Is it fair to charge extra for better #custserv?

What would you do if you called up the customer service line for your mobile phone operator and a voice offered you an immediate service if they could charge your bill 50p, or waiting for an available operator as a free alternative?

In many cases people in a hurry will just add the fee to their bill, but is it right to offer this kind of queue-jumping service? EE has just introduced this measure and they argue that the additional cash generated is going to be ploughed back into improving the service offered.

I am usually in favour of service providers offering a premium option that can be accessed by paying an additional fee. It allows customers the choice to opt for a better service if they are prepared to pay a little extra, but in this case I’m not so sure.

In this example, someone with a critical issue who does not opt for the priority service will wait far longer for help than someone with a trivial issue who has paid for the upgrade. It doesn’t seem fair and if the wait times are not acceptable then surely the focus should be on improving service levels for all customers?

What do you think? Is it fair to charge extra for faster service and would you pay? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

VC 50p


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Look beyond your peers when comparing #custserv levels

As the work of a customer service team has become more transparent and visible, the importance of their work has become more obviously valued. Now that the customer service team is so clearly the link between most brand names and their customers, these interactions and relationships are becoming increasingly strategic to executives who want to offer great service and create good relationships.

But often the examples of ‘great service’ cited online are clearly where an individual or team has risen to the occasion. These examples of great service sound fantastic, but they are rarely an example of everyday service performed well. But this is what every company actually needs to achieve – service that works well day after day.

So it was interesting to see that Micah Solomon in Forbes magazine has outlined what senior executives need to understand about the customer service process as it works today.

You can read the full list of Forbes recommendations here, and it comprises some basic tips such as understanding the systems, but I thought it was very good advice to look beyond your own industry. Customers are communicating globally using many different channels and they don’t care if they are contacting the customer service team at a publisher, a retailer, or a telco. So if you are only ever judging your service levels against immediate peers today then you might be letting down your customers – as well as your own team.

What do you think are the most important points that an executive needs to understand about how customer service works today? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Shopping Scene from Beijing

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Is every part of your company now customer-centric?

Forbes magazine recently published an interesting focus on marketing recently that explored various examples of customer service from companies such as Apple, Southwest Airlines, and Zappos.

The focus of the piece was on marketing and how every good business can learn from great examples of customer-centricity, but it got me thinking about the fundamental question, is there any business today that can afford to not be customer-centric?

Putting the customer first and living by maxims such as ‘the customer is always right’ have been part of corporate strategy for a long time, but most companies are in the process of redefining the relationship with their customers at present because much of that relationship is now conducted in public – away from the contact centre.

Adding service channels such as chat, Twitter, Facebook, and the use of social review forums like TripAdvisor has put the customer service team at the forefront of the customer relationship more than ever before. The interactions are public, unlike days gone by when a poor interaction could be hidden away because it was either on a call or email that only the individual customer and the brand could see anyway.

So with the customer relationship so much at the forefront of what every company is now doing, it is time to revise exactly how every part of your company is working. Are they all truly customer-centric? Think about the sales, marketing, public relations, and strategy teams – are they all taking a lead from customer services?

They really should be.

What do you think about the way companies are being reshaped? Is it really the customer service experience that is shaping modern organizations? Leave a comment on the blog here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Southwest Airlines


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When will quad-play take off in the UK?

Telecoms Tech News magazine published an interesting article recently on whether quad-play could take off in the UK. Quad-play describes the bundling of various services that telcos typically offer – allowing customers to buy their TV, Internet, home phone, and mobile phone all with a single bill.

The intention is to lock customers in to the bundled service for a longer time, reducing churn and in return for this loyalty offering a better deal than would be possible if the services were all purchased separately.

Quad-play has yet to take off in the UK. The only big operator with a serious offering is Virgin, though others – like Talk Talk – are entering the market and seeing what happens. In the USA, all the major telcos have a quad-play offering and consumers can score great discounts by shopping around and getting all their Internet and home media requirements from a single supplier.

Most commentators have been talking about a need to drop prices and innovate on services – to create new services that the consumer didn’t realise they needed. However, I believe that the real story with the growth of quad-play in the UK will be how collaborative the telcos can be.

As I have mentioned in a few recent blogs, I believe that we will start to see more telcos working together, considering that the basic network infrastructure is not worth competing over and therefore helping each other to ensure the basics are in place. They will then compete on other areas, such as great original content or the best customer service in the industry.

