Today, businesses in all sectors continue to invest more and more in their Customer Service. Products and their characteristics (quality, price and distribution channel) are no longer the focus of attention of boards or directors. What makes the difference is the customer care as perceived by users when they interact with the company and its front line staff.
I think that there is nothing more important and business-critical in any company than customer service. All organizations that operate in a competitive market will lose clients and money if they ignore this fundamental rule for too long. Let’s look at the example of a multinational like McDonald’s, that spends almost two billion dollars a year in advertising. The fast food giant has recently admitted that 20% of complaints are about “bad service” and that the main reason for customers not returning is attributable to “impolite or unprofessional service staff”.
But this rule is applicable to any sector. And this is why more and more entrepreneurs are trying to come up with new ways to improve their relationship between front line personnel and customers.
The CEO of one of America’s largest banks recently sent a letter to its more than 270,000 employees, begging them to improve their relationship with the bank’s customers. It is clear that even a zero-charge current account generating three percent interest loses its shine if you have to deal with personnel who are impolite, inattentive and unhelpful.
What every company needs to do is to involve and empower the staff that is in direct contact with customers, as they play a crucial role in the health of the entire organization. It is important to share the commercial strategy being pursued by the company with all personnel, informing them about priorities and objectives, but also trusting front line personnel and giving them the resources to manage valuable customer relationships with greater awareness and independence.
By doing so, various enlightened organizations have made it possible for employees to resolve their customers’ problems more quickly and anticipate their unexpressed needs. These companies have understood that the most interesting and useful information about customers’ preferences, leaving expensive market research exercises aside, can be obtained from the people who communicate with them every day (in branch offices, on the phone, in chat rooms, by email, on Facebook, or in any other way). And that reducing the hierarchical distance between front line and top management, i.e. encouraging the exchange of opinions and proposals from the bottom up, is the first step to guarantee a memorable Customer Experience for users and a healthy-looking future for the company.
Amazon - where at meetings CEO Jeff Bezos has made a habit of placing an empty chair at the table to represent the “Customer’s voice” – actively encourages employees to try out new ideas based on their intimate knowledge about Customers. Innovations like “Customers also bought” tips were originally proposals put forward by new recruits. The function that includes users’ purchasing history and behavior in all searches, and drove a three percent increase in turnover, was implemented by an intern.
Zara, the Spanish fashion company, receives daily reports from store managers about qualitative observations and quantitative data to improve the company’s understanding of what customers want. Shop assistants chat with customers every day, exploring what they want and asking questions like “What other colors would you like this blouse to be available in?” and “What if this skirt were longer?”. This has enabled Zara to reduce the number of new articles it introduces which customers don’t like to one percent (the sector average is almost ten percent), although it offers almost ten times as many products as its main competitors.
Providing a unique and memorable Customer Experience is the most pressing objective of all organizations today, and the companies that excel in this area know how to obtain the best possible results from their front line:
- They invest heavily in training the people who are in contact with customers
- They motivate and involve them by asking for feedback and suggestions
- They promote leadership among their most talented collaborators
- They ensure they have the tools needed to manage Customer relationships independently and expertly.
As a result, customers are pleased, stay loyal to the brand and talk about it in positive terms to their friends; creating a virtuous spiral that makes everyone happy.
Making our teammates aware of the importance of the front line contributes not only to providing an excellent customer experience to customers, but also to keep them motivated.
At Transcom, we manage millions of customer contacts every day, and thanks to our valuable front line staff and our tools, we are capable of collecting and analyzing customer feedback and making the intelligence available to our clients.