Archives for June 2011

A Wake Up Call

So, you think you know about loyalty?  You’ve broken the bindings of some of the landmark books on the subject.  You’ve memorized, and can recite to any senior executive in your organization, the statistics.  A 5% improvement in customer retention rates will yield between 25 and 100% increase in profits.

Well, I’m here to tell you.  You don’t know jack.  Randi, actually.  You see Randi is my eight year old Golden Retriever.  And last night, I messed up pretty badly.  As a result, I got a sobering lesson in what loyalty really means.  However sublime in its outward expression, loyalty should never be taken for granted.  And only when tested, will its true value be understood.

I got home late with the family.  The kids were asleep in the car.  So, my focus was on getting them to bed.  Upon entering the house, my three dogs – two Goldens and a Chihuahua who is new to the brood by about two weeks – ran past me out the door to do their thing.  After settling the kids, I let the dogs back in and went to bed.

When I awoke this morning to let the dogs out, I was one short.  I opened the garage door and in came Randi running towards me from outside.  Apparently, in the confusion last night, I didn’t make sure she was in the house.  Rather than abandoning me or going out into the neighborhood to see what else was around, she dug herself a bed in my garden and waited right outside the door for me to find her.  She greeted me with a prolonged tail-wagging, dancing, barking “hello”.  In her way, she was telling me “I knew you’d come for me.  I knew you wouldn’t forget about me.  And, its o.k.  I know you have a lot going on.  I’ll always be here for you”

So, the next time the economy turns down and you turn your focus internally to cost cutting instead of paying attention to your customers, remember that it’s those customers that are silently waiting for you to come back; patiently anticipating your acknowledgement that are the real reason you exist as a business.

What’s Next For Customer Service?

Forgive the hyperbole, but the social customer really is driving customer service as we’ve come to know it to the precipice of irrelevancy.

Back in April, I wrote a post that referenced a recently released study from IBM recently titled From Social Media to Social CRM wherein they reached a harsh conclusion.

Customers, your customers, would much rather seek information and advice from friends, family and even strangers that look “like me” than from brands.  And by “brands”, that includes customer service functions that support those brands.  Most alarming is the disconnect between what customers actually care about and what companies think customers care about in terms of brand engagement.  More than half of all customers surveyed, for example, don’t even consider engaging with companies on social sites.  For them, social networking is about personal connections.

Given that scenario, I’d argue that the real value of the future customer service function is in its ability to impact, at the enterprise level, those issues that cause customers to engage customer service in the first place. The contact center as data hub is an interesting concept. And one which typically conjures up thoughts associated with CRM and how to use that data to better engage with customers. I happen to think the real untapped value lies in how that data is used to drive sustainable change in the enterprise business processes that are at the root of customer satisfaction, or dissatisfaction as it were.

There really is a treasure trove of insight contained in the contacts that occur daily between your customers and the contact center. Customers talk about all sorts of things. In reality, it is a rare person that calls customer service to tell you how much they loved the look of their new utility bill; or how great it was that their new Professor Dumbldore bobble head doll arrived crushed in a box the size of a postage stamp. No. Customers call the contact center, by and large, because some process in your organization broke down; somebody messed up.

Bill Price, the former head of customer service at Amazon, outlined his approach to this challenge in his book The Best Service is No Service. In it, Bill argued that the first thing the contact center-as-data-hub should focus on is eliminating what he calls “dumb contacts”. Those are the contacts that are driven by some upstream process that is broken in the organization. Take your contact center personnel (all those black belts) armed with statistical data and go fix those things. Billing errors, product defects, shipping delays, stock outs, back orders, the list goes on. Empower your customer service professionals to step outside the contact center and drive process change, not just deliver call reason code reports. Eliminating the demand for service driven by these internal process flaws, as Bill successfully argues, will allow the customer service function to then focus on high value interactions.

The data contained in those contacts provide a crystal clear lens in to all that is good and not so good within your organization. It demonstrates an undeniable truth. That truth is that every function in an organization is responsible for the customer experience. Customer service is not the new marketing. However, marketing, sales, finance, HR, manufacturing, purchasing, name the department, ultimately should have responsibility for customer service and the customer experience. Customer touch points happen in places within your organization that are often not immediately apparent. It takes some effort to identify these touch points and uncover how they actually impact the customer experience.

Who’s going to do that? Acme Company VP of Customer Service, come on down. You’re the next contestant on The Time Is Right.