In many respects we all have to climb a new mountain every day to impress our customers. But do we simply retrace our steps each time or do we learn from each customer encounter and use our knowledge to deliver a better service experience?
It is a fundamental question that we need to confront honestly if we are to be winners in the new customer service era. The programme for this year’s 20th anniversary Convention will examine this critical question from a number of perspectives and deliver interesting verdicts. (Register here
for a copy of the Convention programme).
You would think that over time we would all improve at what we do, but in reality while some organisations grasp every learning opportunity, others are less assiduous and tread water as a result. This is simply not an option in ‘The Age of the Customer’ in which only responsive and fleet-footed organisations will flourish.
We explored the new era for customer service at the Verint/Kana user conference in London this week, with Forrester analyst Jonathan Browne contributing a perspective on how to reach the summit. Amazon occupied the top of the league table in the Forrester UK Customer Experience Index 2014 which also featured another five major retailers among top performers (Read more)
It begs the question whether retailers are innately better at customer service and if so, what we can learn from them? On a simple level, competitive benchmarking does show consistently strong service performances from retailers, while banks and telecoms and utilities tend to trail behind.
But it would be a cop-out to argue that a bank for example cannot expect to top service league tables: First Direct has disproved this notion in the UK as has ING in Europe, and let’s not forget Barclays and Bank of America which have each won CCA Excellence Awards.
In part, retailers are particularly adept at customer-centric innovation because it is so easy for their customers to take their custom elsewhere - this is less true in sectors such as financial services (although the introduction of seven-day account switching for bank customers has sharpened the focus on service).
We have talked before about the journey from Fordism and lack of customer choice (customers were told you can have a car in any colour as long as it’s black) to Amazonism, regarded by many as the epitome of personalised, invisible and intuitive service.
With major technological advances and a proliferation in customer data, you would think that businesses in general would be moving ever closer to Amazonism. This is not true for many in which service strategies are too often based on expediency, short-term savings and potential gains viewed from a corporate rather than customer perspective. This is the route to reduced customer choice and a slide back to the dark days of Fordism.
Scaling the peaks of customer service in the new era requires a relentless focus on the customer’s needs and an ability to wrap the service metaphorically around the customer. It also requires the right attitude, diligent preparation, and an ability and willingness to change direction if circumstances require it.
It is striking that despite the many scientific and medical advances since Sir Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay first scaled Everest in 1953, the grim statistic of one death for every 10 successful attempts remains unchanged. You would think it might have improved with all the advantages we have today but human error continues to thwart many attempts to scale the peak.
In mountaineering as in service, effective partnerships stand the strongest chance of success. As we emerge from recession, businesses in every sector are undergoing consolidation, creating challenges but also fresh opportunities to develop a winning service combination and scale fresh peaks.