Over the past few months, I’ve spoken with various Fortune 500 companies about the future of digital customer operations and the focus on client centricity.
While these companies represent different industries and have different business models, there are a few common themes that everyone agrees should be leveraged when handling end-customer operations:
1. Know your customer
Keeping tight partnerships with your key customers is crucial. But before you reach this level, you should know your customers and understand their needs, which includes their strategic initiatives and the role that your business plays in achieving key objectives. This is the measure of how relevant your business is to your client. We frequently observe businesses establishing offices close to their business partners. I truly believe that physical proximity is important as it fosters stronger connections. Investing time in building relationships not only brings you closer to your client’s business and enables you to better understand their needs, but it also may pay off in additional growth. The best outcome is to have your client partners recommend you to other clients.
2. The Digital Customer Experience (DCX) really matters
Over the past few years, we’ve seen the growing importance of DCX. The voice of the end customer has never been so important, whether you are an industrial manufacturer, a freight carrier, or an insurer. Companies feel that they have to fit into a digital agenda and frequently need help and guidance on how to get there. Over the past few years, the industry has developed some best practices to deliver efficient processes that provide value to the business. However, one minor detail is often forgotten: how do our internal processes affect the end customer? To be able to answer this, businesses should ask themselves a few questions:
- Do we make the end user’s life easier or do we bother them with our internal processes?
- How do we motivate employees in terms of customer priorities?
- Are customer needs and customer service part of employee development plans?
- Are teams incentivized to deliver an outstanding customer experience?
This is the key difference of taking a truly client-centric approach. I always explain it as a combination of 1) motivated people focused on customer needs and understanding, 2) client-centric processes that keep the customers happy, and 3) technology to constantly surprise clients. If we prioritize the end-user experience, not only will we end up designing more efficient processes, but we will also please customers, employees, and partners.
We are all customers of one company or another. What is it that makes us want to buy from company X versus company Z? Taking this perspective may result in a better solution for your business. Look at your internal KPIs. As a customer, do I really care how many cases are handled per day or do I prefer to have my case solved? Businesses that focus on the average time per call and the number of calls handled per XYZ agents are not taking a customer view. This definitely does not add value to me as your end customer!
When considering long term, think innovation, think investment, and think like a startup. Investing in new solutions and people may help you win new businesses and transform your traditional business with new business lines. Working like a startup and promoting co-creation models with your business partners may result in more sustainable relationships and growth.
3. Let your customers speak
What strikes me is that the voice of the customer does not necessarily come from the end customer. We often assume what is best for the end customer; however, we do not always understand the situation. Once we start measuring and truly “hearing” our customers, we may end up with a different outcome.
I frequently hear my business partners express concerns over new practices such as enabling self-service to end customers because they’re afraid that they may get more complaints or that the end customers won’t be interested in using such an option. Is it really the end customer who lacks interest? Businesses should not make such assumptions about the end customer (or even themselves), but rather take a different view. As a customer, I just might want to be able to check and track a delivery or be able to submit a claim online.
4. Take care of ALL your customers
Sometimes, instead of focusing on “good” customers, business processes are built around pleasing the biggest complainers while neglecting the true revenue generators. It is not only about making the customers happy but also about truly understanding their (changing) business needs.
Alter your perspective: some customers may want personalized service but others may not want to be bothered. In the end, all customers want to get through the process as easily as possible, but the way we address their individual needs may require more personalized contact, self-service portals, automation, etc.
5. Resolve complaints quickly and with style
The complaints process is a critical part of the value chain: the one process that should be streamlined and automated to the furthest extent possible. Tools like self-service portals, virtual agents, and FAQs should be your best friends! Maintaining manual and complicated processes not only extends the resolution time but also makes us focus on the wrong priorities. If you add the costs of the complaints resolution with the actual revenue loss on credits raised for fixing the defaults, you may end up wasting more energy ironing out defaults rather than building the perfect waste elimination process.
And if you are in a situation where you deliver a perfect order fulfillment, you may then conclude that your customer is always right! Why? Because the best complaint resolution process is NO COMPLAINTS!
As a customer, I want to have a great DCX each time, every time, irrespective of the communication channel. I want to be able to follow up on my case anytime, anywhere!
6. Size of the prize
What is the value of providing an amazing customer experience? I have seen many attempts of quantifying the additional revenue for providing great customer service. One way to respond to this is to show how many customers buy from your business based on the recommendation of other customers. If your business is digitally present and takes customer experience seriously, the numbers should be available. Businesses that are obsessed with delivering a positive customer experience will grow faster than the ones that focus on internal efficiency. If you want to keep your customers and grow your business, put yourself in the customer’s shoes.
I strongly believe that in order to be competitive businesses, you need to follow a simple magic formula: I am your customer. Understand me, keep me happy, and surprise me!