Why delivering customer service excellence is no longer a choice

The always-on, 24-7 world means today’s enterprises have many more touchpoints across the customer life-cycle. And technologies such as predictive analytics and machine learning allow them to learn far more about their customers than ever before.

Companies now have the scope to build much deeper relationships with consumers but with this opportunity also comes risk. Social media means a light can easily be shone on poor service or business performance. Within a matter of seconds, an unsatisfactory experience can be shared online and customers lost forever.

For business leaders, achieving and sustaining outstanding customer service hinges on acquiring high-level understanding of both internal processes and clients. A generic, one-size-fits-all approach will not work and leaders and their senior managers must drill down and understand precisely what happens at each point of interaction between the enterprise and client in each of their different functions.

In our rapidly changing world, reliance on standard customer surveys and other traditional feedback mechanisms won’t necessarily set companies on the path to service excellence. There needs to be more immediate and personalised mechanisms in place. For example, collected data may show that the customer service team has achieved record low call-waiting times but online deliveries of goods are repeatedly late for customers in one area of the country because of an under-performing driver.

The starting point for customer experience improvement is to map the customer journey from end-to-end, making sure each of the touch points in the enterprise are covered. By identifying where the pain points lie in the process, decisive interventions can then be put in place to address these issues and ultimately deliver operational excellence. Achieving this high-level of understanding will also enable companies to explore how things could be executed differently to achieve competitive edge.

Secondly, leaders should encourage their function heads to honestly assess what level of customer service is being delivered to clients. It increases accountability and responsibility but also means they are taking ownership of the processes involved. Rate individual departments on a scale of 10 and evaluate their strengths and weaknesses. Ask clients to do the same via customised customer surveys. Align questions with the customer experience expected from each different function. For instance, for sales, it could be along the lines of: ‘how did we fare when we first contacted you to talk about our products and services?’ Comparing these external and internal ratings will provide an accurate indication of whether there are any problems in the pipeline.

The final aspect centres around engaging employees to achieve higher performance. This starts by putting customer service and satisfaction programmes at the top of the business agenda. Too often, such initiatives are in response to a crisis which sends out completely the wrong message to employees. To deliver service excellence employees must care passionately about customer service and therefore it is imperative that senior leaders clearly demonstrate they feel the same way.

Companies need to establish proactive programmes that seek to improve performance and help make the desired shift towards operational and service excellence. This won’t happen overnight so efforts need to be sustained. In some cases, it will be achieved by marginal gains rather than wholesale improvements.

Driving higher performance in the area of customer service in the digital age demands closer attention to detail than ever. In this era of disparate, geographically dispersed and remote workforces it can be hugely challenging. Failure to recognise the increased complexity of customer service in the digital age by business leaders though is simply unacceptable. Both the reputation and the future of the company depend on it.

Read more by Richard Chiumento, here


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