The Customer Is A Knave!

The customer is no longer king, the customer is a knave!

With a multi-channel mind set, mobile tech and (brand) attention span of a goldfish, the concept of earning customer ‘loyalty’ today is arguably as old hat as ‘posting’ holiday postcards or ‘sharing’ a bag of sweets!

As David Reed (FIDM) comments in the latest International Journal of the IDM “consumers have not only taken a lot of control away from marketers, they are increasingly behaving in far more random ways than were ever assumed”.

Consumers flit between channels like Goldilocks until they find one that’s “just right”. They spend endless hours investigating products and services on a company or aggregator website one day only to go on and make a seemingly spontaneous purchase on some completely different website on the next. Having by in large failed to predict the present, never mind the future, companies today are wrestling with a new era of ‘customer incidence’. Customer incidence charts the trajectory of a customer’s proactive interaction with a brand, regardless of channel, through its orbit of direct influence whatever the consumer’s purpose – research, commentary, purchase, service, renewal or complaint.

Star systems with trajectories in deep space

The companies that are succeeding today and that will go on succeeding are those who recognise that ‘customer experience’ is a daisy chain of moments of delight or ‘incidentals’ at each and every interaction on a customer’s trajectory through that brand’s ‘halo’ of channels. They recognise too that ‘customer incidence’ charts the many trajectories, long or short, the consumer makes through many brand orbits, including competitors, that are also delivering moments of delight.

But moreover, these successes will be grounded in the customer service operations these companies have established, supported and empowered by tried, tested and fine-tuned people and process methodologies underpinned by technology solutions that offer near A.I. analyses and insight that can offer something as close to customer telepathy as it’s possible to do.

Posted in Contact Centres, Customer Service, Marketing, Outsourcing, Social Media, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Customer service comes first in companies today

With customer service now open and visible on social channels many marketing directors are taking a close interest in how their brand is being represented online – marketing chiefs are now stepping in to manage many customer service departments. This is affecting many companies in many industries, but the connecting thread is that what takes place in the customer service function is more important than ever as the actions of agents can now be more important than advertising or other marketing efforts.

This is a natural effect of the multichannel service environment we now live in. customers are demanding service via social channels which are usually transparent and open to anyone. If brands respond using the same channels then examples of great service (and poor service) can easily be shared with friends.

So it seems inevitable that customer service is going to become more important than ever. Marketing heads, sales heads, and strategy heads are all going to want to play some role in how customers are managed rather than considering it a ‘back-room’ task where a team just answers the phone and notes down complaints.

Call Centre Helper magazine recently featured a great article that explores how this change in corporate structure might be problematic. The article suggests that the marketing managers might start changing the way customer service teams interact with customers, trying to reflect their own marketing agenda, and ultimately failing to offering great service or a great image of the brand.

It’s a danger as this becomes more common, but the important issue for those of us involved in customer service and experience is that this is where everyone else in the business is now looking. It’s the people who have a direct relationship with the customers who are now the most important team in the company and this can only mean some interesting times ahead in the near future.

Market in Aix en Provence

 

Photo by Raging Wire licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Marketing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Supporting online shoppers continues to be a challenge

Online retail is a now a mature business model isn’t it? After all, companies such as Amazon have been taking orders online and delivering products for two decades. Is there still so much to learn?

Clearly there is still a lot to learn for the retailers who are trying to blend both the online and in-store shopping experience. A new report from JDA titled the Consumer Pulse Report 2014 suggests that 57% of consumers don’t believe there is any integration between the stores and online sites of major retailers.

And that’s not all. One in five consumers complained about problems with product deliveries to their home. Almost two-thirds would happily switch to an alternative retailer because of an unacceptable online experience. A third of customers would be prepared to pay a premium price if it guaranteed a same-day product delivery.

A third of customers had experienced problems using click-and-collect – in particular they had used this option to save time only to find queues in-store.

None of this sounds very promising, but the silver lining is that 69% of those same consumers believe that online retail will be their main shopping channel within the next five years.

That’s a big shift to the online channel and it will require that many of these issues around delivery and customer service be ironed out soon. What is your own experience of online retail – better or worse than this research suggests? Leave a comment here on the blog or get in touch via my LinkedIn profile here:

Shopping

 

Photo by Wiechert Visser licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Current Affairs, Retail, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Managing work-life balance in a BYOD environment

Smart phones are more than just phones today. Each of us is carrying a small computer in our pocket that is online all the time and lets us check the web and stay in touch with friends via social networking sites. But crucially these devices also allow us to stay in touch with work at all times.

A recent report in Total Telecom magazine suggests that the increase in Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies where companies encourage employees to use their own technology at work might be problematic because it forces employees to mix their work and home life on devices such as smartphones.

