Crossing the chasm – from small to global

The path to global domination has changed. Small companies can grow to become medium just by doing a bit more of whatever they do – selling products or services and scaling up to increase the size of the operation.

But to jump from being a mid-size player to global was always difficult. Business academics call it ‘crossing the chasm’ because the penalty for failure was often the demise of the entire company. Jumping from that mid-level to becoming a giant always required a laser-like focus on the expansion of your company globally – one of the most critical areas of failure is how to support customers when scaling up from local (probably) single-language service to multiple countries, multiple languages, and across multiple channels.

But technology has enabled a change in the way services are delivered. The default for many new companies is now global because the Internet does not respect national borders. Two specific technologies are fundamentally changing how new companies are launching their products and how mature companies have to change:

Cloud computing; offering services in the cloud allows customers to pay only for what they use and to access services without requiring any special systems or software. Products we think of as normal now – such as email on a browser – previously involved far more complexity and thousands of software licenses.

App stores; allowing services to be packaged up and offered as bolt-on apps was really the genius of Apple, but has become a way of offering tools and services that works within governments and large corporations now – not just on phones.

These business paradigms allow for services to be switched on and off, scaled up or down, and integrated into existing business plans. They also allow companies to offer their products and services globally using various tools that can be easily bolted together.

Customer service is another matter. Now that customers expect support across borders and time zones, it has become almost impossible for any single organisation to deliver a satisfactory service just using an in-house team.

But Teleperformance is not only know for innovation and staying ahead of customer service trends, we operate in 62 countries so it is possible for us to work on local or global solutions.

The way business is conducted has changed beyond recognition in the past decade and this is also true of the way customers are serviced. What are your own views on the biggest changes that have taken place and where most attention needs to be focused?

Leave a comment here or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

App Store

 

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Analytics: the key to unlocking the retail omnichannel?

For the past couple of years I have been exploring both omnichannel and multichannel solutions for customer service as the adoption of social media channels have become more accepted.

It’s important to distinguish between the two terms though, as many commentators use them synonymously and that’s not quite right. Offering a multichannel service simply means expanding the number of ways in which customers can interact with a company. It used to be just by phone, then email, then chat, now you can add Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram, blogs, forums, review sites… there are a lot of channels in common use now.

Offering an omnichannel solution means tying all this together. The customer that sends an email and tweets a message and later calls for help wants to see that all their various communications have been tied together somehow – the person answering the phone knows about the email for example. As you might expect, pulling all those channels together is a lot more difficult than just expanding the range of channels on offer.

An interesting feature recently in Essential Retail takes this idea even further (for the retail industry at least), extending the benefits of tying together the various channels into the overall supply chain.

Retailers are especially affected by the omnichannel concept because it is not just about a contact channel, they are also seeing shopping channels and behaviour change too. Customers may buy online with postal delivery, they buy instore, they buy online and request collection instore, they order more items than they need and return what they don’t want.

The communication channels have become more complex for everyone, but in retail the operational channels have also changed making the supply chain more complex than ever.

The answer is clearly improved analytics. All this data about customer behaviour and needs is there, but it has to be analysed quickly. I’ll blog next time about some of the analytics our team is exploring, but in the meantime please leave a comment with your thoughts on how the multichannel customer environment is changing your business – or tweet me on @matt_sims1.

Kanyon Mall Istanbul 14

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The future of customer service is already with us today

The social media analysis company Hootsuite has just released a new white paper focused on the future of customer service. You can download a copy here.

As you might expect, it’s packed full of statistics, but I want to pull out three for discussion:

  1. Customers who engage with companies over social media spend an average of 30% more with those companies than other customers
  2. Only 39% of companies bother to answer questions from customers using social channels
  3. Customers almost always share a customer experience where it took place over social media – if it’s a good experience they tell on average 42 friends, if it’s bad then they tell 53.

This is not really about the future of customer service, it’s the here and now. We are seeing the effect of these preferences on a daily basis.

It cannot be denied that voice calls are still the most important channel for customer service interactions, but social media is growing fast.

If the customers that use social media when asking questions are more likely to spend more then it seems obvious that companies should engage – it’s just good business sense. In addition, these customers are likely to tell more friends about a bad experience than a good experience.

With statistics like this it seems that planning for a multichannel social media customer service strategy is something that is urgently needed now and with only 39% of companies regularly answering online questions there is still a lot of room for improvement.

What do you think about the need for a multichannel customer strategy? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Iced tea at Georgia's, version 2

 

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Telcos are focusing on content

I have often talked about the future for telcos being more focused on the content they provide rather than the number of free texts they offer to customers and a recent move by EE appears to be moving down this exact path.

EE has announced a TV service for all broadband subscribers, but they have decided to just offer content that is freely available in the UK rather than any premium content. I am not sure how attractive this service will be to customers.

