Things have moved on since the era of ‘The Customer Is King’ posters, which appeared in reception areas and management offices in organisations across the UK and elsewhere. The problem was that the majority of exponents adopted the rhetoric without changing their approach to customer service. For those, the lion pictured on the poster turned into Clarence, the cross-eyed lion from the Daktari television series!
A few, however, moved beyond the strap line to invest in improving service, for example by process improvement or by creating Call Centre operations or, later, by outsourcing customer contact to new providers outside of the UK. Unfortunately, the motive for international outsourcing was cost reduction rather than service quality, and no amount of exposure to British Soaps, weather reports and English names could disguise the lack of rapport in remote service provision.
Despite these mixed results, awareness of the need to support great goods and services with great customer service has grown, accompanied by the new rhetoric of “exceeding customer expectations” or “delighting customers” with some organisations brandishing their “customer focus”, “customer-centred thinking” or even “customer obsession”. It’s time to move on.
Customers experience services over time and across a range of touch-points (for example: online, in person, e-mail, contact centre, documentation and so on) and they have a tendency to judge you by your worst performance. Thus, a great online experience can be undermined by poor Call Centre support or a great proposition devalued by slow processing. It is imperative that all touch-points are aligned in terms of their service ambition and quality of delivery.
Furthermore, if services are to be sustainable over time, they must work as well for service providers as they do for customers. It is critical that both groups are properly represented and engaged in customer service innovation or improvement. And as customers are the only group likely to experience the output of all functions within your business, it is essential that you ensure cross-functional participation. Failure to build something that works for service providers will result in shortcuts, workarounds and the kind of inconsistent service that will keep your complaints team busy and your customers checking the competition.
A paper on Customer Effort published by Harvard Business Review in 2010 confirmed what practitioners have known for a while; customers want the simple things done well, every time. Customers who attempt to ‘exceed customer expectations’ by adding fancy bells and whistles instead of focusing on getting the basics right have infuriated rather than delighted their customers.
Our experience at the Customer Journey Consultancy ensures that we understand how to help clients to set their service strategy and then to develop and deliver it so that the desired benefits are achieved. Our approach takes account of people, process and technology. We also consider the customer’s emotional journey and helping our Clients develop the capability to continually improve service and create competitive advantage through customer advocacy and employee engagement.
We apply best practice project management blended with an approach to facilitation that helps clients to unlock ideas and then evaluate them. We help them test concepts early so that they have a more complete picture before making investment decisions. We combine our own experiences with current service and management thinking to ensure that solutions are future-proofed.
If you are interested in finding out more or to discuss your customer experience and transformation challenges please contact Martin Wright on 0845 83 82 159 or email [email protected].