Ian Aitchison, CEO Asia Pacific Region, COPC Inc
I once listened to a Disney executive presenting at a conference about the importance of customer experience. He told the audience a story about how a little kid had left his favourite teddy bear behind after visiting one of Disney’s theme parks in the USA. The kid’s tearful mother called up the theme park in distress, got transferred to the “Lost and Found” Department and explained the situation. The friendly staff member took down a description of the teddy bear, the family’s details and said she’d look into it.
Four days later, the teddy bear arrived via courier, safe and sound, at home. Along with the beloved toy were some photographs of the teddy bear having fun at the theme-park; on a roller coaster, eating ice cream, meeting Mickey Mouse and all sorts of other poses as well as a hand-written note explaining that teddy had been having a great time on his little vacation, and that the child didn’t need to worry about him having been lost and that they hoped all the family would return again next summer.
Was this the type of example of what a company needs to do to deliver an outstanding customer experience? Well, no actually, and the Disney executive was very clear that although it was a great example of how his staff were able to deal with an exceptional circumstance, he believed that customer experience management is more about getting the basics right and ensuring that your organisation is able to provide consistent delivery of predictable service outcomes.
The customer experience is a journey, made up of many different discrete touchpoints, or steps. The steps of the journey which are the most obvious for customers are those steps which take place in-store, online or when communicating with a contact centre. These touchpoints are the so-called “moments of truth”, which companies need to get right to retain the customers’ goodwill.
It would be wrong to assert that technology is the primary driver of delivering outstanding customer experiences, but technology does indeed play a role in ensuring the consistent delivery of predictable service outcomes in each of the touchpoints.
The business world is hurtling towards the adoption of an omni-channel delivery methodology, where customers experience consistent, seamless service, no matter which channel they use. As such organisations cannot design customer touchpoints in isolation and must focus on technology solutions which help to manage the whole customer journey, or they are in danger of becoming obsolete and being left behind.
I believe we’re not yet in an omni-channel world, and even some of the best companies would have to admit that they are still providing cross-channel support (they have multiple channels available for customers, and in the main they manage them well, but the transition from on-line to in-store or to the contact centre is not yet seamless, and customers have some level of repetition to go through to get their enquiry resolved).
Design thinking will trump all piecemeal approaches to improving the customer experience, but in simple terms, how can technology help to improve the customer experience?
- The CRM systems should link to the IVR and to the website
- The call centre should have access to information they need to solve customer problems (ideally through an intuitive knowledgebase which also links to the website)
- Emails, webchats, social media enquiries should be delivered to customer service staff in the same way as calls are
- Websites should be designed from a customer’s perspective, and should not be internally focused. This means that a customer should be able to accomplish whatever they need via the website with as few clicks as possible.
- When the work involves the processing of applications, forms, etc. companies should reduce layers of approvals to speed up the work in process. In fact companies should use algorithms instead of people wherever possible.
- Make sure you have enough lines into the contact centre to be able to deal with high volume periods. Many companies don’t even know that their callers are being “blocked” during these busy times.
- Telephony and system downtime are “customer experience killers”. Build your infrastructure to ensure almost 100% uptime.
We have found that 75 percent to 80 percent of all issues which drive customer dissatisfaction are caused by process or system errors, and not by the actions of careless individual staff members.
The Disney example above demonstrates that quick-thinking, caring individuals can manage exceptional circumstances, but to become a customer experience leader, a company needs to have the basic technology building blocks in place to provide the consistent delivery of predictable service outcomes to their customers.
For companies to compete on price or product is misguided and can only bring, at best, short-term benefits, as each can be easily replicated. As a result, customer experience is becoming the only genuine differentiator.