“78% of consumers have bailed on a transaction or not made an intended purchase because of a poor service experience.” Source: American Express Survey, 2011
To deliver great customer experiences, the change must begin within the organization and must be targeted at internal process, strategies and employee guidelines. Companies have no choice but to become customer-centric soon if they want to guarantee great customer experiences. However, bringing about a new thought process is difficult since change is always resisted and studies show that 70% of change endeavours fall flat because they are not properly initiated and implemented. Companies must begin by looking internally – focusing on showing on leading their employees to understand the importance of delivering consistent and great customer experiences. Implement any new endeavour in the company in a methodical manner such that no one feels threatened or resists the good initiatives.
Before feeling sorry for the failure of an initiative, companies must understand the dynamics of their own company. The biggest mischief maker is sneaky politics and undercurrents in an organization. Often incompetent people and those that are not as capable are seated in positions of influence or authority and are the ones that create trouble and resist change. The reason they resist change is so that no one can see through their incapacity. Such people must first be identified – overly negative and controlling kind – and given adequate and effective training and if they don’t improve, it is best to let them go, since negative people only pull a company down making it hard to deliver great customer experiences. Over time, poorly served customers become disgruntled and will leave you for your competitors.
Another major stumbling block in implementing any change to deliver great customer experiences is the unfounded apprehension that change brings with it. Any kind of change will disrupt ‘normal’ processes and most people prefer to remain set in their ways and continue to operate in the known ‘safe environment’ and it is tough for them to see any benefits that a proposed change might bring. It is up to the leaders of the company to ensure that such unnecessary resistance is dealt with strongly and not encouraged or ignored. It is after all the matter of the success and growth of the company as a whole.
While it is a given that the culture of a company is what lends stability and consistency, negative influences must not be allowed to become part of the culture. Shoddy work, low output, uninformed absenteeism, team conflicts and such other behaviours are all counter-productive for a company that is endeavouring to raise their standards of customer service and striving to deliver great customer experiences. If such negativity becomes part of the culture, then culture would become the biggest barrier for any company.
The other mistake leaders make is expecting people to start working under the new conditions without providing them with adequate or correct resources. You are setting yourself up for failure if you do not make an assessment of the kinds and numbers of resources that would be required by the employees to manage the new conditions and processes they are expected to handle. Without proper resources and tools, the very aim to deliver great customer experiences would be left unachieved since the people responsible for achieving it, would not be adequately equipped to meet the new demands put in place. This would only lead to more frustration amongst your employees and ultimately disseminate to your customers.
There are some interesting statistics based on research conducted with customers. At least two customers out of three are convinced that the company they are doing business with, does not understand them. Also the customers that did switch companies did so because they believed that the company they switched to could anticipate their needs and provide solutions to prevent issues from escalating. The study also surveyed at least 50% of customers who did have a service problem and out of that percentage only 28% expressed their satisfaction at the resolution provided by the company. There is clearly a huge disparity between what customers believe and what companies think they are delivering. To deliver great customer experiences consistently, companies must evaluate their service from the point of view of the customers. Is your company able to consistently deliver great customer experiences? If not, what do you believe are the reasons?
– In several previous write-ups we have delved on the importance and criticality of understanding your customers. It is a known fact that attracting new customers is a much harder task than retaining them. However with callousness and shoddy attempts to understand them, it is extremely easy to lose customers and the risk of damaged reputation and added costs of gaining new customers raise their ugly heads. As though, not understanding your customers was not bad enough, some companies are completely befuddled when a customer does leave them. How can you hope to deliver great customer experiences if you are unable to determine what your customers need and what would make them go away? The secret lies in getting and using feedback from both customers and employees – there is a lot to learn from both these sections of people associated with your company.
– Collecting, analysing and using customer data is vital. A well-rounded view of the customer is indispensable to deliver great customer experiences. To use this data to advantage companies must have proper software in place to ensure that this data is available to all the departments that would be directly or indirectly serving the external customer. Each customer would have data spread over various channels and in order to make some sense, companies must put all this data together to provide a seamless and complete image of a particular customer. This complete information will allow companies to provide relevant, timely and personalized service, products and communication to the customer, thereby ensuring that they deliver great customer experiences. Of course, believing that your company has a complete picture of the customer is not sufficient – it is important to check back with the customers to get their concurrence. A rather intriguing statistic was revealed by a study – while 81% companies believed that they were providing complete and fulfilling customer experiences, only 22% customers agreed! Harsh but true! Not understanding what the customer thinks is the prime reason that customers switch companies that otherwise believed that they were going great guns and were able to deliver great customer experiences. It is only when customers leave that they are jostled out of their reverie.
– Being able to gather data of customers, put it in useable format, having consistence service across all touch-points and other such aspects related to delivering great customer experiences, cannot happen unless your company is equipped with the necessary tools and infrastructure required to create a seamless environment. Departments cannot work in silos, communication across all channels cannot be inconsistent and engagement with customers cannot be a one-off. For all of these tools to be effective, a sound and robust infrastructure in the form of resources, technology and efficient staff is highly necessary. To deliver great customer experiences is the responsibility of everyone in the company and a shortfall on any count can dilute the entire customer experience.
To deliver great customer experiences, companies must ensure that even those employees whose jobs don’t put them in direct contact with customers must know that they have customers too. Their customers are the people who work to serve internal customers and so their work output does indirectly affect the kind of service that the customers receive. We have said before, customer service is a mind-set and must be consistent and relentless. Anything less than this is only a sorry attempt to deliver great customer experiences.
Failing to deliver great customer experiences could have many more reasons and an even higher number of consequences. To remain customer-focused companies must recognize their company’s strengths and limitations and act of each of them proactively.