Why America Needs To Get Serious About Social Customer Care

August 7, 2014

In the process of getting the word out that I’m bringing my Master Class to the U.S., I’ve been mugging up (more than usual) on the state of play. The headline brands that pushed the envelope during the first wave of social customer care are justifiably well known. Best Buy, Autodesk, Citi and Dell to name just a few.

More recently, they have been joined by forward-thinking brands in sectors ready-made for the ‘must help now’ responsiveness that excellent social customer service promises. Think air travel and online retail as examples of sectors closest to the eye of the digital storm now sweeping across global markets.

For a while, it remained a lottery which brands would actually deliver. Social Bakers pegs global averages at around 40% of service requests as still being ignored, with an average wait time of between 5-6 hours for those who do receive an answer.  This is a standard that makes the much maligned voice channel still look pretty nimble in comparison!

But these are global averages we are talking about. In the sectors I’ve just mentioned they have already moved on. Typically inspired by a standout brand who leads the way. For instance, KLM has been an outstanding choice for other airlines to learn from. As best practices seep out, standards around responsiveness and resolution become normalized across the sector.

Even so, every sector has its laggards. For a while they can remain ‘unconsciously incompetent’.  But eventually customer feedback takes them up a notch into ‘conscious incompetence’. “Why can’t you be the same as your competitors?” “Listen and learn. Or ignore and lose us.”  Thus even laggards get to join the party.

This is how new competencies tends to spread. However even for the seasoned brand, the nature of social is that you are only as good as your last positive word of mouth and even the most accomplished can screw up. So the bar is tough. Consistency is crucial.

Who Else Is Doing It?

So far, so good. But America is yet to see mainstream adoption. So where are the rest? As customers we are demanding it. The next tranche of brands ought to be arriving. But are they?

ICMI produced a great snapshot earlier this year that tells one version of the story. Their headline is that “while over 68% of contact center professionals think social media is a necessary channel, less than 40% are currently supporting social as a service channel.”

Yet in terms of its significance “over a third of study respondents think they’ll lose customers if they don’t have social as a service channel.”

So recognition is certainly present in the industry. Why the hold up? The research probed a number of issues. Here the summary in the form of a great infographic also produced by ICMI.

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Why The P&Q Challenge Is So Relevant to Customer Experience Movers & Shakers

July 14, 2014
Thumbnail image for Why The P&Q Challenge Is So Relevant to Customer Experience Movers & Shakers

I just enjoyed the great pleasure of celebrating the third cohort to be accredited in the use of the P&Q strategic planning framework.

As you can see it’s an ‘ecosystem’ way of thinking about service quality and people performance. To accredit organisations, I have been taking them through a six month journey under the strategic sponsorship of Nexidia whose analytics platform often plays an important role as the upgraded P&Q strategies come on stream. But why have I linked this to Customer Experience? And why would you, as a Customer Experience mover and shaker/transformationalist, be interested in this initiative?

Both question and answer took form during the judging phase of the Challenge and the subsequent award ceremony which was used as an opportunity to re-create the on-site presentations for everyone’s benefit. The reason to associate call centre process with CX vision is simply this. Anyone who has spent more than five minutes in the customer experience space knows they are involved in a battle of ideologies. Let’s just summarise that debate as being between those who stick with an ‘Inside-Out’ mindset and associated priorities for running their organisations. And those who clearly see the need for an ‘Outside-In’ approach as the new road to ongoing prosperity. To this end, we have seen the rise of Voice of The Customer, Journey Mapping and CXO titles such as Chief Customer Officer as part of the solution mix. We have also had some pure behavioural stuff on hearts and minds to enthuse front line teams to go the extra mile.

All good stuff. But often the resistance to change lies even more deeply rooted. Anchored in habits so long practiced that no-one even notices them anymore. Yet these are the ones directly impacting customers as they interact with Customer Service teams. Unfortunately we are still in the age of “Sorry the computer says no”. What is really behind that kind of response? Where does it spring from? Certainly it is all part of the dark side as far as customer experience evangelists are concerned.

Let me give you some of the highlights from this recent round of P&Q as part of the answer to this.

The Dark Shadow Of The Way It Was

For reasons of pure coincidence or maybe divine logic, all cohort three finalists were from the water industry. Even the BPO organisation who was part of the group had a parent company selling billing systems to the water industry! So you can guess what most of the conversation was about.

For readers outside the UK, it is useful context to be aware that things are ‘a-changing’ in this industry. The regulator is taking them into a deregulated market within the next few years. Perfect for the P&Q challenge as it happens. Responding to new influences is why customer service leaders learn to use the P&Q framework in order to become/remain able to cope with new challenges.

Clearly this is the case for those in UK water right now. However to keep this post relevant to everyone else outside an ‘about to be deregulated’ industry, let’s swap the disruption of a ‘regulator’ for the mix of ‘digital-social-mobile-cloud’. On that basis no-one should be feeling left out. OK now everyone hopefully feels fully connected to this story, let’s get back to telling it.

As one of the largest brands in the water industry remarked during their awards presentation, “it was only when the regulator told us to measure customer satisfaction and penalise us for complaints that we realised we had customers!” The guy telling [...]

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