There is a reason that people are prepared to pay up to £100 per month for a subscription TV service. It’s because the content is great and services such as live sport or catch-up for US TV channels are not going to be replicated in the very basic plan that EE is offering.

In contrast, Vodafone has already signed a deal with Netflix for their TV service so the free channels option from EE doesn’t appear to match up to others even at the time of launch.

I believe that the direction of travel is correct, even if the execution appears to be lacking here. If EE can evolve this strategy so additional premium channels and services are available – and also available on mobile devices rather than just in the home – then they will have a much stronger proposition.

The battle over content is only just beginning, but it’s already clear that offering a few free-to-air channels is not good enough. What’s your view on the network providers moving to a content strategy? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

Forgotten television

 

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Customer loyalty is changing

I read a news item on TechRadar recently titled ‘customer loyalty is changing and your marketing plan should be too’ and I was interested in the idea that customer service commentators are now explicitly defining ‘customer loyalty’ and linking this to marketing and key messages.

This idea is not new and I have echoed similar sentiments on this blog before, but it’s my belief that there are still not enough people from the customer service industry reminding business leaders across all sectors how far-reaching this evolution in customer behaviour and the nature of what is defined as ‘loyalty’  are going to be.

Because it’s not just that customer service has changed. Anyone can see that. The introduction of social media and the explosion of new channels over the past few years has changed the way that customers communicate with brands, but customer service has never been the only place that brands interacted with their existing and potential customers.

Teams such as marketing, advertising, and public relations have always planned how messages should be communicated from a brand to customers, but the way customers behave and interact with service channels has changed. While these functions of business remain largely concerned with one-way dialogue and annual awards for creativity, customers expect two-way communications that test the credibility of the marketing message, product claim or service guarantee, and therefore in so doing, their ‘loyalty’ antennae is already tingling.

Moreover and as an extension of this customer behaviour, far more pre-purchase research is now undertaken. There is an ongoing debate about products with reviews posted by customers, and forums allow questions to be asked and to turn into ongoing debates.

All this information, often created by customers, has become an extension to the ‘official’ marketing plan for any company today, yet if the company does not create and control this material then how can it ensure the information is correct? Through improved direct engagement and debate.

Customers need to know that companies will interact and engage before, during, and after purchases. And every channel from voice to chat to social media needs to be integrated referencing one version of the truth. This engagement can ensure that online information is fair and correct and interacting in this way will stimulate more customer loyalty than any loyalty points offers ever could.

I wonder have you any examples of how your own customer behaviour and interaction with a customer service team is changing? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my LinkedIn.

Stock Market

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Celebrating Customer Service Week

Last week was International Customer Service Week, an event started by the International Customer Service Association back in 1984 – thirty years ago! This week was originally created as a way to recognise and reward the people and companies that are focused on great customer service.

Unfortunately I was too busy working with customers last week to blog about it until the week was officially over, however as far as I am concerned every week is customer service week. So even though the international celebration was last week, what can we do on the blog to mark this once a year focus on customer service?

I think that with teams in 62 countries the Teleperformance team will have some great stories of customer service from recent weeks. What I would like to do is to collect together some examples of great service and to publish a collection of them here on the blog.

I think the best way to arrange this is not to ask people to self-nominate, but rather for people who have seen or heard a colleague go far beyond the level of service a customer might usually expect, to nominate these examples. Let’s hear about the best examples you have witnessed recently where team members have really helped the customer.

And there is no need for the examples to come only from Teleperformance. Just leave a comment here on the blog or tweet me on @matt_sims1 with your own examples of great service and I’ll plan to collect some together soon.

Customer Service

 

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Could British retailers learn from the phone networks?

I blogged recently about the collapse of Phones 4U and how the model of selling mobile phone contracts is changing. The biggest change is the decline of the third-party expert, able to advise on contracts from all the major networks, but there has been an interesting development since the collapse.

Both Vodafone and O2 have been focusing on the rapid increase in their own High Street presence. We talk a lot about the explosion in digital and social activity and how online retail has developed since the 90s, yet here we can see that as one phone retailer dies out the networks are rolling out their own stores in the High Street to fill that retail vacuum.

It’s clear that for something as complex as a telephone, most customers still want to be able to visit a store where they can see and touch the product as well as getting expert advice and support in person.

This is an interesting paradox as the product being sold by phone retailers facilitates price comparison and online sales from anyplace at anytime, yet the customers still value being able to walk into a store to ask questions when they have a problem.

It’s not a surprise, but it is contrary to the popular belief that ‘showrooming’ is killing the High Street. Perhaps other retailers could learn from the mix of online and in-store support the phone networks are offering to their customers?

What do you think? Will the High Street be saturated with too many stores offering phones? Leave a comment here or tweet me on @simondillsworth.

tesco phone shop

 

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