When customer service is more important than the product being sold

Posted by: on Aug 20, 2012 | No Comments

In a highly competitive, digitally enhanced world, the provision of service to the customer before, during, and after the purchase is often the critical differentiator in moving the customer from loyalty to advocacy. In fact, the successful companies have reinvented their business models over and again in keeping with technological enhancements to business processes, utilizing software for fast and comprehensive data.

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a widely implemented model for documenting and managing a company’s interactions with customers, suppliers, and sales prospects. Technology is used to categorize and automate business processes across sales, marketing, customer service, and technical support. This is an efficient and accurate solution that helps establish baseline characteristics of audiences that can then be used to target marketing going forward. However, it only collects the data for which a company creates categories, and the categorization has no company-specific, natural taxonomy or weighting. The technology that comes ahead of CRM, such as Case Management (the ability to direct calls seamlessly) and the measuring of Net Promoters (measured by Net Promoter Score (NPS) after the interaction is critical to the relationship in addition to developing relevant product and servicing strategy.

The use of technology has provided an edge in touching customers at just the right moment, with just the right offer and the emerging channels such as social media, mobile, web are allowing companies to use the right technology, people, and culture to engage and listen like never before.

As noted by Micah Solomon in High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service: Inspire Timeless Loyalty in the Demanding New World of Social Commerce, “The stakes are high. Since the advent of the internet, and, most specifically, the broad use of the World Wide Web starting in the mid-1990s, there’s been a dramatic transformation of the competitive landscape. The changes wrought by these new communication and distribution channels are in many ways revolutionary, and they’re causing disruptions akin to those of past revolutions.”

With the advent of the internet arrived the capacity for accuracy, anonymity and fast delivery of products. But, what was notably lacking was any sort of understanding of the customer to correlate future promotions and marketing to their real interests and needs. What was lacking was the relationship that would create ongoing loyalty beyond pricing.

This gap was hardly noticed during the 1990s with booming economic conditions that offered a buyer for every seller and a one way internet solution. Fast-forward to today, where economic changes and challenges have undermined buyer confidence, consumer trust, and the growing ability of the consumers’ use of the internet.  Today, buyers are more conscientious in their purchases, using all the tools on the internet to do research. Twenty years ago we had Consumer Report!

Concierge service is the new face of the brand

I think back to the 1950’s when it was the local stores that dominated an individual’s purchasing experience. The shopkeeper was, essentially, the concierge service provider!  They were responsible for knowing their clientele inside and out to stay in business and be profitable.  They had to know what to purchase in order to have on hand what to sell.  They knew their clients by name, recognizing their needs and caring about them personally. Today this exists to the limited few who can afford to shop in boutiques and the higher end retail experience.

Enter the age of electronic personal assistants. The most advertised consumer-facing brand is Siri – the voice and operating assistant on today’s iPhone. However, this is an evolving and competitive space where mobile-based solutions such as Siri and Google Now are entering a field comprised of more robust and mature concierge solutions that combine technology platforms with discerning selection and real customer service. This space encompasses far more than just access to bottom line pricing. It’s about building relationships.

Apple might revisit, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. – Lol

Apple’s customer service team could use some lessons in personal relationships. They’ve recently moved to a model where software and operating system updates are exclusively downloaded. That would be great if the entire country was equipped with broadband. But it’s not. So, instead, they provide customers with the address of the nearest Apple store to bring in their hardware for an upgrade, even if it means a seventy year old customer has to drive 80 miles round trip! One might ask, “Which customer segment is your company willing to lose because of flaws in operational process compounded by flaws in customer service?”

Indeed, the definition of concierge services is becoming a much more ambiguous space and rapidly changing based on customers’ needs and expectations.  The one thing that is not changing is the idea that customer service drives brand loyalty.  This loyalty to brand is becoming embedded in autonomy, actions and attitudes, plus complex technology that run algorithms to anticipate a customer’s needs and preferences. Companies can differentiate brand through superior customer experience, as demonstrated by Amazon.com or other sites that provide personalized suggestions based on prior purchases or input by customers as to their “favorites.”

Consumer profiles are the benchmark for building brand loyalty, and top-notch customer service is the key to top NPS scores or those much coveted relationships among customers, and let’s not forget the increased share of wallet.