Updated: Feb 8, 2022
I recently called a doctor’s office to find out if my upcoming surgery would be covered by my medical insurance. The person who answered the phone responded, “My job is to schedule appointments”. I asked, “Who would be the correct person to discuss this with”. She responded, “I don’t know”. I followed
with, “Who would know?”. She replied, “Isn’t that your responsibility?” I told her that with every surgery or procedure I have had, the doctor’s staff would interface with the insurance company regarding insurance coverage. After all, it is in their best interest if they want a higher probability of being paid in a timely manner. She replied, “Well, I’ll send an email, but it won’t be until Thursday because I’m really busy” (we were having our discussion on a Tuesday). She then added, “If you don’t hear back from us by Friday, that means it’s covered”. This was not reassuring and not a pleasant customer experience. It left me wondering if I had chosen the wrong doctor to perform my surgery!
Who Do You Call?
Most companies have multiple customer-facing teams addressing customer touchpoints. During the presales period it is typically sales and perhaps product management and finance. During this period sales often takes the lead to manage communications with the customer to increase the probability that the sale will be made. Post-sale it is typically customer service and accounts receivable. During this period the customer may have issues or questions that customer service is not able to resolve without assistance from other company teams, which might include quality issues, performance issues, applications issues, user issues, invoice issues etc.
"In a non-customer-centric, siloed company, no one is assigned to take complete ownership of a customer’s issue or request and manage it from beginning to end."
Non-customer-centric companies often operate in silos. Departments within siloed companies frequently do not share information with each other, and consequently may not work together to solve issues. In this environment a customer issue or question can quickly become someone else’s issue. The result is a hand-off, a call back, or worse, asking the customer to make another call to someone else. The customer expectation is that the information they are trying to obtain, or the issue they are trying to resolve, will be handled quickly and with as little effort on their part as possible. In a customer service situation, your brand is first and foremost measured by customer effort (CE). How easy did the company make it for me to have my issue handled? The customer emotional response to a customer service event should not be underestimated. It is a key component of the customer experience and to their perception of your brand.
Excellent Customer Service Doesn’t Happen By Accident
In a non-customer-centric, siloed company, no one is assigned to take complete ownership of a customer’s issue or request and manage it from beginning to end. Often this will result in longer time-to-issue resolution, delays in getting back to the customer, or even not getting back to the customer at all! Customers should not have to expedite their requests and reported issues. Your customer service must be empathetic and able to anticipate what the customer needs. It is better to over-communicate, even if it is just to reassure the customer that you are working on getting them the information they have asked for.
"Research done by Microsoft reveals that 96% of respondents claim that superior customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand."
This level of customer service rarely comes naturally, it must be designed. This is when defining goals and objectives and creating and implementing a plan of what you want your company’s customer service experience to be is paramount. Ensuring that this plan is aligned with your company’s overall mission, goals and objectives will make a significant difference in your ability to deliver a great customer service experience.
Culture Change Requires A Commitment From Everyone
Culture change is hard! To establish a customer-centric culture and tear down the silos is a significant commitment which must be embraced by the CEO. The customer experience optimization plan needs to tie to the company revenue and profit plan. It will be difficult to get the support of the c-suite if it does not. KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) and a continuous feedback loop need to be established at all the customer touchpoints to ensure that the plan milestones are being met and the improvements are working.
Research done by Microsoft reveals that 96% of respondents claim that superior customer service is important in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Satisfied and loyal customers typically result in growing revenue and profit, as well as improving NPS and CSAT scores. In addition, satisfied and loyal customers are more fun to work with! What’s not to like?
Patrick Sandefur is the Founder and Managing Director of Bass Harbor Group / Customer Experience Solutions. His 30+ year career in Customer Service, Sales, Marketing, Product Management and Business Development has given him a unique perspective of what customers want and expect when interacting with a brand.
Read more from Patrick Sandefur by clicking on recent posts below.