A focus on the customer has been widely advertised since the very beginning of commerce. And while many companies claim to provide great service, a very different picture emerges on community message boards and in user reviews. It seems that while customer service is certainly common sense... it is actually not a very common practice.
1) The Changing Role of Innovation
As both businesspeople and consumers, we have tolerated this situation. After all, the innovations of the past decade have been tremendous, so we have put up with the hassle of poor customer service – from cable companies to airlines to lenders. We want what they offer, so we settle for imperfect service.
But innovations can be reverse-engineered. In other words, invention alone cannot sustain a company, and if one provider treats you poorly – that provider is at risk to be disrupted from its position by a competitor with a keener focus on the user experience.
2) Competitve Advantage
“The wide availability of product, pricing and customer satisfaction information has eroded the competitive advantage afforded in the past by product innovation and is shifting attention to customer experience innovation as the key to a lasting brand loyalty,” reported Gartner.
This insight is actually not newsworthy. Way back in 2001, Frederick Richheld stated in his Harvard Business School Press book, Loyalty Rules (ISBN 978-1- 59139248) that only two competitive advantages cannot be reverse engineered: customer loyalty and employee loyalty. And nearly a decade and a half later – and especially in the era of the customer experience – this philosophical foundation remains solid.
Richheld argued that loyalty is still the fuel that drives financial success – even, and perhaps especially – in today’s volatile economy where web-empowered customers now defect more easily and more quickly than ever.
According to the Harvard Business Review, customers actually do not care about any single interaction. What does matter are the “cumulative experiences across multiple touch points and in multiple channels over time.” In other words, the benefits of an excellent web interface can be wiped out by a poor customer service interaction.
3) No Silver Bullets
A single innovation, then, is not a silver bullet. True change happens when everything an organization does is focused on the customer. For example, First American Equipment Finance has invested in technology designed to simplify the equipment leasing process. So the company offers virtual “face-to-face” meetings right at customer’s desks, electronic documentation and an app to help manage equipment.
The central theme is focused on simplifying the leasing experience from start to finish.
4) Colleagues are the Key
Loyal employees truly care about their customers. They will do whatever it takes to ensure that clients have a great interaction with your company. Working together, these dedicated professionals will individually and collectively improve the client experience. They will fix customer pain points or will find people who can. And if these loyalty leaders are empowered to initiate customer-focused innovations, it could be a true game changer.