualifications. Employee motivation is a prerequisite for efficient operations and high-quality service. Set realistic yet ambitious targets and use predictive and predictive analysis to sound early warning alarms and then if it comes to that .. you have to performance manage your people, indiscriminately & dispassionately.
Well, we are done with our toolkit. I do not claim that these are the perfect set or one that will solve all problems but I can with reasonable confidence can say that there is no way it will not work. These come from a mix of my own work experience, reading, and imagination using the former two.
As promised here is the link of the other three articles written for the customer experience series..
#1 Customer Experience – It matters!
#2 Customer Feedback, should you care?
#3 Service & Churn!
See you in the next one .. you have a pleasant Sunday!