Back in the mid-90s I worked for an electricity supply company in the Southwest of England. At that time the company was going through the final throes of privatization and it was bought by a major US energy company.
The new owners instigated a business improvement program around what it referred to as the The Golden Rule. The Golden Rule was based on the following: “Think Like a Customer, Act Like an Owner.”
All company staff, including those in the field, were given training in both customer service delivery and Total Quality Management (TQM). At the end of the training we were all presented with our own “Golden Rule” with our name on it (yes, that’s mine in the picture).
Why am I telling you this? Because the “Golden Rule” and many of the techniques that I was taught have since become invaluable to me as I embarked on my career in the customer experience space. The need to balance customer needs and business needs has been a useful guide to get the best business results when it comes to delivering a great customer experience.
With that said, when looking at the world of customer service and customer experience over the past 15 years, it seems to me that this balance between “thinking like a customer” and “acting like an owner” has been elusive – too often the trend has been to lurch from one extreme to another, with one inevitably suffering.
On one side, there was the trend towards delighting the customer and exceeding their expectations. On the surface this is a very admirable strategy. Evidence in the CEB’s recently published book The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty however suggests that it’s more important to make it easy for customers vs. just trying to delight them. This involves investing in resources where they are most effective to drive up loyalty and the likelihood of recommendations to other buyers, not just using things like giveaways to try and placate the customer. Not only is this “Thinking Like a Customer” but it’s also “Acting like an Owner.”
On the other side, the drive to reduce customer service costs forced many companies to look to outsourcing and off-shoring. This often resulted in handing off all of the call control to the outsourcer, which appeared to be quick and easy to deliver. However, this often removed the visibility into the quality of contact handling and service, resulting in customers getting poor experiences. Many organizations are now taking back control of the customer call and contact distribution in order to engineer a better customer experience without losing the business agility brought through the appropriate use of outsourcers. The result: a better balance between “Thinking Like a Customer” and “Acting like an Owner”.
Now, the next big challenge will is getting this balance right in the multi-channel world. While It may be easier to build new silos focused on a single touch-point like the Web or mobile device, this usually leads to a disconnected customer experience across each touch-point and the channels it leverages. It also increases the cost to serve. For example, staffing to cover channels in each silo typically is higher and interactions take longer to complete when the customer has to transfer channels and start their inquiry all over again.
To resolve this, front-line employees and agents need the customer context (an understanding about the customer and their intent) to be available at every touch-point and channel – across the customer journey. This will ensure that customers get a consistent experience, even if they change channel. It also will reduce the cost of operation through proactively managing and deflecting contacts, and by providing agents with insight to reduce their handle times. Breaking down the touch-point and channel silos and staffing around the agent competencies for the media type – voice, short text writing (e.g. text messages & social media) and long text writing (e.g. emails and letters) – will also help increase efficiency.
The next time you’re challenged with balancing a great customer experience with reducing cost and improving business outcomes, remember the Golden Rule, “Think Like a Customer, Act Like and Owner” and to take measures to apply it wisely.
To learn more, check out our Executive Brief: Delivering Exceptional Multi-Channel Customer Service. Thanks for reading!