Improving the customer experience is a universal goal in business, right along with revenue growth and return on investment. But although we all know that customer care is the road to customer satisfaction, it can be difficult to navigate the journey. Knowing what to avoid can help you reach your destination more quickly and easily. Following are a few roadblocks to steer clear of in your pursuit of exceptional customer care.
Avoid indirect routing: As you chart your path to customer satisfaction, the most direct route is the most effective. Customer care cannot be a departmental initiative – it must be a company-wide vision that starts at the top. Don’t allow your organization’s customer care mission to be seen as the responsibility of any single group. Rather, insist on a commitment to quality linking everyone to the customer, from C-level executives to front-line staff.
No bad drivers: The customer care agents who respond to customers are the face of your organization: don’t let the wrong hires damage your reputation. Make sure your hiring criteria emphasize customer empathy and a commitment to serve. Train employees to see every situation from the customer’s point of view, and to listen closely to assess the nature of the problem and relationship so they can give extra attention to your best customers. Reward employees who go the extra mile in customer care, for example, calling to tell the customer when a service technician is on the way. Impose consequences for failure to follow up.
No back-seat driving: No customer ever wants to be put on hold while an agent tracks down a manager for permission to do the right thing. Build a culture of empowerment in your company in which every customer care agent can resolve a customer problem without seeking an OK from on high. Give your customer care staff the authority to make customers happy.
Kick-the-can is not allowed: Do not allow a customer to be transferred from department to department in search of a resolution to his problem. Customer care demands one-stop shopping. Align goals across all departments and divisions so everyone knows that the goal is to delight the customer, not to get rid of him.
Are we there yet? (or: How do you know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been?) Failure to measure virtually guarantees failure to improve. Exceptional customer care can only be achieved through scrupulous measurement and management. Establish a baseline of satisfaction. For example, a service organization might determine that no customer should have to call with a problem more than twice a year, and offer some kind of compensation if that baseline is exceeded. Establish triggers that signal potential dissatisfaction and build them into customer records. Survey customers regularly to determine their level of satisfaction, and follow up to measure improvement after a customer care transaction. As problems are resolved, be sure that you measure total customer care response time, including time spent waiting for parts or service delivery.
Don’t forget regular maintenance: As we tend to customer care problems, it’s easy to lose sight of those who don’t appear on the daily radar. Recognize and reward good customers, even if they don’t experience problems. Thank them for their business through special offers and rewards.
Great customer care doesn’t have to be expensive – it’s a matter of avoiding the detours along the way and convincing your customers that you’re the only company they want to buy from. Going the extra mile and respecting your customer’s time and concerns will ensure a positive experience for the customer and long-term benefit for your company.
To learn more about customer care, please visit www.cliintel.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
After speaking at the recent Management World 2010 conference in France, I was struck by the reaction of a Dutch IT engineer in the audience. The conference is presented annually by TM Forum, the world’s leading industry association for information technology in communications and media. We had presented a case study on the impressive customer care results achieved by a large telecommunications company through effective deployment
of business intelligence. Waiting his turn in a line of enthusiastic operations executives, this gentleman was puzzled.
“Please don’t be offended,” he said, “but what you’re describing isn’t rocket science.”
He was right. In fact, customer care is not rocket science – it’s way more complicated! For telecommunications companies delivering 24-hour service to millions of customers across the country, the technical operations function bears no resemblance to NASA mission control. Instead of focusing all energy and resources on a single mission, a large telecomm provider must accomplish half a million customer care missions every week. Unlike true rocket science, the mission isn’t performed by a small, elite corps of highly trained individuals with the “right stuff,” but by tens of thousands of regular folks, week in and week out, year after year after year.
These people need simple information to accomplish their missions every day. But many companies fail to provide this basic resource for customer care success. Some even believe that complexity and mystification are impressive. In reality, companies attempting to deliver excellent customer care must provide simple solutions that employees can adopt quickly so they can serve their customers well. It begins with a few simple concepts:
Great Customer Care Depends on Everyone Using the Same Yardstick
In organizations with large field operations, it’s not unusual for each location to measure its performance a little differently. But unless everyone is held accountable to the same standards, measurement becomes meaningless and customer care suffers. Begin your customer care work by establishing key performance indicators that are measured consistently across the organization.
Great Customer Care Depends on Information for All
It’s hard to improve productivity if you don’t know how your performance stacks up. Don’t hoard information – spread it around, from CEO to front-line employees. Access to current information makes an especially dramatic difference for work group supervisors, who often don’t have extensive management training. They need hard facts to manage customer care effectively. Constantly updated information on their team’s performance compared to others is the basis of objective discussions that help employees improve customer care steadily and consistently.
Great Customer Care Depends on Usability
To bring the ocean of data to life for your employees, deliver it through a simple user interface that responds to queries posed in common, “lay person” language. Making it easy and intuitive for the user encourages adoption.
Great Customer Care Depends on Carrots, Not Sticks
Don’t use business intelligence to punish poor performers. Instead, use it to reward those who beat the standard and motivate the rest.
Our client focused on reducing late arrivals for service appointments and reducing repeat service on installations. The business intelligence technology behind their customer care effort is complex, but the point of it is to empower employees to understand and take charge of whatever they control. The system the client now uses pulls data from more than 20 source systems to manage more than two million new records per day and deliver information clearly and simply to 3,000 front-line users serving 25 million customers.
Of course, all that behind-the-scenes complexity is transparent to the user. Since deploying business intelligence according to the principles outlined above, the client has seen a steady and continuing improvement in both its service issues. It’s not rocket science, but it is, without question, a real and on-going customer care success.
To learn more about business intelligence and customer care, please visit www.cliintel.com or e-mail email@example.com.