First of all, my apologies for not having written in a long long time. Funny how the things that we enjoy the most take a back seat to the urgent priorities of the day (or in this case months) that are sometimes far less fun or rewarding. The good news is that there have been lots of interesting client experiences over the past several months, and hence lots of good fodder to expound on in the weeks and months ahead…assuming I can manage to carve out the hour or so a week it takes to get them down on paper.
Top of mind for me right now, is what companies are doing (or more importantly NOT doing) to drive good customer service. I think this stems from both a failure to understand what really makes a customer tick, and the associated failure to measure it, and ultimately manage it. As a backdrop, I’d ask us to all think about the work “tick”. For most, the words “what makes a customer tick?) translates into the things that really “drive” or “motivate”them to buy something, or just feel good about your product or service. But today I want to focus on a more literal interpretation of the word “tick”. I’m thinking something like the ticking of a timer- like a clock winding down to 0…at which point things go “boom”…which in today’s economy more quickly translates into a lost relationship, a lost sale, or a lost client. In my judgement, today’s customer is much more focused on extracting maximum value from the services they have ALREADY bought or paid for, much more so than (or at least long before) they will entertain buying something else from you.
So with that as the backdrop, I think we’d all be a lot better served by taking another, perhaps closer, look at the drivers of DISSATISFACTION as our primary way of driving customer value. Putting the drivers of dissatisfaction ahead of focusing on all the bells, whistles, and other sources of delighting the customer, will get you farther because if you can’t avoid the dissatisfaction, then all of the rest is a moot point. Of course, most of you understand that, right?…and have already put in place measures to prevent a customer from getting to the point of dissatisfaction. All of you probably measure things like how fast we answer calls, how many are abandoned, how many issues are resolved in the first contact, etc., and through doing those things you minimize the likelihood of a customer being dissatisfied, or at least staying dissatisfied, right? Not so fast.
Another perspective is that by the time a customer calls, the clock is ALREADY ticking, and whatever is done DURING the customer call is often occurring AFTER the clock has wound down to almost zero. For many of you, the picture may in fact look like this: the customer gets through without being dropped, bounces out of the automated call system in quick order, talks to a rep (who “resolves the call”), ending with the customer ostensibly satisfied because they didn’t call back or give a bad score on the automated survey, right? Of course there is another interpretation…which is the customer was already quite ticked when they called in, at which point they immediately concluded (based on the first 3 choices form the IVR) that he wouldn’t get anywhere with that route, bounced out of the IVR, ran into an unhelpful rep, and politely left the call without taking a survey, and left more upset than when he started. Call me cynical, but if that was a ticking time bomb to start with, chances are it went boom within minutes of the call ending, and did so with all of the measures and indicators pointing to the opposite, and the company thinking they have a happy customer whose ultimate dissatisfaction has been averted.
I submit that companies who score well on the traditional metrics of CSAT are giving themselves a false sense of security and are probably missing the core elements of customer perspectives…those that largely revolve around lingering sources of discomfort that are hard to express, not to mention measure or quantify. If we can get our arms around this, we have a much higher likelihood of eliminating perhaps our single biggest blindspot in generating customer value and ultimately leapfrogging the competition.
The next few posts will focus on some of these up front drivers are, as well as the kinds of things we need to be measuring in this space. Fortunately, this is an area where many of you are not behind the pack, because there is nobody really leading the pack. In the past several months, I’ve worked with some of the self proclaimed “best” companies (those who perform well on the conventional indicators) and have interacted as a customer (as many of you have) with the “big names” in customer service with less than adequate results and a time bomb in my gut that is still ticking long after the “polite” ending of the call to the company.
I think we would all be better served by making the following key priorities in our drive to maximize customer sat.
1. Redefine the drivers of customer satisfaction, and dissatisfaction (the things that start the countdown on the time bomb)
2. Seriously rethink what we measure and track, and the baseline against which we evaluate success (my hunch is we will throw out a lot of what we measure today)
3. Correct the upfront flaws in the design of our offerings and processes so that dissatisfaction in minimized and we all have a more solid base on which to build on in the years ahead
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