One of the ongoing challenges successful businesses face is in optimizing customer satisfaction and developing Customer Relationship Management. So many companies “jump on the bandwagon” of improving customer service in order to impact customer retention levels. Yet, since 1994, customer satisfaction has dropped in nearly every sector of the economy according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index compiled by the University of Michigan. So why is this? Raising customer satisfaction levels requires a comprehensive systems approach. Some of the key points in this comprehensive approach are listed and discussed: 1. The importance of a clear customer experience strategy
2. Selecting the correct people
3. Developing, motivating and managing your people
4. Establishing effective service delivery processes
5. Building in continuous improvement
6. Ensuring managers are the key change-agents
Setting a Clear Customer Experience Strategy
Often organizations confuse defining a customer experience strategy with creating a “slogan”. How many companies create a slogan without any supporting initiatives, thereby disillusioning employees and creating a “flavor of the month?”
To establish a good strategy certain key practices are required:
• Understand the overall organizational vision and mission
• Define the organization’s customer service direction, slogan and values
• Ensure customer service is defined as a key responsibility for the business/department
• Share the customer experience strategy via a comprehensive communications program
• Ensure that this strategy does not conflict with other business strategies. As consultants, it is amazing how often we hear organizations say, “Improving Customer Service is a priority, and we are also introducing stringent cost-cutting measures.” This can present a tough dichotomy.
Selecting the Correct People
It’s really hard to teach an elephant to dance!
When recruiting employees to provide customer service, the process often tends to concentrate more on functional expertise, technical competence and knowledge rather than interpersonal skills. However, lack of the right attitude can drastically impact client satisfaction levels. Research has in fact shown that attitude is the most important requirement: skills and functional expertise can be taught.
Therefore in selecting the right people:
• Define the critical job requirements
• Develop scenario-based interviews/assessment centers to screen and select candidates
• Involve multiple team members in the hiring process
• Ensure evaluation is based on objective, not the subjective “Be Like Me” criteria
Developing, Motivating and Managing your People
Even though you have hired the right people, there is still a need to orient them into the organization’s customer relationship culture and define key communication skills. In Call Centers and Technical Support departments, there is a tendency to rely on technical/functional skills and neglect interpersonal skills development. This can result in providing acceptable material service, the more tangible aspect, yet unacceptable personal service; the competitive differentiator.
Therefore to build a customer relationship culture, it is important to:
• Provide training in key areas required to deliver exceptional personal service
• Reinforce these skills using ongoing coaching and feedback
• Measure current performance levels
• Reward performance using a combination of monetary awards and non-monetary recognition
Establishing Effective Service Delivery Processes
Effective processes and procedures provide the foundation for smoothing or inhibiting the material service element of the customer interaction. Efficient service delivery systems appear transparent to the customer. Poor systems create those ‘speed bumps’ that necessitate personal intervention in order to satisfy the customer requirements.