Why do we refuse to do anything practical about customer service?
There seem to be a spate of stories about bad customer service at the moment. Perhaps, it is just that we have had a really bad experience ourselves and therefore notice them more. Perhaps it is that bad experiences get more attention than good ones, and the press therefore love them.
But if that is the case you have to ask yourself whether you have had a good customer experience in the last few months. Unlikely? In fact, it is usually so bad that calling (or trying to call) a company to get a problem solved is something that we tend to put off doing.
These days we are discussing the next generation of contact centre strategies. We talk about an omnichannel approach, where customers can start a conversation via one channel and continue it on another, seamlessly. Some say that omnichannel is a step too far and we should first concentrate on getting a multichannel strategy right.
We say that companies need to get the fundamentals right, otherwise thinking about a new strategy is pointless. And, as usual, when we have a mess to deal with, we think that technology will solve the problem. That is rubbish, says Alex Leslie founder & CEO at Global Billing Association (GBA).
We tend to focus our frustration on older, more established, larger companies. Yet the problem seems pretty universal – and huge.
Main KPI is churn
The one key performance indicator that every CEO looks at on a regular basis is churn. Churn is discussed endlessly. The focus on customer service is spouted time and again by those same CEOs on conference calls and in keynotes. “Our focus on our customers is paramount,” they say. And they seem blissfully unaware of just how broken their own processes are. They are probably in charge of a company that has no phone number for customer problem solving.
The problem, or to use an old and irritating word, the challenge will only get bigger. We are moving into an era where the customers are, to our old world view, chaotic. As industry analyst, Teresa Cottam, said in a recent article on the next generation of contact centre, “Generation Z [the oldest just turning 21 now] members are not just problem solvers like their Y predecessors, but want to creatively reinvent their world – including the service paradigm. They are fiercely independent and detest the hand-holding required by Gen Y (the Apple Genius Bar is their idea of hell)”.
It is not just speed of response that matters here, according to the same article, because “when we use the self-service screen in McDonald’s it’s not because it’s quicker or easier to use, it’s because we don’t have to speak to anyone and don’t need to remove our headphones.” This, according to a member of said Generation Z.
The answer, of course, is to apply common sense. Your customer service process should mirror what you want from other customer service processes. And your focus should be on this area as a priority, not just for the sake of press releases.
The question is why it isn’t. Maybe it is because the CEO knows that the number of customers who churn because his customer service is rubbish will be matched by the number of new customers that come on board because his competitor’s is as bad or his multi-million dollar marketing budget is actually working.
There are, however, chinks of light, however small. At a recent conference, we heard how the implementation of a billing system that managed customers’ balances really well simply by rounding properly. Yes, it reduced the telco’s own revenues but because the feature was communicated to customers it helped bring churn down to under one percent. Result?
It’s amazing how just getting things working right improves the customer experience. CEOs might like to try their own services, as a normal customer, to see just how good the experience is – or isn’t.
The author of this blog is Alex Leslie founder & CEO at Global Billing Association (GBA).
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