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It's Time for a Customer Service Revolution
Creating a frictionless customer experience will require a service rethink—and a companywide effort
For the rest of the November 2015 issue of CRM magazine please click here

As service quality and customer satisfaction are decreasing (based on many studies), companies that care about their customers are trying to figure out how to address this problem. (There are also many companies that just don't care, but that's a separate issue.) For businesses that appreciate the need to deliver a consistently acceptable level of service to all customers, it must be really frustrating to discover that they are not meeting their most basic of objectives.

IT'S NOT YOU—IT'S YOUR CUSTOMERS

The issue is surprisingly simple: Your company is continuing to do what it has always done, but the expectations of your customers are changing. Delivering a great customer experience is necessary, but your customers want something more. In an era of instant gratification, solving problems is not enough. Today's customers don't expect to experience any problems—they are looking for a "frictionless" experience. And once they run into an issue, no matter what you do to solve it, they are going to be unhappy—and they are going to complain about it in social forums. This is not an excuse for giving up on service, however; rather, it's a rallying cry to rethink and transform your service strategy and experience.

THE PROBLEM

Companies are investing millions of dollars in all types of service initiatives, but they are not realizing the expected benefits on a sustained basis. Undoubtedly, then, it's time to do something different. The emphasis needs to shift away from using customer service to fix problems and toward avoiding them altogether. Companies need to figure out how every department in their organization can deliver products and services without making mistakes. This goal sounds fundamental, but attaining it is proving to be next to impossible, even with companies whose executives are willing to accept the evolving market dynamics and are open to change.

THE CHANGE

It's a new economy, and the concept of service has to transform to meet the needs of the Millennials and future generations. While it's going to take time and tools for companies to make the necessary changes, this process should begin immediately. Companies that don't begin to incorporate the new and much broader definition of service are unlikely to make it over the long haul.

THE FIX

Companies need to lay the groundwork to enable them to map and track each customer's journey throughout the customer life cycle, from the first touch through the end of the relationship. For this to happen, senior management has to communicate that the service experience is the responsibility of every person in the company, which is a major change, one that executives have not supported in the past. This means that every department will have customer experience goals and will be held accountable for doing things right the first time, and for immediately fixing any issues that may arise.

Companies will need customer journey mapping and analytics solutions that are capable of capturing and measuring the customer experience every step of the way. These solutions, which are just emerging, will do something unprecedented—they will look at the experience from the perspective of the customer instead of the company, with the intent of making it as easy as possible for customers to conduct business. Let's call this what it is: a customer service revolution.

Donna Fluss (donnafluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and principal of DMG Consulting, a provider of contact center and analytics research, marketing analysis, and consulting.

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