It’s encouraging to read The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) CEO Jo Causon argue this year that “good” service is no longer “good enough” when it comes to customer service in today’s world. She called for “outstanding service at all times” from customer-facing organisations, and I couldn’t agree more.
Causon suggested that 2016 was a better year than 2015 for customer service in the UK, with the Institute’s research saying consumers believe they are getting a better deal from businesses and that they are increasingly getting things right the first time.
There is room for improvement of course and such positive progress over the last year is no reason for organisations to take their foot off the gas in delivering superb customer experiences. Indeed, the ICS study found that 51% of people still typically require two attempts to get a problem fixed, meaning businesses are still taking too long resolving issues.
In the increasingly digital commercial environment in which we now operate, customer service departments should work harder to not only rectify recurring mistakes and turn negative calls into positive outcomes, but also provide a level of pre-empted service.
For example, if a consumer has complained about a late home delivery, customer service should look to see what other deliveries were on the same lorry and contact those other affected customers. At this point, they can explain there will be a delay and offer an appropriate level of compensation.
The technology exists to enable these processes to be implemented.
It’s perhaps no surprise that online retailers Amazon and Asos top the ICS’s latest UK Customer Satisfaction Index (UKCSI), as they operate such sophisticated supply chain and logistics services. Amazon, for example, is one of a few retailers that can take the pain out of customer service by immediately sending a replacement product to dissatisfied shoppers on certain lines, without needing the tainted item returned.
One of the top targets on Asos’s agenda is to personalise the shopping experience so much that users of its website are presented with tailored ranges. Information garnered from this level of consumer engagement has the potential to filter down to customer services departments, ultimately transforming the traditional relationship between buyer and seller.
High street retail businesses are certainly not standing still either. John Lewis, Marks & Spencer (food) and Waitrose complete the UKCSI top five, and each of those businesses have been investing heavily in their back-end operations in recent years and, indeed, placing customer service at the heart of their enterprises.
These companies are among the corporate organisations moving along the journey to understand just how much potential there is for digital technology to redefine the customer experience. Real-time insight can be accessed to allow customer service teams to assist consumers straight away and get right to the root cause, and many retailers say they are introducing these systems.
By doing so, previous transaction experience can be accessed at the click of a button or swipe of a screen, and used in a customer services team’s artillery when addressing an incoming query.
As retailers look to use systems that connect their channels and help them to move towards one-single view of a customer – whether it’s the stores, online, customer service or head office teams looking to access information – they should be able to identify and erase recurring customer service problems.
For example, multiple glitches with the same item might mean it’s not being displayed correctly online or that there is a widespread manufacturer fault – and in a digitally-enabled business that information can be quickly fed through an organisation to all the necessary teams – and resolved.
As consumer-to-business engagement through email, text, apps and webchat functions have all also jumped up in the last 12 months, digital has certainly transformed the customer service journey from both a business operational and customer perspective and will continue to do so.