The BT-EE collaboration over consumer mobile services is one example of this, but I believe there will be many more examples of these companies getting together and bundling their services, allowing many more options for quad-play offerings to grow.

What do you think of quad-play in the UK? Is it too early to see where it might go or have you already subscribed to a package? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

quad bike on 21 February 2010 - day 52


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The tourism industry is being reshaped as customer service becomes a priority

The recently published UKCSI (UK Customer Services Index) has shown some interesting results for the tourism sector. Six individual tourism-related organisations were named in the top 50 of all organisations in the UK.

The UKCSI research is conducted by the Institute of Customer Service and involves a survey answered by almost 41,000 customers across 13 business sectors. This latest research was carried out in May.

Food and non-food retail are the only industry sectors that score higher than tourism when the industries of the top 50 organisations are explored.

Tourism is an important sector for the UK economy and the companies that did well in this survey are all household names such as Center Parcs, P&O Ferries, Premier Inn and the Hilton group.

Getting customer service right is more important than ever for these organisations because it has become easier than ever to find information before a purchase – including reviews and notes from previous customers. Tools such as Tripadvisor are not only offering reviews, but also location awareness when used on a smart phone, so services that feature a large number of positive recommendations can end up being actively promoted to new customers through recommendation engines.

Many customers are now familiar with these tools and use them to plan holidays. Customers today now contact brands before, during, and after a purchase so the customer service function in a sector like tourism – where many information requests need to be handled – can be the difference between customers choosing your business or not.

Have you observed a change in the way tourism businesses are offering information and service to customers? Leave a comment here on the blog or you can reach me on LinkedIn here.

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What are the three key trends in the customer service industry today?

In my last blog I talked about the need for any executive planning a customer service function to explore the future. This is a fast-changing industry now and who could have predicted a decade ago that customers would be receiving service from brands without even calling for help?

So, it was good timing to see that the customer service expert in business magazine Forbes, Micah Solomon, has just published a list of ten key trends that are shaping the customer service industry globally today – in particular the way customer expectations are changing.

You can read the complete list by going to the Forbes website here, but if I had to choose the three examples Micah lists where I agree that he really has captured some of the most important trends then I would suggest:

  1. Customers expect 24/7; Whether you need to adopt a follow-the-sun strategy or just have the team rotating in shifts, you can no longer offer a customer service channel that shuts for the day at 5pm.
  2. Customers expect omnichannel integration; you can’t have different prices online compared to in-store. You can’t respond to calls in a minute, but email in 24 hours. Customers expect all the channels to operate in the same way today.
  3. Customers now feel empowered; everyone is a publisher. If a customer has a complaint, they don’t have to hope that the consumer editor in a newspaper runs their story – they just blog it or tweet it or Facebook it and if they have enough friends, that complaint could even go viral.

This speed of change and complexity in the modern customer service environment is one of the biggest changes. The customer now expects to communicate with a brand before, during, and after a purchase – not just when they have a problem. Your team needs to be ready to have those conversations.

Do you agree with these trends or do you think that my top three and Micah’s top ten have missed something important? Leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

First customers

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What is needed to help contactless tech go mainstream?

Have you used a contactless payment system yet? It took a long time to gather momentum in the UK, but has now started looking like a realistic way to make micro-payments without needing all that change filling your pocket.

My own bank card operates with a limit of £20 for these contactless payments. The security restriction is there because no password or PIN is required to make these payments – you just wave your card near the payment terminal.

I have been buying coffee and bus tickets like this for some time, but I have also been thinking about the security issues these cards present. If I do lose my wallet and don’t report my card missing then if someone spends £100 on various small transactions in a day then that is still quite a lot to lose – and does not require any PIN hacking or other criminality.

At present it seems that the banks are prepared to support customers by guaranteeing that fraud will be refunded, but as we go further down this path there will be a point where the banks insist that you treat your card as if it were cash. If you lost a £50 note from your wallet then it would seem ridiculous to call the bank and ask them to give you a replacement note – and I expect this is where we will be going with contactless eventually.

However, for it to become even more popular customers will need to feel that the technology is secure. At present the tipping point is not entirely clear, but there is certainly a steady increase in popularity for these technologies. It’s an area worth watching over the next year or so.

Have you used a contactless card? Do you find it useful or have you been concerned about security issues? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Contactless vending machine payments in ATL!


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