A lot of conversations I have been having recently seem to be fundamentally flawed.
On the one hand organisations are saying we want to be more customer centric, give the customer choice of how they engage with us, what information they want and when and how they want it,then in the next breath they are saying they want to drive customers to digital channels because it will be cheaper.
In my mind this approach is flawed for two reasons, firstly, putting customers at the heart of our organisations means offering them the products and services they want, in the way they want to interact with them – that means I choose the channels, if I want to.
Secondly, if one starts out with a mind set its about customer centricity and cost, I firmly believe that the customer will get lost along the way in favour of the generally more bonus friendly approach of saving a few million quid.
Oh and when I said two reasons I meant three (remember the Spanish Inquisition) – digital doesn’t mean cheaper and certainly doesn’t guarantee best lifetime value.
The organisations I see being successful today are the ones who have taken the brave decisions to tackle legacy issues in their businesses and focus on customer service and creating a truly multi channel organisation, where the experience I get is consistent and connected.
The ones I see struggling are those weighed down by history, taking a short term view of their future and focusing on cost reduction.
A well structured, multi channel customer service and engagement program will deliver the best lifetime value and create a sustainable organisation. This approach will also be seen by customers, making us stand out from the crowd and building trust the fundamental currency of all relationships, because we are easy to do business with and consistent in how we behave.
Having spent many years in IT, we’d often do workshops to build “our processes”, creating forms for this , gates for that – all important stuff, but only if it actually helps the customer do what they want.
All processes in all organisations are part of some larger process with the ultimate customer at either end of the process.
Lets take an example, my bank (who are one of the best I’ve dealt with, but still have their quirks). First a really good example. On Saturday I was exercising my credit card and found a voicemail on my phone from the bank. I hit redial the answering service knew who I was, asked me for some ID and verification details and then asked me to confirm various transactions to make sure they were carried out by me. This interjection was part of my shopping process and the bank sensibly interjected their bit of the process into my process – making it as quick and painless as possible.
On the contrary, I decided I needed a cheque book – which I’ve never had with my new account – i do most of my banking online, so logged on, clicked the link to order a cheque book and was presented with a page saying I had to call the telephone banking service. You’ve broken my process.
We talk a lot about channel preference, do I want to be an online customer, do I want to receive stuff by email, can you sell my data to someone else .. I just want to be a customer and do whatever I want, however I want it. If you don’t want to deal with that fine, I’ll go somewhere else. Moreover, my channel preference varies, depending on what I want to do.
Another way of looking at this is total process cost. When we optimise a process we tend to start with what we see as the beginning and finish with what we see as the end, to often we just push the cost outside these boundaries, we don’t actually optimise anything.
If we start considering the customer’s time as valuable then we might have a different perspective. For example, if I put an automated menu system in my call centre, there is probably a business case that said we can deal with calls quicker and so we need less people, happy days. However, as a customer the 10 seconds I used to spend speaking to a person to ascertain the right person to speak to is now replaced by a minute of button pressing moving the phone annoyingly between my hand and my ear – you have saved 10 seconds but the overall process cost has gone up by 50 seconds and I’m a less happy customer.
However it’s not all easy, customers are often apathetic, they don’t want to tell us their preferred means of communication, we have to consider the cost to serve, versus the value created.
I think my conclusion to this rant, if there is one, is start with what the customer wants and keep that at the centre of any transformation program.
What are your experiences? Who is good and who is bad? Do you think organisations have got to grips with what it means to be genuinely multi-channel ( as opposed to multiple channels)?
answers on a postcard, email, carrier pigeon, tweet, Facebook message, or whatever suits your process.