Non value demand vs value demand: Driving process design into customer service

6th Jun 2011

The one time you force your customers to contact you is when they don’t want to. And what makes this worse, says Ian Gotts, is that companies often compound it with poorly thought through, inadequately tested and inconsistently applied business processes.

Every major organisation has some form of customer call centre. You may have renamed yours 'contact centre'. They are manned by staff that are trained, tooled-up with technology and incentivised to support customers. It is critical because it drives longer term sales and protects repeat revenue. It may even be considered a 'profit centre'.
Profit centre or cost centre?
But your customers are calling you less, and only when they really have to. I would suggest that CRM stands for 'customer rejection management' rather than 'customer relationship management' – and this is by design. There are three strategies that companies are adopting which are driving customers away, giving you less insight into your customers and their needs, and ultimately you are alienating them. These strategies are:
  • Outsourcing: let someone else talk to your customers
  • Self service: let them find their own answers
  • Search/social networking: let someone else help them
All three strategies are driven by a cost centre mindset.
But the one time you force your customers to contact you is when they don’t want to. This is called non value demand: You make your customers do something that has no real value for them.
Either you make them call a number and sit on hold after they have navigated through a labyrinthine list of menu options. Or you make them go to an unintelligible website, register by entering a huge list of personal information, wait for a validation email, and then make them try to navigate your website with little or no guidance or step by step instructions. Familiar story?
Here are some examples of non value demand:
  • Report a fault or error in a product or service
  • Fix a problem in a product or service
  • Confirm or acknowledge a change of contract or other details
  • Update personal details
The opposite of non value demand is value demand. This is something initiated by the customer which they want for their benefit. They may not want to talk to you but it is worth their time and effort. Examples are:
  • Ask for an increase in credit limit
  • Cancel a product or service
  • Order a product or service
  • Give feedback
What makes both non value demand and value demand worse is that companies often compound it with poorly thought through, inadequately tested and inconsistently applied business processes. I am not just talking about the screens in the CRM application but the end-to-end process; the customer journey.
This makes the experience even worse for everybody. The customer is confused and frustrated. The call centre operator is embarrassed and frustrated. So the customer leaves the call really hacked off, no matter how good, positive or cheerful your call centre person is.
Good process design is at the heart of great customer service
The explosive growth of social networking means that there is now a wide range of ways that a customer may get their question answered. Calling you. Searching your website. Emailing you. Searching for the answer on a forum. Posting the question on a social networking site (e.g. LinkedIn, Facebook) or on a microblogging site (e.g. Twitter).
This is the perfect opportunity for you to take a look at front office processes, and take a customer-centric perspective on these processes. Put the customer at the heart of them and think about their journeys. The good news is that most of the back office processes can stay the same.
This is the opportunity to take a faster, more effective yet proven approach to process capture/discovery, CRM design, and the adoption of new working practices for your customer facing staff. Interactive, collaborative process mapping sessions. Rapid CRM system prototyping. Role-based guided process walkthroughs delivering links to systems, videos, on screen entry, documents and forms, in the context of an end-to-end process.
Gone are consultants interviewing staff and producing complex flowcharts that cover the entire wall of the project office. The end to 6-12 month CRM IT-centric projects. Say goodbye to offsite CRM systems training courses.
Just theory?
Is this approach just theory? No. It can be seen on every high street in the UK in Carphone Warehouse stores, with an initiative they call ‘How2’. 
If you can’t make it out of the office, Carphone Warehouse has documented its project in videos from several perspectives including a retail store, back office, the project sponsor. The results speak for themselves; just from the deployment to 815 stores the ROI was 1100% in year one, customer satisfaction (NPS) up 25%, an additional revenue of £5m in the first year and they’ve saved £50k per year on telephone support calls to stores. In fact the company has just won a Gartner BPM Excellence Award in the ‘Leveraging BPM Technology’ category.
Contrast this with the non value demand experience of another UK retailer; Sky.
My family has just moved to the USA and before we left we rented out our house. We called Sky the prerequisite 30 days in advance to cancel our TV/phone/broadband service (value demand). The person at the call centre was very helpful. A letter arrived in the post confirming the cancellation of the TV. The letter read:
"Sorry to hear you decided to cancel SkyTV. Your viewing will stop on dd/mm/yyyy. (date was wrong: non value demand) We are delighted that you want to continue your Sky Talk service etc etc etc (No: non value demand)."
So we make a non value demand call. A very helpful and friendly call centre representative said that we would be receiving separate letters from each department (telephone, broadband, TV) cancelling the services.  Each, presumably, saying the other services would continue – confusing us – or prompting more non value demand calls. We were advised to simply ignore these letters when they arrived. Which we did.
About a week ago we were sent a letter prompting another non value demand call. There is a credit on the account and they wanted me to call them to let them know if we would like a cheque and where to send it. Far better would have been to credit our bank account or attach a cheque to the letter.
The final word
The people who design operational processes should think about how it feels from a customer perspective. Then how the effective use of technology can enhance the experience for everyone. The social media revolution taking place is the perfect catalyst.
Ahhh!! I feel better now. Who should I call to tell?

Ian Gotts is CEO at Nimbus.

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