4 Ways to improve customer experience.

The case for a better customer experience.

Happy-Customer

Making a case for better customer experience is like convincing a fish to swim. It is understood and accepted by every business executive that providing exceptional customer experience is the best way to build customer loyalty and deliver superior service. It just makes perfect sense on paper. But how often is it followed through? I am writing this post as I am sitting at a branch of a top national bank waiting to open an account and give them my money. How long have I been sitting here you asked? Fifty minutes. And I haven’t even gotten to talk to the teller yet. And yes, I did ask them about opening the account myself online but they aren’t equipped to do that for this particular kind of account. They are very lucky that they have a product I want that no one else is offering or I would have been out of here 30 minutes ago. Needless to say, unless you are in a similar position and are able to provide a product or service that is so unique and so in-demand that customers will wait in line for hours for (iPhone 7 anyone?), your customers would simply go elsewhere.

For the rest of us who are not blessed with a holy grail and have to win customers the mere mortal way, here are some ways to improve customer experience.

1) Operational transformation. Let’s get the tough one out of the way first. Operational transformation involves changes in the operations which many times has to do with changing the culture of the business and how certain problems have been perceived in an organization for years or generations. This process could take a few years to complete. To begin, go through a customer touch-point assessment. Go over everything that is working well for the customer and identify what isn’t working so well. By doing this you should have a laundry list of things that need fixing. This will help you, as a company, prioritize what needs to be tackled first. Needless to say, you should begin by fixing smaller tasks first. Get the quick wins and build up inspiration and momentum along the way to get more difficult issues ironed out. Persistence and patients are your keys to success.

2) Digital integration. Using digital platform to communicate with customers such as social networks, a revamped website, accepting payments online, invest in creating a portal that enables customization of the customers’ products and services online. Online services are no longer “good-to-haves”. They are essential to doing business in today’s world even if your business doesn’t directly engage in doing any transactions online.

3) Listen. Have a feedback area on your website. Conduct surveys to obtain measurement and reporting of customer satisfaction levels. One of the more popular ways besides a survey is to gauge your company’s Net Promoter Score. With this method, you ask your customer only 1 question: “Would you recommend us?”. The more “Yes” you get out of the population, the better your Net Promoter Score. For anyone who answers no, make sure you ask a follow-up question with regards to their reason behind the answer. It may not be pleasant, but often truth isn’t, and growing pains is a part of business as much as personal life.

4) Cultural competency. Sensitivity training, cultural communication, interpretation and translation skills go a long way if you conduct business in a diverse geographical area or if you conduct your business internationally. Being sensitive to and understanding of your customer’s culture creates a rapport between the customer and the business and instills a sense of camaraderie. Suddenly you are no longer a business, but an adviser, a friend, a trust worthy ally they wouldn’t mind doing business with.

As mentioned earlier, making a case for improving customer experience is like convincing Congress to take a vacation. But for those who needs a gentle nudge, the following are some of the benefits of improving customer experience:
1) Increased brand loyalty.
2) Improved operational effectiveness.
3) Increased revenue and profit as a result of (1) and (2).
4) Improved customer retention.
5) Accelerated time to market for products.
6) Value added innovation for existing products.

Thanks for reading. Questions/comments are always welcomed.

The art of outsourcing. Part 1

What is outsourcing really?

outsourcing

When we hear of the word outsourcing, it often brings to mind the image of Dell’s call centers in Bangalore or news stories of companies like Infosys and Tata Consulting that are embroiled in million-dollar lawsuits because of workers rights violation charges. Big corporations “shipping jobs overseas” often comes up when discussing outsourcing and many people, understandably, get pretty passionate about it.

In truth, outsourcing is much closer than Asia and is very much a part and parcel of our everyday life. Do you have a landscaper? Do you use a drycleaner? Do you eat out regularly? Do you have someone else prepare your tax returns? If you answered yes to any of these questions then you have been outsourcing chores you, your partner, your child, or your pet could have been doing! (Yes, we meant the taxes).

Outsourcing is a part of everyone’s life and for good reason. It frees up valuable time. Time that could then be spent on other more productive things, like reading this blog, for example.

In business, when done correctly, outsourcing frees up valuable resources and allows the company to focus on the more important task of conducting business and letting the “experts” deal with logistics, IT, facilities, and other aspects of the company that are essential but not what the company needs to focus its resources on.

What happens when outsourcing goes wrong?

????????????????????????????????????????

The key phrase here is “when done correctly”. Too often we are called to discuss projects that were outsourced to third party vendors that went nothing like planned or ended up creating more problems than fixing them.

Case in point: A wholesale grocer in New York had multiple vendors hired to do work on their logistics system. Each of them naturally worked independently of the other and with minimal supervision added to the recipe of management, one thing led to another and each vendor’s solution blossomed into its own full blown system that had its own independant system for tracking specific kinds of products. Business went on as usual except for the fact that the guys in finance had to pull all nighters to get the financial information from each of the systems before combining them with their own main book keeping software, and then repeat the process every month for eternity!

The solution

happy jumping

To solve this issue we had to create a datawarehouse for the firm, storing all the information in an SQL Server 2008 environment and then build custom reports and an interface to run the reports that got the finance department the revenue and cogs information they needed. It took us close to a year from business requirements gathering, to working with the vendors to get access to their data, to testing and getting the final UAT sign off by the business. But the important thing was that we left the project feeling proud of what we’d accomplished something meaningful. We made a positive impact in the way they ran their business. The company still continues to grow and they continue to outsource the logistics system to the same vendors. The difference, however, is that now management has more of an awareness and understanding as to how new projects need to be handled and what steps must be taken and what questions must be answered by the vendors in order to ensure minimal disruption to the other departments within the organization.

In our next post we will discuss the key take-aways when it comes to proper management of outsourced projects. Questions/Comments are always welcomed.