Leading voices from companies such as Microsoft, Google, and Vodafone have warned that employees working within a BYOD environment can be distracted at the office by their own personal information – social network updates for example – and then disturbed by work when at home during the hours that should be their own.

Different companies have different policies on this work-life balance issue such as Google insisting that they never sent corporate emails at the weekend or during the evening. However, regardless of any formal policies there is also a need to view this situation more as a change in the way we all work, rather than something that can be tidied up by publishing a few papers on email guidelines. To get this right requires a cultural change led from the top, not just recommendations from the HR team.

Allowing employees the flexibility to answer email anywhere and to participate in their work remotely is a great benefit for many, but any company offering this kind of flexibility needs to also introduce a culture that allows people to switch off and rest. If this culture does not exist then the flexibility to work remotely and at any time merely becomes the expectation that you will answer work messages at any time 24/7.

We live in a 24/7 work culture today, but if leadership is shown in how flexibility can be managed then it can increase productivity and employee satisfaction.

Mobile Worker

 

Photo by Michael Coghlan licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Careers, Current Affairs, Innovation, Telecoms | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Innovations in customer service

Call centre magazine listed a series of innovations that they say are redefining customer service. You can read about the first five here with another five to follow soon.

What I liked about this list though was that it did not focus on the technology and delivery of a contact centre, it focused on the outcomes that a customer expects from any brand – in short, how innovative approaches can lead to great service.

In particular, I agree strongly with these three approaches to the modern contact centre:

  • Measurements; contact centres have always been full of measurements, usually abbreviated to three-letters. At the end of the day, what matters is whether the customer is really satisfied, so it’s great to see that new measurement methods are being explored across the industry.
  • Empowerment; the old scripts and inflexibility of the past just don’t work today. People usually end up talking to a human agent after they have already Googled their problem and not found the answer, so they want to be connected to someone knowledgable and empowered to do what is needed to fix the issue.
  • Complexity; the growth of multiple channels and the need to knit them together so customers can hop between social media, voice, chat, email and so on, means that customer service has never been so complex.

The journey a customer goes on when they need help remains the real area of focus, but the industry is changing rapidly and it’s worth watching for these innovations – some will be very disruptive to the old ways of offering customer service.

aafad 167/365 call centre-kun

Photo by Lamont Cranston licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Technology | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Only the young are using multichannel support?

We live in an age of multichannel customer service. It is common for consumers today to be using around five or six channels when they want to interact with a brand. Voice calls, chat on instant messenger, email, reviews or forums, Twitter, Facebook… and the list could go on, but those half a dozen are really the most common channels today.

This is complicated by the fact that consumers jump around the channels. A customer might email a question and call because they have not had a reply for several hours and maybe even tweet about their unanswered email – customers are hopping around channels and much of the time not even directing many of their complaints specifically at the brands concerned.

But one of the big myths about these multichannel-savvy consumers that I have heard over and over again is that it’s really only the young who are behaving like this. I know that this assumption is wrong because I can see friends and family of all ages communicating with each other on Facebook and using tools like Tripadvisor before booking a restaurant or hotel.

This research published on eConsultancy throws some light on just how much the growth of multichannel customer service has changed the way we all interact with brands. It’s true that the young (under 24s) have used social channels more than any other demographic group, but look at the over 55s in this research with 27.4% of them contacting brands using social tools.

These numbers are growing every year. Managing this complex mix of social and traditional channels is no longer just a nice-to-have function that makes your customer service team look ahead of the curve – it’s essential if you want to answer your customers.

Social Media Outposts

 

Photo by Mark Hunter licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Social Media | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

ISP customer service levels rebound upwards

Contrary to popular belief, customer satisfaction levels for UK Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is on the rise after interviews showed that the level of customer happiness when it comes to the country’s four largest ISPs has risen by three per cent.

The National Customer Satisfaction Index – United Kingdom [NCSI-UK] gave UK ISPs a score of 69 out of 100 for Q2 2014. This means that the worst industry sector studied by the NCSI – that dubious award now goes to the energy providers who now sit at the bottom of the table on 68 per cent.

Virgin Media was the best scoring individual company with a satisfaction score of 71 per cent – up a full four per cent on last year.

The NCSI study uses variables such as ease of understanding the bill, reliability of speed and service, and ease of using the customer website to arrive at their final scores, but one very interesting area where customer satisfaction is generally declining is the contact centres used by ISPs. The NCSI score for call centres used by ISPs is just 59 per cent – lower than for any other industry.

Clearly attitudes to customer service are changing in the ISP business, but that decline in satisfaction with the contact centre needs to be watched.

What’s your experience of contacting your own ISP? Good, bad, or just indifferent? Leave a comment here or get in touch via my Twitter here.

Internet

 

Photo by HD Zimmerman licensed under Creative Commons

Posted in Contact Centres, Current Affairs, Customer Service, Telecoms | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment