Getting Customer Service Right through Service Design

The subject of improving and excelling at customer service will remain current for as long as there are companies who want to increase customer base and profits. This effectively means – forever! Companies know all too well that it is strenuous, more expensive and stressful to attract a new customer. On the other hand, retaining a current customer is way easier and only requires well planned and well executed customer service. Customers remain loyal and are happy to promote your brand when they perceive that your company is focused on their needs and places them as priority. Companies are overwrought with the desire to get everything they do for the customer, right the first time. Interactive videos, promotions linking emails with social media – all these technologies have provided the customer with a larger playground of expression and information – and they surely know how to use it! Unless the customer service they receive has exceeded their expectations, customers are non-committal and rarely praise. However, if the customer experience does not match up to the expectations, they are quick and loud in making their displeasure known. There is no one in the customer base who is accepting traditional and laid back methods of communication or customer service. This mindset is opening new avenues for customer service but is posing greater challenges to companies in running their business with this at the core.

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[img src=”×150.jpg” width=”250″ height=”190″ align=”right”] Business strategies, policies, employee training, product design are now all positioned around serving the customer, excellence. The latest activity that has joined this bandwagon is Service Design. What is Service Design and how will it help to Getting Customer Service Right?

Service design is the activity of planning and organizing people, infrastructure, communication and material components of a service in order to improve its quality and the interaction between service provider and customers. The purpose of service design methodologies is to design according to the needs of customers or participants, so that the service is user-friendly, competitive and relevant to the customers. The backbone of this process is to understand the behavior of the customers, their needs and motivations. – Wikipedia Definition

The definition is well rounded and gives a clear view in to how companies can use Service Design to enhance customer service. The underlying message is still of anticipating customer needs and dealing with behavior and trends. Service design looks beyond the product or service being offered by the company. It focuses on the reasons for difficulty in providing excellent customer service and designing solutions to overcome these to deliver value added service. Service Design forces a company to look at the operation, structure and strategies of their business and re-design these to shift focus on customer needs. By its very nature, service design has been and can be used by any industry to provide the impetus their customer service needs towards excellence. It gives companies an understanding of the reason they exist and why customer service excellence must be made priority. This sets the stage for an advantageous and reciprocal relationship with them and their customers. When companies choose to re-design their service they will be able to create quick, effective and comprehensible solutions that make a lasting impact on their customers enhancing customer loyalty.

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Service Design helps companies to look at their own products and services from the customer’s point of view. It serves to understand why a customer would have chosen to reach out to you and engage with you for your product or service, and not with a competitor. It would also serve to understand why a prospective customer chose a competitor over you. Either way Service Design will help you focus in the right direction – customer needs and expectations. If you are able to make even one change towards shifting your focus, the effect on your customer service will be dramatically positive. Customers do not have the time or patience to wait for an apology or be compensated, they would rather leave. It can therefore, never be overemphasized that getting your customer service right first time, every time is what “Getting Customer Service Right through Service Design’ essentially means.
Misplaced enthusiasm could backfire if the attempt to engage with customers is ill-timed or out of place. The precepts of Service Design provide an understanding of how to manage engagement with your customers. The result of efforts to engage must be positive and customers will appreciate the fact that you are not imposing on their time but rather letting them choose the appropriate time to engage. Constantly bombarding customers with information or promotions will only distance the customer from you as the message getting across is that “as a company I need to promote myself and I do not value or appreciate your limitations and time constraints.” We all know how irritating it is when we receive calls from sales or customer service representatives trying to shove information at us, especially if we are already displeased with the customer service. Using the tenets of Service Design, companies can let customers choose the right time and medium to engage, raising their customer service levels to a new high.
More than ever, customers expect to drive how companies view customer service and provide it to customers. The companies that are able to understand and move forward with this key difference are the ones that will emerge victorious and successful. Using constantly changing technology, to keep pace with the growing needs and demands of customer service, is another high pressure point for companies. However, technology can act as an enabler to providing great customer service. When you apply service design concepts, it will be easier to understand the problems you are facing with solving customer issues and the issues customers are having with using your product or service. For example: despite a great product or service, it could be failing simply because the payment options are too complicated. Solving this problem would be an enormous benefit and serve to enhance your customer service levels. Sometimes a simple solution is all that is required to do away with what seemed like a complex problem, threatening the very essence of the company. Using Service Design, companies can put in place solutions that are practical, do-able and flexible and seen by the customer as useful for them.
Every company must aim at enhancing the overall experience a customer has while doing business with them. It may not be possible to immediately reconstruct or reapply all the tried and tested methods of running a business, but it is possible to start with the areas that are obstructing effective customer service. As stated above in the example, making the payment process simpler probably solves a part of the customer service problem and would create a “wow” element for a short period of time. However, to transform the whole customer experience and interaction, it is important that service lapses are kept to the minimum. Any service lapses must be remedied immediately with the best and most effective solutions that can be created. Service Design concepts will come in handy while creating these innovative solutions. Each customer interaction must be memorable and elicit a ‘wow’! As a company when to get about to creating these wow experiences, you will be in a position of strength to gain an engaged customer and ultimately customer loyalty. Customer engagement activities must make sense to the customer and inspire them enough to make time to listen. Service Design is about bringing about that focus within your company and ensures that with time engaging with customers will get easier and more effective. Follow a simple and clear defined path that you as a company want to follow in delivering the best possible customer service to match your product or service. Take the feedback – both positive and negative – from your customers and see where they align or deflect from your company’s strategies. Re-work the processes based on this feedback and ask the customer to comment on any improvements he or she sees and whether the new process works better for them. The customer nod should be your cue to strengthen these processes and remove the ‘troubled ones’ creating thereby a clear path to move on. Being able to create great customer experiences comes from designing and re-designing your offerings and services with them at the center and their needs as a focal point.

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