Customer Service

Why Customer Experience is More than Just Customer Service

Is great customer service the same as great customer experience? No.

In the article Creating a Great Customer Experience Management Strategy, author Sean Chan offers this definition of the difference between the two:  “We can differentiate… by characterizing customer experience as an inward perspective of the customer, while customer service is the outward force that influences inward perspective of the customer.”

This means that to consistently deliver remarkable customer experiences, organisations need to not only provide great customer service; they need to ensure that they are welcoming, user-friendly and easy-to-use everywhere, all the time. This is the core premise behind delivering brand continuity and authenticity.

It is naïve to assume that just because the first call resolution stats in your Contact Centre have improved, it stands to reason that your customer experience has improved. What it could mean is that your contact centre teams are really good at delivering customer service, because they are resolving customer issues effectively.

But the question is – why did the customer need to contact you in the first place? How many of the calls were about issues that shouldn’t have happened, or could have been avoided if you had more user-friendly processes at every touchpoint in the customer’s journey with you?

Customer experience is holistic

Your customers’ experiences with you extend way beyond the physical conversations they have with your contact centre or front line sales teams. Your customers’ perception of your brand is holistic – so every interaction with a non-customer service / sales person counts, as does every digital encounter with your self-service options, website, and social media.

Four ways to get your team involved in improving Customer Experience

Improving the customer experience needs to be an organisation-wide commitment, and actively involving employees in the shaping of strategies and operations is paramount.

1.      Don’t just escalate – elevate

As we know – escalation occurs when a Contact Centre team member doesn’t have the knowledge, skill or authority to resolve an issue, and passes it up the line to a supervisor to get it fixed.

In the contact centre of US telecommunications and broadcasting giant Comcast, they frequently hold 15-min stand-up “huddles” where people share and train each other on issues based on customer feedback. Supervisors and management listen to both the employee voice and customer voice to understand what’s working and what’s not, and to identify issues that can be classified as systematic, and need to be addressed and fixed. They’ve called this their Elevation process.

The elevation process is an efficient method of improving the experience for all their customers, and a powerful way of keeping staff engaged because they know they are being heard and action is being taken.

2.      Give your teams a real product user experience

Over at software giant Adobe, the HR Department formed the Customer and Employee Experience group, where employees are given the chance to walk a mile in their customers’ shoes through “Experience-athons”. The Adobe product teams led staff through various product tasks in a variety of customer facing areas. Not only does it help employees understand the products better and experience challenges their customers may face; it also provides an opportunity for them to provide real user feedback to the Product teams. So far they’ve held 70 Experience-athons across 18 products and services reaching 2,400 employees.

3.      Experience your self servicemobile self service

As well as ensuring your teams have first-hand experience in using your products, also have them use your self-service options and provide feedback on whether they are frustrating or easy to use.

4.      Drive a consistent message across the organisation

Every employee, whether in a customer facing or non-customer facing role, must understand the company’s objectives and values concerning customers. A surly delivery driver, an officious claims clerk or an over-zealous credit controller can quickly destroy the customer experience that your marketing, sales and customer service teams have worked hard to create and deliver.

The same applies with non-human interactions. The customer experience with your website, social media, chat, emails, forms, documents, payment processes et al, must be scrutinised and tested for consistency and ease of use.

However, when you’ve been in the job a while, you can become too close to the business and not see issues that the customer may experience. Solution? Put every new employee through every part of the business process following your customers’ typical journeys, and give them a structured way to report on their experience at every step. Not only will you have the benefit of receiving feedback from someone with fresh eyes, but it’s a useful method of fast-tracking their training.

A further suggestion is to get management to do the same using the MBWA technique – management by walking around – like you see on the TV series Undercover Boss.

It takes C-suite commitment and leadership to empower and motivate employees to take customer experience seriously. They need to set the vision, and be actively involved with setting strategy and driving change management.

And of course, delivering consistently great customer experience also relies on employing the right technology and systems to support the customer journey at every touchpoint, and to make it easy and efficient for your employees to do their part. Remove frustrations and everyone is happier, more engaged and more inclined to stay loyal.

Why it’s worth the effort

The Harvard Review article The Truth About Customer Experience summed up the benefits beautifully: “… Transformations are not easy, and they may take years to perfect. But the reward is higher customer and employee satisfaction, increased revenue, and lower costs. Delivering successful journeys brings about an operational and cultural shift that engages the organisation across functions and from top to bottom, generating excitement, innovation, and a focus on continuous improvement. It creates a culture that’s hard to build otherwise, and a true competitive advantage goes to companies that get it right.”

Premier's Commitment to Customer Experience

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