8 November 2018

Is your organisation 'customer-centric' yet? A simple test to find out

We hear a lot of organisations - both public and private sector - talking about how they're changing to become more customer-centric. Many millions of dollars have undoubtedly been spent over recent years on business transformation, cultural change and strategic leadership initiatives that keep internal staff busy and management consulting firms afloat.

Customer experience is repeatedly listed as one of (if not the) top management priority for senior executives. Private sector businesses focus on it, whilst governments have legislated and regulated to demand public sector agencies raise their game to match the expectations set by the private sector.

So has your organisation hit the mark or not?  How can you tell?

24 November 2017

How to ACE customer loyalty after a complaint

When things go wrong, what marks out a world class organisation from the rest of the crowd is what they do about it. Customers know that not everything goes right all the time. Sometimes, they’re left disappointed by a service failure.

What matters, is what you do next – because how you handle the situation makes the difference between customer disappointment and negative word of mouth, or improved loyalty, satisfaction and advocacy.

Let’s look at my recent experience of hiring a rental car from New Zealand based Ace car rentals for a case study in customer service and complaints good practice.

26 September 2017

Online customer service - Are you scoring own goals that'll break your business case?

Online services are everywhere. It’s rare to find an organisation that hasn’t been told how they could improve their customer service and make efficiency savings by moving more of their services online.

There’s plenty of evidence of the realistic, tangible efficiency and customer experience gains available from the successful introduction of online services. Don’t worry, this article isn’t going to criticise your multi-channel, omni-channel, channel shift efforts. Take heart, you’re on the right track!

However, as any Premier League soccer player knows, there’s no cheering from the crowd if you turn around and stick the ball into your own team’s net.

How can you ensure that your organisation’s actions don’t lead to ‘own goal’ service delivery failures that will leave your online self-service business case (and personal reputation) in tatters?

22 February 2017

We’re a 5 star hotel, but we’re not interested in your custom thanks

That’s not a phrase you’d expected to hear from organisations priding themselves on outstanding customer service, but it’s the message I received from half the major hotels I approached whilst researching course venues in Sydney, Australia, last week.To say I was surprised was an understatement. It did, however, resolve the issue of what topic to discuss in my next blog post!

What lessons can we learn from this impromptu mystery shopping exercise about the critical role of front line staff in creating a positive customer experience and generating sales?

9 July 2015

The Rosemary Anne Price Research Award 2015

A little bit of a departure from the Customer Service theme for today's blog post, but I'm delighted to tell you about this year's Rosemary Anne Price Research Award recipients and their fascinating work in Multiple Sclerosis research.

What is the Rosemary Anne Price Research Award?

During my research degree, I had the benefit of gaining some scholarship funding to attend a conference in the US that helped me on the way to completing my PhD. I was generously supported by the Kathleen and Margery Elliot Scholarship Fund in Birmingham, UK.

My mother, Rosemary, died from Multiple Sclerosis in 1991. Inspired by my study experience, I set up a similar bursary award scheme in conjunction with the UK Multiple Sclerosis Society. The Rosemary Anne Price Research Award helps support two promising research students to attend the bi-annual MS Frontiers research conference.

13 June 2015

Human factors: how complaints psychology affects business performance

If you ask anyone in customer service what they love about their job, it’s not long before they’ll tell you “it’s about the people.”  Customer service is a people business and there’s no better area of customer service than complaints management if you want to experience the best (and the worst) aspects of human emotions.

For those involved in managing an organisation’s response to customer complaints, this raises some thought-provoking questions:
  • What is it that makes some people complain, whilst others do not?
  • How can we influence human behaviour and encourage people to make their complaints?
  • How do employees handle human emotions and does this affect our performance?
In business, results are so often measured by profitability, costs, efficiency statistics and process
performance. Can we really translate the day-to-day reality of dealing with human emotions into these kinds of business performance metrics?

26 March 2015

Employee attitude can create a stellar customer experience

One of the great things about commenting on customer service is the day you get to tell a story about the little things that, in reality, go to create a truly spectacular customer service experience.

Leading management author, Ken Blanchard, has written extensively [1] about how customer service employees make the difference in providing an exceptional customer experience.

Ken’s experiences tell us that satisfied customers aren’t enough – we should look to create experiences that make “raving fans” of our organisation.

Today, I’m a raving fan of Upper Hutt City Council in New Zealand for the simple, dedicated actions taken – well above and beyond the call of duty - by their website administrator, Maria. It’s a story that I think should be mandatory reading for every customer service advisor who works on an e-mail response team anywhere on the planet.

Proof positive, just like my previous article on FedEx, how simple, thoughtful and committed belief from one customer-facing employee creates a genuinely exceptional customer experience enhancing an organisation’s brand.

6 March 2015

Raising the standard for complaints - what's new in ISO 10002:2014?

