Customer expectations of companies have never been higher. Above all, they’re looking for convenience. They want their questions answered quickly and their problems resolved effectively—and they’re willing to reward businesses that can fulfill their desires reliably.
Many companies are working hard to meet this challenge. C-suite executives surveyed by ServiceNow and ThoughtLab anticipate they will make significant progress when it comes to delivering personalized experiences, identifying and resolving customers’ problems, and tailoring messaging, marketing, and engagement in the next few years.
Companies would do well to keep focused on those areas, according to Paul Greenberg, founder of The 56 Group, an advisory firm focused on customer-facing strategic services. He recently told Workflow why delighted customers and happy employees are only one part of what it takes to create great customer experiences. The following has been edited for clarity and length.
A business’s goal should be to provide convenient and easy interactions for customers. That’s the greatest of all customer experiences. Think about a UPS store. You don’t go there to have a great time or hang out with the staff. Everyone who goes to a UPS store has one job in mind: to ship at least one package. That means the visitor wants to drop off the package, pay the shipping cost, and get out of the store as quickly as possible. And that is exactly how the UPS store is set up. That’s what is meant by thinking about the customer. UPS stores make it convenient and easy. The customers always come back—call that delight if you want.
Let’s suppose you have the happiest employees in the world. It won’t matter if they can’t deliver what’s needed while on a call with a customer. That happy employee will become increasingly unhappy as they apologize to that miserable customer. Obviously, you need happy employees, but there are at least two other key factors necessary. First, you need personalized knowledge of the individual customer who is regularly interacting with you. And second, you need highly effective processes and systems that allow customers (and employees) to quickly and easily get done what they need to get done.
The speed to successful resolution, regardless of channel, is now a central part of customer service. Because these interactions are constrained by a sense of urgency, customers typically expect that you know enough about them and their history so they aren’t forced to repeat information over and over again. Today’s digitally savvy customers expect that the knowledge you as a company have accumulated about them is used to both tailor their interactions with you and make those interactions more convenient.
It’s a tall order. Simply put, the processes and systems powering your customer service experiences must work, not just technically but holistically. And, as hard as it is, they need to work nearly flawlessly and in a cohesive fashion. To be sure, it’s easy to see that “nearly flawlessly” is an almost impossible standard to meet all the time. So, you also need the right governance and policies in place to handle problems when they arise. Ideally, they can even help head off problems before they occur.
A great end-to-end customer experience is based on highly engaging and effective customer service and on a high degree of automation. The customer service piece is driven by the customer’s recognition that you value and know them. At the same time, business processes need to be optimized as fully as possible to fulfill customer needs quickly and conveniently. It’s that combination, a focus on customer and on technology, which delivers the best modern customer experiences.