It’s now generally accepted that customers are more empowered than ever. What isn’t accepted is how we deal with this.
Customers have always had power. Power to take their business elsewhere. The perfect storm of web, social media and mobile technologies however has made it not only much easier to switch supplier but to also rapidly communicate your dissatisfaction with a product or service to the masses.
Trying to handle empowered customers through technology alone is a non-starter. It’s like trying to round up cats. Customers are unpredictable. Customers are engaging with companies via multiple channels, virtually and physically and trying to handle the multichannel customer by technology alone is impossible.
Many businesses are in a technology arms race with the customer always one step ahead. For example adding social capabilities to your business application stack may help you to sense problems better but it won’t make the customer experience any better. When one of your customer channels is direct face to face customer engagement it’s impossible to expect technology on its own to deliver a consistent multi-channel customer experience.
So how do we empower employees?
- Devolve decision making authority
Move decision making from the centre of the organization to your customer facing employees. Give employees the authority to choose alternative approaches to resolving a customer problems. Give employees the authority to resolve a complaint or an issue at the first point of contact. For example do senior managers really need to approve all refunds or give the authority to match a competitive offer?
- Don’t tie employees to processes
Use business applications like case management that gives them options and allow employees to adapt or chose alternative process paths.
- Support employee decision making
Use business tools that provide employees with a 360 degree view of their customer (customer purchase history, current contract status, projected lifetime value) and help them make better decisions.
Be realistic in your technology choices. Trying to handle customer processes by technology alone is impossible. Use empowered employees to fill the gaps where technology can’t go.