Every week I get at least one call from one of the largest telecom operators in the country, asking me to shift my mobile number to their service. Every time I cut them short and tell them the same answer – “NO” and “please don’t call me again”.
This has gone on for the last so many years. They say persistence pays; but does dumbness also pay?? Why are they wasting money calling me despite my strong resistance?!!
Possible Reason- No in-depth study of the process and responses; Just a mechanical sales exercise going on.
I went for a medical check up at the scheduled time of 10am at a clinic, which is a part of the largest chain of hospitals and clinics in the country. It was a saturday and a large crowd had come in for the same purpose. They registered all of us but nothing seemed to move. When I enquired I was told that the doctors were not yet in; and this was at 11 am, one hour later! Why does this clinic exist if it cannot have it’s doctors present during the committed work hours?!!
Possible Reason –Franchisee profile and location. Someone mechanically signed up the place to meet targets. No close monitoring of service delivery; no customer audits.
With one of the top airlines of the country, I was at the airport departure gate. The flight was to leave at 4.55pm. The boarding was to start at 4.20pm. At 4.25 pm there was no sign of any boarding activity. I asked the person at the desk if there was a delay. He very confidently said “No”. Time passed. Another passenger walked up to the desk at 4.45pm asking how much was the delay. “No delay”, the desk officer says! Even a child would realise that boarding cannot be completed in ten minutes. Why the denial? Why not tell the truth?
Possible Reason- Employee not been told to communicate the truth.Unwilling to admit and announce a delay.
Cab hailing services fail to send cabs when you need them most- peak hours while going to work or coming back. How can we depend on them if we are not confident we will get them when needed?!!
Possible Reason- Not enough cabs to meet peak demand. Lack of in-depth analysis of peak/off-peak market needs, location wise.
So just one customer, I, have experienced, with the best consumer services brands in the country, issues ranging from
- Nuisance and disturbance through marketing communication – leading to drop in respect for the brand
- Delays and lack of accountability in a health related service – leading to drop in trust
- Blatant lying or denial of facts – leading to drop in respect and trust for the brand
- Non availability of a service when required – leading to drop in confidence and trust in the brand
These are just a few of the umpteen irritating experiences we go through every day as customers; and that too with well established, well funded, often profitable and leading service brands in the country.
Why is it that they don’t get their act right? Do they understand our needs? And, do they even realise how much business is lost directly by not providing a service when needed and indirectly, by consumer dissatisfaction, leading to bad word of mouth and consumer not returning for the next service.
Consumer Services industry – growing fast but not fully equipped
While the economy moved from government/public sector controlled utilities and services, to privately run consumer services, the management systems and processes didn’t quite change to align to the fast growing, competitive, service industry needs.
Companies large and small, tend to keep their focus on the technology and sales aspects. The emphasis continues to be on having a good infrastructure/technology investment and an aggressive customer acquisition team and process. Once the customer is acquired, the tendency is to let the “customer service” department, a reactive system , sort out customer complaints.
But what happens if customers are unhappy and yet do not complain? They just walk away!
Need for a Customer Experience Team
The big gap, quite obviously is in designing, planning, executing and monitoring the customer experience process; the way the customer is handled right from the on-boarding stage through every point of contact and interaction. While IT enabled products do have this as a necessary background information for their product design, there is still a huge gap visible even with the best of brands.
Brands lose their sheen each time the customer goes through a bad experience and eventually lose the customer to competition. This has a direct bearing on current and future revenues and growth. The time has come when businesses need to have a proactive system of designing, measuring and correcting customer experience while the customer service department takes care of complaints and communication that come in.
A proactive Customer Experience function in the organisation will not only ensure delivering the committed service levels, it will actually work in delighting consumers and making them the brand’s ambassadors. It has a double edged advantage of increased revenues while reducing scope for complaints and costs of complaint management systems.
Critical requirements to deliver a consistently great Customer Experience
1. A Customer Experience model
The business should draw out the customer experience model depicting the movement of customers through the company’s service delivery process; starting with on-boarding process, to usage of the various products and services by the customer to engagement with each touch point. This obviously needs detailed thinking and visualisation of the likely issues and impediments.
2. A process correction system
No process can be designed for eternity. As customers come on board, they will react and respond to the experience they are having and it is critical that the business closely observes and takes corrective action in short lengths of time.
3. Employee Training program
In parallel, is the need for a very intensive training program for all the concerned employees- those who face the customer and those who manage the processes in the background. Their full awareness of the processes, authority to take real time decisions and presence of mind to realise the need to take a real time decision are key to making the customer experience really satisfying.
4. Teamwork management
Intra departmental and inter departmental cooperation and agility is a must for any initiative to be fully effective. So often we see a sales person’s commitment being disregarded or remaining unfulfilled because another department had to close the loop.
5.Customer Communication Channels
Adequate communication channels for customers to reach out to the company at any point of time as an emergency measure ought to be available with suitable empowered frontline personnel who can sort out an issue without saying “sorry sir, but that’s our policy”.
6. Environmental Scan
Lastly, the environment outside changes constantly. New businesses, new technologies and processes become competition and a benchmark for comparison. The business needs to constantly be on the look out for these potential threats. The process re-design must take into account changes that may need to get done to counter such competitive pressures.
New consumer services are evolving rapidly as the economy grows and as technology and its applications give birth to new ideas. Along with established players in the services industry, startups are coming to fore with new services which can disrupt and give the existing players a run for their money.
Be it communications, financial services, health, hospitality, transport, entertainment, education or any other of a long list of areas, there is going to be a huge wave of new offerings.
But the singular key to success and sustenance, for both old and new businesses, shall be a consistently great customer experience.
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