Eliminate customer service obstacles

Why is it that some companies don’t realise the ‘lifetime value’ of a customer and treat them well throughout that time? I have been banking with a certain bank for over 25 years, so why have they made it so difficult for me to notify them that I am in the process of selling my property that is currently bonded to them? If you go to their website and look for information on how to do this, they simply tell you that their Home Loans department requires notification in writing. I called their call centre to get an email address to send the notice and they couldn’t provide one, saying that I have to send a fax. Who uses faxes anymore? I explained that I didn’t have a fax machine and, even though their calls are recorded, they wouldn’t accept notice over the phone. When I asked to speak to a manager, the call taker said she would transfer the call and the line went dead!

I literally had to go into the nearest branch and send a fax from the bank to the Home Loans department. The fax transmission is my proof that I have notified them. Consider this…once the property is sold and the proceeds are sitting in my bank account, what do you think the likelihood will be that I will choose to reinvest the money with this bank?

Make it as easy as possible for your customer to do business with you.  Everyone should know this. That’s one of the main reasons customers remain loyal. Removing customer obstacles means reducing the amount of effort a customer has to put in throughout their full experience.

Where to start

The first step in removing obstacles for your customers is finding out where those obstacles are. Create an online form to be sent via e-mail or any other information gathering channel you feel works best. Once you have the results of your questionnaire, you should have a much clearer idea of where your customer has to put in the most effort. Knowing this, you can confidently focus your efforts in the right place for the best return.

Common customer service obstacles

  • Service vision: Many companies claim to have a ‘customer-service culture’, but when you ask them what they are doing to make it easy for customers to do business with them, you don’t get a definitive answer. Create a clear definition of the service vision you are providing and talk about it, make sure everyone understands. Constantly measure whether you are achieving that service vision and, if you are falling short, fix it.
  • Broken customer service systems: Most customer service failures aren’t the fault of an employee, but rather the result of poor products or a bad process. You don’t have to bring in external consultants to figure this one out – simply ask your staff where they are experiencing customer service complaints. They deal with disgruntled customers on a day to day basis. Identify the recurring complaints about service interactions, including those that focus specifically on customer effort. Customers resent having to contact the company repeatedly (or be transferred) to get an issue resolved, having to repeat information, and having to switch from one service channel to another (for instance, needing to call after trying unsuccessfully to solve a problem through the website).   Then find and implement a solution.
  • The customer is always right: This has been around for so long and yet, have you made it any easier for your employee to say ‘yes’ more often…even if it means breaking a service policy. Think of ways you can make it easier for the customer to be ‘right’, such as eliminating bad policies. This gives employees the opportunity to say ‘yes’ more often. I would have been really impressed if the bank had have made a special effort for me to give them notice of my bond cancellation via email or via my Internet banking.

How important is customer service to loyalty?

Two critical findings have emerged that should affect every company’s customer service strategy. First, delighting customers doesn’t build loyalty; reducing their effort i.e. the work they must do to get their problem solved does. Second, acting deliberately on this insight can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs, and decrease customer churn.

Empower the front line to deliver a low-effort experience

Incentive systems that value speed over quality may pose the single greatest barrier to reducing customer effort. Most customer service organisations still emphasise productivity metrics such as average handle time when assessing agent performance. They would be better off removing the productivity ‘metrics’ that get in the way of making the customer’s experience easy. I know of a specific company that built their systems so that whoever picks up the phone will own the customer’s issue from start to finish. Calls were recorded and a note was put on the system regarding the interaction. If there was any follow-up required, they were able to diarise a reminder on their system.

Your customers are busy.  You are very fortunate that they spend the time to be your customer. Finding ways to minimise that effort is your most efficient way to make sure they remain a loyal customer.

Over three days, Maurice Kerrigan Africa offers a Service Excellence course that will equip you with the tools you’ll need to establish and maintain a high standard of customer service in your organisation. This course is for anyone that wants to make a significant contribution to their company’s image and bottom line by creating a culture of service excellence and an understanding that every individual in the company must be a service champion.

You might be interested in attending their upcoming course scheduled for 27 – 29 October, 2015 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Click here to look at Maurice Kerrigan Africa’s public course training schedule.

To find out more about the training courses offered by Maurice Kerrigan Africa or to arrange an appointment, simply call +27 11 794 1251 or email info@mauricekerrigan.com.






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