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The number one customer service experience question facing firms today

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23rd May 2011
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Leaders are now facing a decision, says Mitch Lieberman: continue to let customers down through inadequate capabilities or embark on a journey to evolve their customer service experience. But companies cannot do this alone...

Customer experience is made up of the sum of interactions and touch points with people, via the products and services a company provides to or for them. Customer service experience is a subset of the overall customer experience, with a slightly different focus.

Specifically, a customer service experience is the sum of the interactions between you and your customers when they are trying to communicate with or to you, often regarding something that has gone awry. Customers of all types (not just social customers) are emotional and tend to rate experiences based upon the expectations set (either specifically, or ones we set in our mind) – yes, they are often shared, both good and bad.

The simple question is: "Is your business organised in such a way to accelerate your company’s ability to deliver a service experience, which meets or better, exceeds customer expectations?"

Every business has unique opportunities to create meaningful connections with their customers every day. The idea, of course, is to embrace customers, offering exceptional value with each touch point. Within customer service, if the team serves as an advocate for every customer, building trust along the way loyalty often comes along for the ride. And to be quite direct, incremental revenue and a passion for your products is possible as well, but it is not as simple as that, it takes work. People like buying from people they know and trust – get to know your customers! Each part of the organisation can and should make a difference. Is this the case in your organisation?

Facing a decision

The customer need not initiate every interaction. A simple reminder via email or SMS as notification of an appointment, for example, can be very well received. Do you have in place the proper foundation – cultural and technological – to meet the demands of your customer and advocates? Many customers are less satisfied with contact centers (ie phone calls) than they are with the trendier contact options (social), but the investments are still towards the new flashy and ‘cool’ applications. Many customers do still prefer the phone – statistics prove it. This kind of disconnect has created today’s conundrum with is receiving attention from on-high, your CEO.

Executives are taking notice and have made it one of their business priorities to get closer to their customers.  I have been known to ask; "what exactly does ‘getting closer’ mean?" Executives have begun to realise that embarking down the wrong relationship-building path will continue to critically hurt their overall business strategy.  

Leaders are now facing a decision: continue to let customers down through inadequate capabilities or embark on a journey to evolve their customer service experience. Companies cannot do this alone, a new vision and a framework for support has become paramount.

To succeed with all customers, social and more traditional, companies need to create and maintain consistency of experience across all channels. A complete interaction experience goes well beyond just listening to your customer. It branches out to action, enablement and empowerment. Not only do companies need to learn how to interact well with customers using all channels; from the phone to social media, they also need to ensure experiences for the customer that deliver real value to the customer in exchange for time, attention, actions, information, and anything else that companies want from customers.

Coordination before collaboration

Few organisations are capable of providing the cross-channel consistency, an imperative for modern customer facing organisations. Unfortunately, the internal cultures of companies have not been built for this model. In order to achieve success, I am suggesting that companies must first change to better embrace their customers, not just as industry-mandated customer service operations.

Companies will need to enable and empower employees to act as customer advocates who help customers successfully do the jobs they need to do with the company’s services or products. The company’s view of and objectives for customer service will need to change to provide very different kinds of training and guidelines to allow customer service staff to work creatively, cross-channel with customers. To succeed, companies will need more than collaboration platforms, though they can help. Coordination needs to come before collaboration, I will be exploring that in a future post.

During the past month, I was able to explore, in depth, many of the points above with Julie Hunt. Looking at the above points from many different perspectives – having fun along the way. Some the key questions addressed are:

  • How can you meet the demands of a multi- and cross-channel customer?
  • Do you know what your customers want from a ‘social’ relationship with you?
  • How can you align processes with the needs of your customers?
  • When does the difference between an Interaction and a Transaction matter?
  • How to focus on what your customers remember, for service interactions?
  • What is the proper balance of investment in ‘Social’ channels versus ‘Traditional’ channels?

If you would like to receive the full version of the document, please just let me know.  No registration forms, just an email to me, mitch.lieberman (at) gmail.com or to whitepaper (at) sword-ciboodle.com.

Mitch Lieberman is VP strategic marketing at Sword Ciboodle.

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