The Benefits of Communicating With Customers

In light of today's economic conditions, customer support executives throughout the world are under intense pressure from CEOs. They face the daunting task of increasing revenue and customer satisfaction, while reducing costs. Essentially, they are challenged with the familiar conundrum of doing more with less. So, how can customer support executives do more with less? The answer, quite simply, is to listen to what customers are saying. Voice of the customer The most common way to gather feedback from a customer is through the use of surveys. However, the customer feedback process used by most organizations fails to provide a complete view of the customer. For instance, according to the 2002 Service and Support Professionals Association Support Industry Benchmarking Survey, less than 50 percent of support organizations measure product quality--the second largest customer complaint area. In relation to buying behavior, less than 30 percent of organizations measure future buying intentions, and less than 40 percent measure the likelihood that the customer would recommend the company or its products to another prospective customer. By not addressing these topics with their customers, organizations fail to impact and measure a key customer attitude: loyalty. Impacting customer loyalty
On average 60 percent of new sales come from existing customers. Assessing loyalty is the only true indicator of understanding the financial return for support initiatives on the companies' business. So, how can customer support organizations impact customer loyalty through feedback? Feedback collected through a multichannel survey processes helps customer support executives determine customers' attitudes toward product quality. Based on customers' responses, an organization can make modifications to its product so that it better aligns with and satisfies customers' wants and needs. The surveys also identify any service-management trouble areas. By redesigning the questionnaire and using findings to make immediate improvements in service delivery, the customer service organization is able to initiate needed improvements in its operations. As a result of these improvements, customer satisfaction and loyalty increases because frustration with extended hold times and lengthy call resolution times has been reduced. Additionally, first-contact resolution increases, eliminating thousands of monthly contacts, which ultimately results in significant annual savings. According to Harvard Business Review, increasing customer satisfaction by just 5 percent can lead to a 25 to 125 percent increase in future profits. The task of increasing revenue and customer satisfaction, while reducing costs, is a tall order. However, those executives who realize the importance of listening to the voice of the customer and using this feedback to increase customer loyalty are better positioned to flourish within these difficult parameters. About the Author Bill Rieke is director of product and industry marketing for Convergys Corporation's Customer Management Group. He oversees Convergys' go-to-market plans in the financial services, technology, and retail industries. Prior to joining Convergys he was vice president of specialty finance for a Midwest bank. Rieke also has 15 years experience in call center and reservation strategy in the airline and hospitality industries. He has served on the Board of Directors for THISCo and HCC, predecessor companies to Pegasus Solution. Rieke earned a BA in marketing from Louisiana State University and an MA from Indiana University. He is also a Certified Public Accountant and a Certified Practitioner of Inventory Management.
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