April 11, 2019
Over the past decade companies like Amazon, known for their customer-centric approach to issue resolution in their customer care organizations, have forced organizations to shift from an organizational culture of compliance to a culture of customer centricity. How an organization handles customer escalations is indicative of both their degree of customer centricity and its employee development strategy.
After analyzing escalations from customers across multiple companies and industries, familiar patterns emerge, and the difference becomes apparent right away. A customer-centric organization focuses on making it right for the customer in the moment, calibrating the team and learning from the situation. Companies who have not evolved their customer service strategy tend to focus on assigning blame, tightening controls and driving compliance. Often to achieve compliance they impose sanctions for frontline employees for conceding to a customer.
These practices, based on current research, do not generate the frontline engagement necessary to breed customer-centricity and can have negative impacts on customer satisfaction leading to churn. They do not decrease the volume and organization must handle or the cost associated with those calls. It is a lose-lose strategy. Companies operating in today’s customer experience climate must embrace the empowerment of the frontline to compete with leaders in their industries. A 2017 study by American Express shows that it often takes only one service breakdown for a customer to take their business elsewhere. More than half of Americans have scrapped a planned purchase or transaction because of bad service, and 33 percent say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service. The stakes remain high for getting service right.
The challenge many companies face is how to invest in better customer experience. How do we learn from our interactions so we can grow as an organization and compete on both the strength of our products and the experience we create for our customers? Expectations evolve throughout the customer lifecycle and organizations are often siloed. Operational groups such as Product Development, Marketing, Sales, Install, Care, Collections, Retention, Repair, and Digital may not measure success the same way. They often lack a holistic view of what customers want and expect. The use of external consultants, Journey mapping, aggregating data from hundreds of databases, sponsoring process improvement teams, can often translate into ideas and recommendations that are extremely difficult to implement or require investments in technology that are very expensive.
Delivering a superior customer experience doesn’t need to be complicated. At times it can be difficult, but it should be simple. Define your product and your value proposition, train your frontline on both of those items and empower them to make it right when your company fails to deliver on its value proposition without making the customer jump through a series of hoops. To stay dialed into your customer’s shifting needs and expectations, make sure you have solid listening posts established so that you can hear the voice of your customers and apply it to your business decisions. The real value in listening to customer interactions is to help the organization learn, not to nitpick frontline agents on whether they referred to the customer by name three times on a call.
One example of simplification of the customer experience derived from tuning into the voice of their customers is the billing strategy implemented by T-Mobile in 2017.
Disputes arising from taxes and fees are commonplace in the telecommunications industry. Historically, many companies have instructed their frontline teams to “educate” inquiring customers as to the nature of the taxes and fees and hold the policy line. Agents were reminded by procedural memos, docked points on quality monitoring forms, and in some cases faced disciplinary action for refunding customers they could not placate through education. This approach often resulted in escalated calls, higher costs for the organization, and ultimately left customers feeling they were paying more than they should for what they had purchased. In a high-churn industry, lack of perceived value is counterproductive to retention.
After analyzing countless calls and hearing first-hand what frustrates customers and drives them to a competitor, T-Mobile decided to flip the script. Their advertising campaign was simple. All plans would contain taxes and fees in one overall service cost. One line on the bill. No more surprises. The result: no more “educating” customers, no more escalations related to denied refunds. Customer satisfaction increased. Churn decreased. Giving customers exactly what they bought should not be revolutionary. In this case it proved to be just that.
How do you launch a simplified approach to improving your customer experience? First, make sure you can objectively look at each journey from the customer’s point of view. Second, make it easy for customers to provide feedback. If your collection method isn’t producing lots of data about perceived value, then find a more customer-friendly manner of delivery. Third, focus on what is preventing the customer from getting what they expected. Understanding what stands between the customer and successful delivery of their products and services is key to designing the experience. Lastly, move forward and chalk up wins for your customer. Starting with small improvements will add up over time.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin Zehnder is eClerx’s Vice President of Customer Experience Solutions. With over 24 years of experience in Customer Service and Sales, he is an industry leader in aligning Quality processes to optimize Customer Experience, including quality process design, customer survey methodology, closed-loop feedback, and associate coaching. Kevin has also designed and implemented Customer Analytics that have provided corporate leaders with the data to enhance decision making in keeping with their brand promise. Before joining eClerx, Kevin spent nine years managing quality delivery for major outsource partners and has worked with industry leaders in NPS that include USAA, Amazon, and T-Mobile.
For more information about eClerx Customer Experience Solutions please visit our website.
 #WellActually, Americans Say Customer Service is Better Than Ever. By American Express. December 2017.