Falak Hyat (December 26, 2013)
Multiple times, companies end up getting distracted in the fluff of the service and forget to understand the basics of customer service or the small and simple steps that make the actual impact.
Large multinational firms and businesses usually end up in the whirlpool of wanting to please customers and win their loyalty, and end up failing to provide the only thing that customers really want – smooth service. With the rush of profits and a large customer base, companies tend to think of themselves as exceptional service providers and leaders of the game, however, the very opposite stands true.
In a survey by Bain & Company, done on the customers of 362 companies, the results show that only eight percent of customers thought their experience was superior, and 80 percent of the companies were sure of providing superior experience. This clearly shows the simple fact that companies are in ambiguity about the service they provide and need to act fast.
Most companies are not sufficiently collecting data on their customers, and for those that are, there is a significant gap between the results of the data and the companies’ perceptions and analyses.
In a research published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), 75000 people were contacted over the phone and asked about information about customer service and loyalty, providing valuable insight into their customer experience – particularly, the bad-service ripple effect that brings to our knowledge the amount of impact that a poor experience can have over a company’s existing customers as well as future customers. The results of the research were as follows:
These finding clearly explain how companies are constantly losing customer loyalty and turning their customer’s experience into a touch point for future customers and giving them the authority to encourage or discourage more customers.
Now we take a look at the UAE banking sector which is also suffering from the bad-service ripple effect and highlight what can be done by companies.
The National, a UAE magazine, recently reported a survey that was done by souqalmal.com on 4,210 of their readers in order to extract information using responses to the question: “Would you recommend your current bank to a friend or family member?”
The findings of this survey led many banks to tap into both their CRM (customer relationship management) and CEM (Customer experience management) systems in order to identify any loop holes.
The outcome of the research shows that only 11% of the users would like to recommend their banks to someone else, 14% were neutral and 74% said they would not actively promote their bank.
It is evident that the UAE is facing the challenges of varied customers with diverse demands and needs, requiring banks to provide an array of services and develop their strategies towards personal banking as well.
The research highlights that in a competitive time where there are over 50 banks and 500 products, banks need to provide exceptional service and unforgettable experience to generate greater customer loyalty in order to acquire and retain customers.
Banks need to understand who their target market is and what they are looking for and what can be done to cater to a particular customer. The way the service is delivered should be based on who the customer is and what he or she is looking for.
For example, the Emiratis value the bond with their bank and the personal service they experience and also prefer to bank with specific branches. The western expats value modern technology and facilities of online banking and self-service, while expats from the sub-continent are more interested in the diverse product offerings.
Now let’s have a look at the bank that had 25% of its customers who responded that they would actively promote their bank – the Noor Islamic Bank.
The response from Noor Islamic Bank customers sheds light on the fact that the highest priority for customers was customer service.
“We are very proactive in seeking customers’ views on our service quality,” says John Chang, Noor’s head of consumer banking.
“Every month we ask our customers to rate us and track their responses. Our quality service team follows up on any criticism directly with the customer and, if necessary, we improve our processes and provide staff with training.”
Customer experience doesn’t only pertain to the instances during service, but begins much before, when the service is being delivered to the customer – making the processes that are involved just as crucial as the actual delivery. A customer’s experience is a result of all the steps along the value chain, from looking up a product or service online to buying it and finally having it delivered. And it doesn’t end there; customers star a service as exceptional when companies provide thorough and top quality post-sale services as well.
Customer service management must keep in mind that to make a customer loyal and interested in the company, they must solve all of his or her queries and problems – and instantly!
Customers who lose a lot of time trying to get through to the service department to get their problems solved have expressed negative views towards the service, which, no doubt, affects their experience.
Businesses must aim to decrease the time customers spend trying to solve problems related to a product or service. Quite often, customers get fed up and annoyed by the endless menus and clicks they have to go through while searching for an operator to talk to on the phone which wastes their time and makes them lose value for the company.
This is when the channel of live chat comes in, providing more efficient and enhanced customer service online. Live Customer Chat Service of LiveAdmins easily integrates with the website and allows live chat operators to greet the visitor whenever they land on the website. With the help of this exceptional customer service tool, businesses can instantly solve customer queries and provide them with the most precise information or solution, resulting in an enhanced customer experience on the website and ultimately increases the level of customer service for the business.
This shows the need for customers to be able to quickly connect to a live representative and not have to wait on the phone for hours on hold while another “important” client is being served.
Customer service agents need to be problem solvers who can provide short cuts and solutions on the spot, equipping the customer to solve his or her problem.
However this is growing to become one of the biggest challenges and companies are losing business because of their failure to provide smooth post-sales experience. Also published in the HBR is the research that talks about the amount of effort that customers have to put in to get thru to customer service and then finally resolve their problem.
This highlights the amount of “customer effort” that goes into getting a service out of a company, which involves the time they spend or the channels they shift, be it the website or the phone, and even the amount of times they have to call back because their issue wasn’t resolved the first time.
The research by Harvard Business Review also highlights the fact that customers can lose their loyalty with a company when they have to put in extra effort to be able to get their problems solved and when the customer service team keeps disappointing them.
Below are the results of the research by HBR on the effort that customers need to put in and how it affects their experience.
