6 Steps to Achieving a Customer-Centric Service Culture

Posted by Chris Lord,
SVP, Global Growth Strategy and Marketing, HGS

This article originally appeared in Professional Outsourcing Magazine and is reproduced here with permission.

The digital environment has dramatically changed the way customers expect and demand to engage with brands. It is a change or die situation for businesses that need to transform quickly to integrate online and offline activities to serve customers 24x7 service in their channels of choice. At the same time, businesses need to balance their own needs for revenue uplift and cost containment within this new digital model. While there is no one-size fits all formula for customer-centric, multichannel, digital transformation, there are some fundamental elements every business should consider before developing a holistic customer experience solution.

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  1. Consider the customer journey. Recently, my wife tried to order a product online from a major retailer but encountered a snag on the ecommerce website. Like most of us, she was doing her shopping after work, however, when she phoned the customer service line, she received a message that the center was only open between 9 am and 5 pm. Clearly, this company’s contact center hours did not mirror typical retail hours or take into account that many people prefer to shop in the evenings. Disappointed with the lack of support in helping her complete her purchase, she abandoned her online shopping cart and purchased the product from a competitor instead. Understanding the behavior and preferences of your typical customer through research, analytics, and focus groups is a crucial first step to achieving customer-centricity.
  2.  Take a proactive approach to customer service. In the example above, if a proactive chat window appeared the minute my wife’s purchase transaction failed on the retailer’s website her issue could have been resolved without her having to pick up the phone. A service like this is worth the financial investment when you consider the potential for shopping cart abandonment and lost revenue.
  3.  Implement self-service options whenever possible. According to the January 2014 McKinsey Quarterly, 75% of surveyed consumers said they would prefer to use online support if it were reliable and provided accurate and complete information. Self-service platforms are gaining in popularity because they allow customers to take control of solving their own problem. Control and self discovery are powerful psychological motivators. For example, if you have a problem installing a kitchen appliance and you’re able to find the answer to your question online either through an online community, instructional how to video, or by reading documentation provided online, you’ll feel much better about having solved the problem yourself rather than having another person walk you through the solution.
  4.  Consider customer-centricity even before the first contact with the customer. Organizationally, the move toward customer centricity starts way before the customer even has a problem. Customer centricity is about building ease of use and reliability into products in the first place (think Apple). At the same time, no product is perfect and product failures actually provide a great opportunity to create loyal customers – if the problem is quickly and easily resolved. A study by Benchmark Portal and Purdue University showed a 78% repurchase probability if a customer purchased a product and had no problems. Interestingly, the study showed an 89% repurchase probability if the product had problems but the customer had a positive customer experience. Customer-centricity should also be built into marketing strategy. Rather than blasting a single customer list with offers that may or may not be relevant, perform detailed behavioral analytics to segment lists to ensure that customers receive offers that are finely targeted, relevant, timely and offer real value to the customer.
  5.  Use an integrated knowledge-base. By nature, contact centers have high attrition rates and brain drain is often a very real barrier to providing exceptional customer experiences, especially in industries like technology and telecommunications where products and services are often complex. One solution involves having comprehensive and highly intelligent knowledge-bases with robust search functionality both internally for contact center staff and externally for customer self-service. Equally important, these knowledge-bases need to be integrated with multiple channels such as click-to-chat, CRM and email and the ability to update content must occur automatically in real-time.
  6. Create an adaptable social media solution. While there’s no debate that social media is here to stay, the social platforms that we use to communicate with our peers and with the brands that we use will change and evolve. As the most popular social platforms seek new ways to generate revenue, less commercialized, niche social platforms will rise in popularity. The traditional cycle of business evolution from start-up to growth to maturity to decline will rapidly accelerate from what we have seen historically. This means businesses looking to implement social CRM solutions need to ensure that their solution can accommodate not only the popular platforms of today, but those platforms that are not yet mainstream and those that have not yet been conceived. Further, the best practices companies use to service customers through social channels will also be forced to change. The current typical practice is to move the online customer complaint to the phone channel, which negates the advantage social channels have of being a one-to-many platform and takes the interaction back to the traditional one-to-one platform. Moving backwards is not the goal. To realize the inherent cost savings associated with minimizing phone interactions, ensure customers are being served in their medium of choice and have an interaction that benefits many people. Finding better ways to serve customers within the channel should be the goal.

By using technology such as proactive chat and website usability monitoring and analysis, companies can learn to anticipate problems that customers may be having before they abandon their shopping cart or move off the website to check a competitor’s site. Giving customers the tools to solve their own problems quickly and providing the support of customer service representatives who are fully empowered to solve problems with the right information to resolve the problem on one contact rather than transferring the call to multiple people begins the road to customer-centric transformation.