In today’s business realm, continuing innovation and strong competition make it difficult for companies to outperform competitors on a product basis alone. With new features quickly being copied or entering the market, the quality of the customer experience has become a chief differentiator. And after all, the key to sustainable business growth is customer loyalty.
A recent survey by Trendwatching.com clearly proves this: in a laboratory style test with 1,620 consumers, 63% said they actually felt their heart rate increase when thinking about receiving great customer service. Plus, astonishingly, for 53% of those tested, receiving great service triggered the same cerebral reactions as feeling loved. What do we learn from that? Well, when it comes to customer service, it is not so much about what the consumer thinks. Great service is all about feelings and emotions.
The meaning of the Customer Experience (CX)
Before we continue, let’s remind us of the concept of the customer experience (CX). CX principally aims at creating differentiated experiences at various touch points that customers choose to interact with a certain company – i.e. the many critical moments when customers interact with the organization and its offerings pre and post purchase.
We already covered the ongoing transition from customer relationship to customer experience management in a previous blog article. The following discussion forms the continuation, focusing on customers’ key requirements as regards service excellence as well as describing the steps to ensuring an exceptional customer experience. In the second and final part – which forms part of an exclusive white paper – SELLBYTEL’s respective approach is outlined and evaluated.
Why is the advanced management of the customer experience so essential?
In a nutshell, the immaculate management of customer service drives a business’s profitable growth in the long-term. And, as we all know, acquiring a new customer is much more costly than retaining an existing one.
According to Ferdinand Grimm, member of the SELLBYTEL Group Management Board and longtime service expert, “one of the most effective ways to turn a regular customer into a loyal one is through positive word of mouth. People are much more likely to purchase a product or service if it is recommended by friends, family or colleagues”. In fact, nowadays more than 90% of purchase decisions are influenced by peer recommendations. Therefore, it is ever more imperative to create positive customer feedback across all possible contact points and channels. Nevertheless, complaint handling remains a critical matter too. This should be handled at top management level, dealt with quickly, proactively and generously, in order to avoid escalation. Ferdinand Grimm notes that “especially in the high-end automobile industry, complaints increasingly end up directly at management board level. In that case it is even more decisive to take the customer seriously and react instantly.”
So what is it customers value when it comes to service?
The International Customer Service Institute’s (TICSI) so-called “5 P’s model” describes the key factors deciding over good or bad service. The institute’s research shows that service criticisms mostly refer to the categories of Processes (35%) (most importantly complaint handling, availability, timeliness) and People (31%) (including technical skills, responsiveness, awareness and behavioral skills of service specialists, most notably “listening”) – rather than policies (27%) (such as keeping promises, helpfulness) or actual products/services (4%) (differentiated customer service, provision of “extras”). The fifth “P” consists of All 5 P’s (4%) and basically describes the final objective of the other P’s: clear communication and high memorability of service.
In the People category, behavioral skills and technical skills top the list, hence it appears that “it is about what you do AND the way you do it”, with “listening” and thus understanding the customer being the most critical skill.
Almost 27% of complaints relate to Policy, which is primarily the responsibility of those leading and managing a business. This again indicates that the importance of effectively managing the customer experience as a key organizational fundament often does not get through to top levels.
What are the steps to an outstanding customer experience?
According to Ferdinand Grimm, the key to an excellent customer experience is the enablement of employees (80%), i.e. everything done to maximize their performance.
This enablement is again subdivided: 80% include the right employee selection. Most importantly, the employee needs to bring along a set competence base – since a real sales and service orientation cannot be learned, but needs to evolve from experience. The other 20% consist of skills development schemes including suitable tools and trainings. The latter should be ongoing, adapted to individual employees’ needs and refer to both hard and soft skills. Essential tools cover e-learning, knowledge databases and a decent CRM. These should merely support people’s existing skills, though.
The remaining 20% are made of the close management of teams through a dedicated team leader, whose prime function is to act as a specialist quality ambassador.
Only once this framework is established, employees will be ready to go that extra mile and deliver highest service quality.
Finally, our discussion proves that excellent service is more and more about “listening” to the customer and creating an outstanding experience at all possible touch points. In order to ensure this, the enablement of employees and their intensive management are central. The second part – which can be accessed via a detailed white paper – discusses how SELLBYTEL has managed to deliver consistently high quality as regards customer service over the years.
Please access our white paper to read both parts 1 & 2 of the series.
Do you have any questions or comments? Feel free to get back to Ferdinand Grimm via Ferdinand.Grimm@sellbytel.de
Text: Anna-Luisa Wiefel