Strong data collectors and analysts are always focusing on which points trigger a positive or negative experience in the mind of the customer and try to gauge the reasons that instigate it. We recommend that every touch point is evaluated and given weightage in the cycle of pleasing a customer and getting strong loyalty out of him or her.
Managers need to take service as one whole experience which comprises of multiple stages and touch points that add up to create the experience for the customer.
Now if the offering is the product, than managers must know that the experience while using the product must be of top quality and fits the needs of the customer. Research companies must understand the needs and trends that exist in the minds of customers and tap into them. The first goal is to ensure the product itself has a strong design with no loop holes. Customers will rarely praise a company that makes an average or faulty product but has great service otherwise.
Once we establish that the product is of high quality and is leading the market, or at least making its way to the lives of the customer, the second step is to ensure the quality of service, and hence the experience.
If the offering is a service, than the whole experience offered by the business is what delivers the end result. The service industry tends to face more challenges in the experience generating points, since the consumer comes in contact with it again and again, be it booking a ticket or cancelling a seat or losing your baggage and having no one available to find it.
Now let’s have a look at Apple, the company has all its experienced structured together in alignment, from pre-service, purchase and, especially, post-service. If an Apple customer walks into the store, he or she will never leave without a solution. Never.
The top management at Apple has empowered their customer service reps with training, knowledge, the mindset and especially the control to make the relevant decisions when providing the customers with an instant solution. That is an experience that customers value.
Apple also has experience stores which customers can visit and have a look at all the Apple products, have a feel of their design and use, mix match them with accessories and know exactly how the product will be once they have invested in it. And since the products are always so great and user friendly, they end up purchasing them. It is touch points and small experiences like these that generate customer loyalty and beat the competition.
Etisalat in the UAE has partnered with Apple Middle East in achieving the goals of delivering the customers with better customer experience and service through an Apple experience zone inside Etisalat’s Deira Business Centre in Dubai.
Ayman Eldessouky, chief sales officer, Etisalat, said: “As customers’ operator of choice for smart devices, it is our responsibility to go the extra mile to offer best-in-class experience. So, we will now have dedicated Apple experience areas in some key outlets. These areas will support customers who wish to learn about, experience and purchase the latest Apple devices. We have dedicated Etisalat team members trained by Apple who will be available to assist our customers.”
Purchasing an Apple product for the people of UAE will now become a richer experience, which will engage them into a more personalized understanding of the product, by browsing through it, enjoying the tangible feel and asking as many questions as they like.
“The current success of the recent launch of Apple’s iPhone 5S clearly indicates that Etisalat stores are the chosen destination for customers wanting to take advantage of our advanced network with the latest smart devices.
No matter what the scale of business is, every company you see these days is fixated on the goal to provide exceptional customer service. The need to surprise the customer, or create the WOW factor with innovative service delivery in order to differentiate, has left companies focusing on inventing new strategies instead of knowing what the customer wants from the product or service or the ways to deliver it.
It is evident that companies are not fully utilizing the data collected by the customers who fill in forms, surveys or even complain about a particular product or service. Front line staff must have a data collecting mechanism for all queries and be able to note down the complaints and transfer them to the back end management so that they can act on the issue and make sure it doesn’t affect another customer.
Companies spend thousands of dollars on data collection but it seems like little effort is being dispensed in putting the data together, evaluating it and actually assigning work to people to focus on the data results to bring about a change.
It’s simple. If a product has an interface issue or a software problem, service reps might give customers quick solutions on how to fix the problem but hardly ever inform management about the problems that arise. It is only when management is made aware of these issues that they can work on how to find solutions for it during the production stage. Therefore these problems never emerge and solutions cannot be developed to save customer time or tweak the product towards perfection.
Customer service teams need to follow up on clients and make sure to ask them everything about what they liked or disliked about the product ranging from the price, usability, service and all factors that encompass the experience they are trying to provide.
Resources and time are spent on analysis using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system which collects and distributes information related to all interactions with the customer. The information is then used to generate future sales and evaluate marketing strategies. This has been a useful way to understand the customer, but an in-depth analysis gauging the experience of the customer and tapping into the expectations can’t be done well through the CRM alone. This is where CEM (Customer Expectation Measurement) comes in and finds the gap between customer expectation and experience by analyzing data in order to determine what the customer thinks of the company, and not just what a company knows about a customer.
Having detail information on customers’ interactions and reactions to touch points will allow companies to better understand the customer and his or her preferences and expectations, allowing companies to set targets to achieve and please the customer.
When talking of customer experience measurement, it’s important to bring the “voice of customer” research in perspective and use the information to help provide better a experience with products and services.
Voice of customer is the process through which data regarding the feedback and requirement of customers is captured so better service and product quality can be provided. This process lets the company be more proactive and understand what the customer is looking for, so the service or product can be updated, if needed, to cater to the changing needs of the customers.
There are multiple ways through which the voice of the customer can be captured, which include feedback , surveys, interviews and direction questions, observations, focus groups, field reports and even customer complaints.
After finding out the requirements of the customers, as well as their needs and wants, businesses are more aware of what offers and add-ons to offer customers to please them, win them and reap higher profits and market share.
Voice of the Customer helps management identify the needs of the customers and then give them hierarchal preference, ensuring the information is put to use. Once the issues have been prioritized, the companies need to make plans on tackling the various problems and focusing on the future development.
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