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Why do companies strive for service excellence?

I can’t imagine why any service provider wouldn’t strive to deliver excellent service to its customers. After all, it’s conventional wisdom that companies succeed if they look after their customers. If you’re not convinced of this, here are three main reasons why broadcasters and service providers strive to deliver excellent service to their customers:

Customer attrition – unless services are well delivered and reliable, companies will lose customers to the competition.

Financial impact – poor service results in lower advertising and subscription revenues due to loss of viewers, listeners or end-users and increased costs due to service credits and service recovery actions.

Reputation – better service results in a better customer experience which results in growth and an improved reputation.

Most people would agree these are pretty fundamental reasons why any company would want to deliver excellence. So how should companies behave in order to achieve service excellence in the eyes of their customers and what are the ingredients for a successful approach to service excellence?

From my own experience I’ve concluded there are seven key ingredients of service excellence. Get these seven areas right and you have the makings of a highly customer-centric organisation. Get them wrong, and you may be in for a busy and costly time trying to win back customers who have left you for a better supplier. So have a look for yourself and consider your organisation’s score.

The Seven Ingredients for Success

1. Leadership

First and foremost a company’s leadership needs to believe in the virtues of delivering great service. This is because it requires leadership conviction to commit to the necessary resources and time. If leaders make it their business to talk relentlessly about customers, their challenges, their needs and the implications for their own business, as long as this is aligned with leadership behaviour, the whole company will become more customer-focused. This happens in cultures where customers are put first in every day activities and decision-making.

This is easier said than done – there are often trade-offs between delivering great service and other priorities like growth. For example fast growing companies can slip-up through pressure of delivering to more and more new customers. So in this case a truly customer-focused company would scale back growth targets – and this would not be an easy decision for obvious reasons.

2. Customer Insight and Metrics

Bill Gates said “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

But how do you know who is unhappy and why they’re unhappy? Without this information it’s difficult or even impossible to set realistic goals to improve performance. Feedback is a gift and therefore should not be ignored. Getting feedback is just the start – companies then need to action improvement plans and measure progress. A simple measure of good customer service that is meaningful to both customers and employees alike is often the foundation of a good service improvement plan. So for example measuring “mean-time to respond to a customer issue” doesn’t help a customer relate to a poorly handled single incident if they are passed around different teams. Whereas resolving an issue on a single call (i.e. “right first time”) is much more meaningful to customer and employees alike.

3. People

The most customer-centric companies encourage and empower their employees to provide great service. This is because great service occurs during customer interactions which involve anyone from an operator at a desk to a sales person out on the road. If employees feel empowered they will do the right thing and customers will get a great service. Think of a time, that you were last thanked by a grateful customer – what was the situation? It was probably because you went out of your way to help the customer. So the question companies should ask themselves is: “Are employees empowered to act in the best interests of customers – even if it costs the company money?”

4. Processes

Processes guide people through daily activities. Good processes support employees, are easy to follow, and are welcomed by customers. Bad processes are the opposite. How many times have you experienced a frustrating call into a call centre where you are asked the same question twice, or even more. A key process for all companies is their customer journey – this is the process that a customer will experience (or is subjected to!) during the complete ‘bid to bill’ or ‘on-boarding’ set of activities. A well-engineered customer journey will ensure interactions are value-adding for customers, not energy-sapping. This is why good processes are so important and necessary for any company wanting to deliver good service.

5. Systems

Systems are used to store and manage information about customers, services and other key entities. Well-designed systems support employees and enable them to provide a great service for customers. Increasingly customers can directly access systems in a self-service environment. Whatever the case it is essential that systems are well-designed, intuitive and provide a rigorous platform for a great customer experience. Unfortunately this is sometimes not the case, often due to legacy systems and lack of investment in new technology. Poor systems detract from the customer experience and cause frustration amongst employees who are trying their best to provide a great service to their customers.

 6. Data

Information systems are essential to many companies’ operations, and the data they store is also essential to effective service management. However the data needs to be well-managed so it is accurate. Inaccurate data is not just bad for business, it can drive customers away. If customers’ names or service references are wrong, this creates all sorts of trust issues in customers’ minds – “if they can’t manage my information, what else are they getting wrong”. Data security is also a huge issue, with hardly a week going by without another breach in security. Therefore to deliver great service, data – or information – needs to be effectively managed with regular updates and the right quality checking.

7. Efficiency

Efficient companies find it easier to deliver great service to their customers – if they have made the right choices. This is because in being efficient they need to prioritise activities and resources – and if those decisions are made in total alignment with customers interests, this results in a much better customer experience. Efficiency also requires a continuous improvement mindset, as does a customer-centric culture. Finally, making efficiency savings enables companies to conserve the cash they save from day-to-day operations and invest it in innovation and service development.

Benchmark Opportunity

So how does your company score against each ingredient? I’ve created a short assessment survey which asks seven questions – one for each of the above areas. Help HawkCX build a picture of service excellence amongst broadcasters and service providers by completing the survey here:  http://goo.gl/forms/aeTmZi5OcV

Results are anonymous and will be published at www.HawkCX.com

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