Pick up any book on Customer Service and the first tip on how to improve or provide a good customer service experience is to “listen to the customer.” This advice is so incredibly obvious and intuitive that you shouldn’t need a book to tell you. Yet putting it into practice is incredibly hard to deliver. Why?
Recently, a transportation company set out to answer that question. Our task was to discovery the key to delivering a “good customer service experience.” We surveyed over 500 customers, conducted multiple focus groups and held one-on-one interviews. And after all that data collection, what did the customers say they wanted?
They wanted the company…are you ready for this…”to know them.” Know them personally and their business. Defined by having an understanding of their business so that you can anticipate their needs, and as a result, be a valuable partner. Doesn’t sound too difficult to deliver, right?
In this case, it was. The company had no customer service standards, and no rules to govern customer interactions. They also lacked a centralized customer database to capture and archive customer conversation and data. To make matters worse they delivered customer service in a decentralize environment with over 100 centers, all operating independently.
Given that scenario you would think that this company could implement some simple fixes that would have a big impact—some simple fixes. But first you must understand how the company got into this situation in the first place.
At its core, this is an operations driven company, and customers can sometimes get in the way of efficiency. Their culture and core operating model was to move a box as quickly as possible from point A to B without damaging it.
Customers who have special needs and/or require assistance slow down the process. In this environment, delivering good customer service can be too costly and/or too inconvenient. The insight was that the (logistics) process was found to be more important than the customer. Internal systems (or lack of), compensations, key performance indicators were all designed to move freight, not to measure customer satisfaction.
The feeling was that if a package made it to it’s final destination on time, and in reasonable shape, customers would be happy, and for the most part they were. It’s when that process broke down that customers wanted more. They wanted the customer service rep to know them, their company, their issue and have a solution.
And with that, the company had its answer. The challenge that remained was to change the corporate culture. Unfortunately, that turned out to not be as easy as going from point A to B.