Managing Customer Experience: Why Hearing Beats Listening
Focus on: the Shared Services Customer
A skill that all service providers seek to master, but only a handful have had the wherewithal to learn, is how to manage the customer's experience. This is one area where the KIS (Keep it Simple) rule cannot be applied as it forms the very basis of survival for organizations.
A structured approach is what is called for in managing customer experience. A big differentiator lies in service providers clearly understanding the difference between listening and merely hearing what customers have to say. Almost always, the latter approach picks out the intent a few minutes into a conversation.
A big differentiator lies in service providers clearly understanding the difference between listening and merely hearing what customers have to say.
One method is by way of rolling out periodical customer satisfaction surveys with various questions about the services provided. The responses are analyzed, issues identified, and action plans and execution timescale communicated back to customers.
Repeated feedback on similar issues would require leadership attention, and even discussions in person, to keep customers happy. Many companies do not roll out such surveys, not realizing that could lead to issues piling up.
The engagement with customers at all levels – from the analyst on the floor up to the CEO – should be clearly documented and worked out to ensure effective management of customers experience. The documentation – if done effectively – can really help solve issues and act as a forewarning to help avoid future trouble.
A key point to remember is that service providers need to be "all ears" when there is absolute silence. It's often an indication that anxiety is just around the corner.
Once in a while, we should invite customers to our delivery centers so they can directly interact with employees who perform their work. This has almost always proven to be a shot in the arm for most service providers and customers have been delighted.
One drawback of this approach is that many service providers stage-manage this meeting, which can backfire with disastrous consequences. (I've seen it happen!)
A unique and successful approach is persuading one customer to speak to another customer, and service providers thereby seeking indirect feedback as that can throw up better responses. Some companies arrange for annual customer meets at various locations to let customers interact with each other to build long lasting relationships.
A one-size-fits-all approach cannot be taken as each customer is unique and has to be handled differently. Often, this only dawns upon companies after they learn the hard way. It is extremely important for service providers to manage customers effectively as word spreads very fast in todays’ world.
A critical point in the overall scheme of things is the need for service providers to put themselves in the shoes of their customers to better understand issues and help solve them effectively. Improved and innovative ways of managing customers' experience is the way to go to continuously delight customers and take them from strength to strength.
Service providers would do well to coach employees on getting things right the first time, every time; and emphasize the importance of customers' experience, how it can effectively bolster company performance, and bring about growth for all.
Employees should be taught that internal customers (within the organization) are equally as important to build a sustainable culture of delighting customers at every possible instance.
Remembering the old adage, and constantly re-iterating, that “Customer Is King” would stand service providers in good stead in the long run.
Report: 10 Characteristics of Top Performing HR Service Organizations
Find out what sets the top 20% apart! Based on an HR Shared Services Benchmarking Study conducted by ScottMadden and APQC