• September 13, 2013
  • By Syed Hasan, president and CEO, ResponseTek

Go from Lip Service to Real Service

Whether it’s harsh criticism or high praise, customers have many means of sharing their thoughts after an interaction with a company. Reviews can appear online, be spread by word of mouth, or even brought to the attention of an investigative reporter. A customer’s experience, good or bad, can have a long-ranging impact on an organization’s image and bottom line sales.

Too often, organizations aren’t able to answer the simple question of “Did my customer have a good experience today?” Few have adopted an all-inclusive approach to customer experience data collection. This lack of information forces companies to make decisions based on an incomplete, and often misleading, view of customer feedback. With the wrong information, companies could be associated with neglecting their customers’ concerns, or providing “lip service,” where an insincere expression of support is not backed by significant action.

If only 5 percent of customers formally complain, where do the rest go to vent their frustrations? Perhaps to a group of friends at the pub, posted as an #epicfail on Twitter (impacting image), or they may end the relationship and take their business elsewhere (impacting the bottom line).

Companies are starting to acknowledge that waiting on the customer to initiate the conversation is no longer an option. The demand is there and businesses have the ability and technology to proactively ask for feedback immediately following an interaction. Companies need to start providing real service.

A comprehensive approach to customer experience management (CEM) ensures that an organization is providing the experience customers expect—real service. The success of an all-encompassing CEM program requires significant organizational commitment, investment in a CEM platform, and overcoming several challenging barriers, the most important being:

  • identifying the benefits of a CEM program;
  • tailoring insights to be relevant for job roles;
  • timely distribution of customer feedback; and
  • effectively driving improvements using customer experience data.

What Are the Benefits of a CEM Program?

Frequently, customer experience management professionals are challenged with justifying the investment of a CEM program. Simply put, establishing a customer-centric organization that can listen and quickly react to customer concerns will boost a business’ image and reputation. In addition, by improving its services in areas where customers are dissatisfied, businesses can reduce churn, increase customer retention, and improve revenue. For example, a major European telecom implemented call center improvements driven by a CEM program, resulting in a 3 percent churn reduction with a newly implemented callback process.

In another example, during the heart of the financial crisis, a financial institution used a CEM program to reduce its operational costs related to employee training. Historically, the firm had used representative samples of customer surveys to determine areas of improvement for its call centers around the world. With a CEM program in place, it was able to drastically reduce its training costs, as employees only received training relevant to their individual scores. This visibility encouraged employees to improve their behaviors and knowledge, which resulted in increased motivation, decreased employee churn, and overall improved customer satisfaction.

Who Gets What Customer Experience Information?

To be effective, the customer voice needs to be heard across an entire organization. Employees at all levels of an organization need to be able to answer: “Did my customer have a good experience today?” Even so, it is important to remember that the information relevant for the executive team won’t necessarily be the same as what’s relevant to your line employees.

The executive team will be concerned with high-level aggregates and average scores focused on annual, quarterly, and monthly time frames broken down by region and segment. For frontline employees, granular data delivered on a daily or weekly basis will result in immediately actionable information. Managers will gain valuable insight into their team’s scorecards and will be able to use specific examples and verbatim comments to pinpoint key areas to target for training and coaching, as well as to reward high achievers.

By creating transparency and empowering store managers and sales reps to drive improvement, the benefits can be substantial.

How Do You Distribute the Data?

It used to be that companies looked at customer satisfaction data months or even quarters after it was collected and compiled, long after the data was relevant. Getting the right information to the right person at the right time is a key challenge for organizations to overcome. The timeliness of this information is imperative to immediately target operational areas for customer experience improvements. However, as previously discussed, the format may vary based on the employee’s role.

By using a CEM platform that can automate the distribution of data and allow the configuration of alerts, the right people can receive the customer insights they need at the right time. Negative survey responses can be flagged for immediate attention, automatically notifying the appropriate manager. Dashboards to higher-level executives can identify business areas that show improvement, or need additional support.

What Do You Do with Customer Experience Information?

Let’s say half the battle has been won; a CEM program has been implemented to collect, measure, and report on customers’ experiences. Now what? Next is deciding what to do with this information and how to turn it into actionable intelligence.

1. Review satisfaction levels. Find room for improvement. In what areas are your customers unsatisfied? Observe the customer experience and satisfaction scores across various solutions, such as purchase experience, contact center experience, or online channel experience, and then drill down further to see details on those experiences to get an idea of which metrics are most important for your organization to work on.

2. Find which metrics impact customers. Once you’ve identified which metrics to target, you must determine what impact these will have on key drivers. Conduct a correlation analysis to see which metrics have an impact on customers. From that point, it should become clear where to focus your improvement strategies.

3. Ensure consistency of delivery. To ensure consistent delivery of your CEM solution, it is important to identify any significant outliers within your CEM reporting. These areas can be efficiently targeted through micro-training specific employees to improve areas of low scoring.

Clear the Four CEM Hurdles

To adopt a holistic CEM solution, companies need to clear four key hurdles:

First, the benefits of a CEM program must be understood to garner full commitment from an organization in delivering top service and quality to its customers (in other words, offer real service, not lip service).

Next, information must be appropriately tailored for all levels of an organization, providing executives to front-line employees with the information they need to better their service, and their customers’ experiences.

Third, customer experience information must be distributed in a timely and relevant fashion, utilizing a platform that can provide automation and preconfigured alerts.

Finally, an understanding of how to leverage customer experience information must be acquired and acted upon, improving customer interactions with an organization.

When considering a customer experience program, the deployment may seem daunting. It is important to understand the key barriers described above, and how to get past them, to deliver the best possible customer experience.

Syed Hasan is the president and CEO of ResponseTek.

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