Alex Loach looks at the best ways to build a customer-centric approach within a customer service operation.
To create a customer-centric approach within an organisation it is vital to make sure that front-line employees really are listening to the customer and why they are making contact, rather than just answering the question at the given point in time.
Often it is simply too quick and too easy to answer the query than to ask the customer a couple of probing questions in order to work out where the issue or dissatisfaction originated from. If at this first point everyone knows to look beyond the question being asked, problems can be fixed at the root, in turn affecting fewer other customers, and consequently reducing future contacts.
If these front-line employees are trained to act and think this way, then the feedback collated and the customer-centric aspects here will allow the team, department and overall organisation to be considerably more dynamic in the way they work.
Unsurprisingly, feedback will always allow you to be more responsive to what customers are really thinking, and if used correctly can help you improve areas, tasks or processes immediately.
Starting the customer journey
The customer service operation itself has to be very clear from the start how the customer journey should be working and what you want your customers to get out of it. Everything can then be created from the ground up with those long-term objectives in mind, whether it is the processes in place or the training provided.
We can talk about customer-centricity, engagement and retention all day, but in the end it is the employees who talk and communicate most with the customers who need the training, and it is they who will take the company where it wants to go.
Do not just drag them along, though. Keep them central to any changes that you are looking to put into place, and involve them in the journey that you are looking to create.
Give it time
Initially it may seem a little pointless, and that little positive is coming from it, but give it time. Do not try and create a customer journey without involving the individuals who communicate with them most and know them best.
Align customer expectations with the customer journey
The next step will be to align the customer expectations with that customer journey and the perceived brand of the organisation. In the end, if what you want to create does not match the customer expectation or how the organisation wants to be perceived, then confusion will set in, and individuals and teams will start working in different directions.
Presuming these things are aligned, you are at a place where you can start building that operation, but be careful not to automate too much from the start.
As we all know, with the technology available these days, the functions that can be created to deal with so many different tasks are endless, but to begin with, try and keep everything as manual as possible. Doing this will create a tight core customer-centric approach without too many systems, reports or processes getting in the way, most of which can’t really be created until the customers start coming through and providing feedback anyway.
With the use of feedback, once the service you are providing is matching customer expectations and brand perceptions, then you can start automating things to keep it consistent.
The final step is to make sure that the necessary controls and information are in place so that changes can be made on a day-by-day basis. If either the data or management style is wrong at this point, decisions will be made on incorrect data or temporary scenarios, which in turn will only be damaging in the long term.
Struggling with customer engagement and retention?
Customer engagement and retention comes back to the initial point of really listening to your customers, and from that looking at what value the contact centre really can add, either directly, or through supplying other areas such as marketing with the necessary information to create campaigns.
There are also so many different ways to engage and communicate with your customers these days, whether through technology, in-house systems or social media. The contact centre very often has more voices than any other department in the organisation, and it is for them, through whatever means, to be the voice of the customer.
Using social media
Through social media or mobile technology it’s so easy these days to keep information up to date. Whether by posting on places like Twitter, or on a blog or website, it is vital to keep your customers informed, and the more you keep them informed, the easier life is for them, and consequently the more engaged they are.
Social media sites such as Facebook also have this advantage as groups can be created easily, so not only can you keep everyone informed, but you can now focus on the most relevant. Look how many different groups there are out there on Facebook. There are groups on holidays, countries, sports, food, and wine, and nearly every single one of them was created by an individual rather than an organisation. Only lately have many companies started to see the advantage of creating these mini communities, and yet had they done it before anyone else, those communities could have become part of the experience, service and enjoyment, and that is engaging.
Imagine a tourist is in Palma, Mallorca. The local information board knows this (as well as others) and creates a group specifically to provide them with information about the sites, transport, restaurants and attractions. The difference between this and a website is that the tourist can not only communicate back, but they can all communicate with each other, and the options and advantages for everyone are limitless, including the information board or council who are tied into that feedback.
It works both ways, though, as it’s not just about the company keeping the customer up to date, but also the customer keeping the organisation up to date, and I’m using the phrases ‘customer’ and ‘organisation’ in the loosest sense of the terms.
In my next article, I’ll be looking at how outsourcing can influence the creation of a customer-centric strategy.