"Standards, Jason; standards.”  That phrase is permanently emblazoned in my sub-conscious thanks to my mother and I’ll wager there’s a fair few readers out there with similar parental advice at the forefront of their mind now that I’ve mentioned it.

From the day we’re old enough to understand that a knife and fork aren’t for decoration on the dinner table, we’re taught the difference that setting and achieving high standards makes in all aspects of life.

Granted, if you suffer from the same mildly obsessive-compulsive twitch as I do when faced with an incorrectly placed apostrophe, this can sometimes seem like more of a curse than a blessing.

However, in business – and especially in customer service – standards mean everything. We’re always hearing about the latest in ‘best practice’ and I’ve never been to a corporate event that featured “Striving for mediocrity” as a motivational slogan.

So how do standards – and in particular the newly revised International Standard for Complaints Management, ISO 10002 - help those responsible for delivering excellence in customer service?

29 January 2015

Improving service performance : Why complaints hold the key

It’s not breaking news to say that managers responsible for customer service are busy people with quite a lot on their plate. Managing day-to-day service performance in the dynamic, real-time world of customer contact can test the skills of both experienced hands and those new to service leadership.

This is before you’ve even opened your in-box to see the latest LinkedIn article on 5 steps to a better customer experience or answered that invitation from your boss to next week’s leadership strategy day on ‘doing more with less’. Sometimes, it’s not clear exactly where to start with service improvement.

Maybe that article in your reading list about eating elephants?  Or was it the one about getting ducks in a row? Instead, why not take a look at some practical steps to achieving service improvement results and see why complaints fit so well into the picture.

17 November 2014

Improving Local Government’s customer experience

Start by seeing how your people manage complaints…

Organisations in both the private and public sectors are continually on the lookout for new ways to balance the challenge of improving customer service whilst containing, or reducing, costs.

Whether the pressure comes from customer feedback, outside organisations, elected politicians or budget changes, it’s clear that Local Government faces constant demands to keep the standards of services high and demonstrate good value for taxpayers’ money.

Customers’ expectations are continually re-set by higher and higher benchmarks. As consumers, we encounter customer service every day and each good experience we have raises the bar of our perceptions that little bit higher for other organisations to reach.

The public sector faces three extra challenges alongside this tide of rising expectation:
  1. Customers can’t usually choose to go somewhere else for their services
  2. Services may be subject to legislative procedures and processes
  3. Councils can’t choose not to provide services to unprofitable customers.
So how does a council raise its game and improve performance when it doesn’t have all the options available that the private sector does?

17 July 2013

Customer experience is a top priority - but are we doing enough?

Earlier this year, we opened a survey on several LinkedIn groups and customer service Twitter feeds about business priorities and challenges for 2013-14.  This article publishes the results of that survey and raises some questions that managers involved with customer service delivery may wish to consider in their own organisations.

We offer this discussion of the results as a prompt for you to think about your own organisation’s position and the progress you’re making in the areas of our survey.

These results come with a heavy caveat, as the number of responses we received was small at 26.  Whilst this means these results cannot be relied upon for a statistical extrapolation of “the state of the industry”, they did include responses from large organisations in the public and private sector in New Zealand and the UK.

The results from our group of respondents indicated their three top priorities as:
  1. Customer experience
  2. Business leadership
  3. Business efficiency

13 March 2013

Turning customer service ‘moments of truth’ into PR disasters

In a previous article, I talked about the need for flexibility and humanity in customer service over adherence to corporate process. The example came from JetStar’s headline news appearance in New Zealand over its treatment of the grieving mother of a shark attack victim.

Less than two weeks later and the UK’s Virgin Atlantic and their security contractor G4S provide another case study of how not to deliver front line customer service.

In this incident, gate staff refused to allow Petty Officer Nicky Howse - a serving engineer in the British Royal Navy returning to duty from a family funeral - to wear her uniform on a flight, despite this explicitly being allowed by Virgin’s company policies.

The story highlights the stark reality of how the actions of individual employees at the front line can rapidly turn a company’s reputation into a very public bad news story.

1 March 2013

Why business process must never replace humanity in a contact centre

On February 27th 2013 in New Zealand, a man died in a shark attack on a beach near AucklandThis tragic story hit the press again just two days later as low cost airline JetStar refused to allow the victim’s mother to change a ticket and fly from Wellington to Auckland a week earlier to be with her family, without paying a $350 change fee.

The New Zealand Herald reported a Jetstar spokesman as saying “Jetstar appreciates this would have been a stressful situation and regrets if the service received by her relative from our call centre caused further distress.”

IF the service received caused further distress?  IF?

This chain of events raises serious lessons for any contact centre manager, going right to the heart of basic principles in customer service.

21 February 2013

Are you prepared for the business and customer priorities of 2013-14?

With the start of a new calendar year just behind us, it’s a good time to reflect on the challenges facing us in 2013, and how well prepared we all are.

