Balakarthik Venkataramanan
November 18, 2016

ARTICLE: 4 Strategic customer service pillars you can’t ignore

Gone are the days when customer service was viewed as an overhead and a non-value add cost center.

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We have come a long way from there. In today’s prevailing dynamics, an organization’s customer service capabilities can be the competitive advantage in the market place and organizations have started to build their entire brand around their customer service capabilities. Apple, Amazon, Zappos and American express are some best in class examples to that.

But at the same time, there are organizations who run their entire customer service ecosystem based on some internal customer satisfaction metric. That’s  fine as long as there is a larger customer service strategy and a long term vision where the customer satisfaction metric can be used as a measure to evaluate the progress. Just having a customer satisfaction metric and meeting that number does not mean you have a customer service strategy and your customers are happy. Once I was conversing with a senior customer service leader in the automobile industry and asked her what the customer service strategy for her organization was. Her response was “We have performed well in CSAT (customer satisfaction). Currently we are at 85% CSAT, our vision is to get to 95% CSAT”.  Now thats a perfect example of what you don’t want your customer service strategy to be.

A decade back, customer service discussions being a part of the board room conversations were unheard of. Today, more and more organizations understand the need to be more strategic about their customer service offerings.

There are 4 key enablers or rather pillars to an organization’s customer service strategy to ensure competitiveness and build/sustain the brand reputation. If you take a closer look at some of the world class organizations, you will see one thing in common, they have significantly invested and focused on the following 4 key enablers.

  1. Omni Channelized support portfolio: Multi channel support offering is great and it helps the customer to choose the channel they prefer but is a thing of the past. Does your customer service provide the ability for your customers to choose the channel they prefer, at the time they prefer and engage with your customer seamlessly with special emphasis on social media support? I see a lot of folks using the two terms interchangeably (multi channel & omni channel). Offering multi channel support does not mean you have an Omni channel customer service. Multi channel is your ability to provide service to your customer base in the channel they prefer and Omni channel is when the multi channels come together seamlessly and provide a continuous customer engagement.
  2. On-shore Vs Offshore strategy: Having a strategic offshore on-shore volume mix is the key, and your ability to define it in a meaningful way for your organization based on a long-term view will play a key role in positioning your customer service as a competitive advantage in the market. It has happened way too many times with way too many organizations in the industry for it to just be a mere coincidence where organizations moved it all offshore or retained it all onshore without a strategic plan that ended up impacting their brand reputation or cost them way too much with no direct value proposition.
  3. Customer complaint/issue management: Almost all organizations have a customer satisfaction survey post the interaction with the customer. On an average 75%-85% of the customers are satisfied with the support and about 10% to 15% are dissatisfied with the support. There are a handful companies who invest significant effort in actually calling the customers who have expressed concerns and dissatisfaction post the interaction with the customer service department. While the others use customer satisfaction as a a mere business metric where once the customer satisfaction goals are met, no one cares about those customers who expressed dissatisfaction during the survey. And this is going to be a game changer for these organizations in the long run.
  4. Branding your customer service offerings: Apple, Amazon & Zappos lead by example here. There are group of customers who are loyal to these organizations just because of their ability to serve their customer with top of the class customer support offerings beyond just for their great products.  Today’s consumer don’t make buying decisions purely based on product quality but also the quality of service they receive. Very similar to buying a car, there is no point in buying a great car if the manufacturer is not able to provide ongoing service to the satisfaction of the customers. It’s important for organizations to participate in external customer service conferences to represent their organization and publicize organization’s focus and commitment to providing best in class support.

The 4 key strategic customer service enablers will make a huge difference to your brand as well as revenue in a competitive market where customer expectations continue to raise.

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