With the huge economic changes of recent years - and the rapid emergence of technologies like social media - is 2013 going to be a turning point for business performance and customer service?

Or, will we be so distracted by the ‘shiny and new’ syndrome of technology, that we fail to deliver on the basics of running an efficient operation that meets the needs of our customers?

After all, you can put lipstick on the pig, but it’s still a pig.

I’ve started the year by studying two key analyst reports and launching a new survey to find out more about the headline issues they've highlighted.

16 November 2012

Brilliant basics: How FedEx delivered outstanding customer service

It never hurts to reiterate the basics in discussing the quest for outstanding customer service.  In fact, if the basics aren’t right then achieving even acceptable service can be a challenge (see my previous article for an example of how the UK’s Barclays Bank demonstrated that lesson).

This article tells a happier story. It’s a tale of genuine customer delight generated by a huge global organisation getting three simple things completely right at the point of customer contact.

Three simple things happened today that transcend organisational structures and processes and put this customer first.  It is a definitive example of ‘brilliant basics’ delivering exceptional customer service.

I’m talking about FedEx.  How did this organisation warrant the prize of being a feature case study in customer service excellence?

8 October 2012

Brilliant basics are essential in good service: a study of a banking failure

Is the key to banking customer service being “socially useful?”

This was the question posed last week by the new Chief Executive of one of the UK’s leading – and most complained about – banks, Barclays.

BBC News (4/10/12) reported Mr. Antony Jenkins as saying "I do believe that Barclays has a significant job to rebuild trust - but I'm also confident that we can," Mr. Jenkins is reported as saying "It goes back to what we do: if we serve customers and clients in a way that is socially useful, then we will rebuild that trust."
I have some news for Mr. Jenkins. It’s not a battle with social usefulness that lies at the heart of Barclays problems with customer trust.  It’s more likely to be a lack of performance in the basic essentials of delivering a competent banking service. Forget the social humble pie as a route to mitigating Barclays culpability in the LIBOR rate fiasco, try repeating “brilliant basics” until the concept has hit home.

A harsh assessment?  Let’s use a recent complaint from my own experience to illustrate why "brilliant basics" matter in customer service, and why Barclays are missing the mark on the simple stuff.

15 August 2012

Why social media matters in complaints management

There’s a lot of debate around social networking and the impact it can have on an organisation’s customer service reputation. Articles range from those claiming social media is vital to your business and the best route to get complaints resolved (Bachelor, 2012) to research reporting that Twitter users judge only 36% of tweets as worth reading (André et al., 2012).

With this range of opinion, how can business executives decide whether social media is something that really matters when it comes to prioritising budgets for complaint management?

25 July 2012

5 essential tips for contact centre complaints handling

Those of us who've had responsibility for complaints management at one time or another will have experienced a full spectrum of complainant behaviour. From tears to anger, humility to assertiveness; those dealing with complaints will see it all at some point in their career.

For many, this is one of the motivations for taking on a customer service role - making a real difference to the customer who's had a particularly raw deal. Being able to sort out a problem and see a fellow human being move from anger to gratitude is something that reminds us why we took on the job in the first place.

It can be an emotional experience for people at the front line of complaints. The rewards are equally matched (and frequently outweighed) by harder times that test personal resilience. 

What are some of the essential tips that help the customer service managers and their teams cope with the complex challenges of complaints?

2 July 2012

Service failure: how social media changes complainants' balance of power

There have now been at least two decades of “best practice” advice on how businesses must understand the importance of good customer service.

Research into consumer and complainant behaviour goes back to studies such as Day and Landon’s (1977) classification of customer responses when faced with poor service. This research is still valid today, but in the new context of social media.

In the 21st century, dissatisfied customers can ensure their complaint experience is very public. The age of Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook radically shifts the balance of power towards the customer, giving new routes to publicise dissatisfaction with poor performance that previously remained a private and personal frustration.

Yet some organisations seem to insist on failing to learn the long proven lessons of giving good customer service, delivering experiences that are - at best - sloppy.

It may be that the finance director considers the pipeline of new customers delivering revenue into the sales department outweighs the customer churn and defection in service delivery. However, this is not a business strategy likely to produce long-term growth or award winning success.

Social media has shifted the balance of power to the complaining consumer, now capable of launching public reputational damage on a scale never before available.

27 May 2012

Banking websites perform poorly on publishing customer service standards

A Price Perrott snapshot survey of major high street banking websites in the UK and New Zealand has revealed poor performance in publishing commitments to customer service standards.

A simple test was applied to the major high street banking websites in both the UK and New Zealand, determining the ease with which consumers are able to find out about their bank's commitment to customer service excellence.

Only three of ten global banks performed acceptably, with the remaining seven leaving internet based consumers in the dark as to the standards of service they can expect.