Customer Experience – Do we really need more Governance?

A recent Forrester post on customer experience grabbed my attention. Governance: The Key to Customer experience management.

Do we really need more governance within organizations? Will more governance really transform customer experience?

A few nights ago I was at a restaurant with some friends and the waiter spilled drinks over three of our party. On receipt of the bill, we (half) jokingly asked the waiter if we’d be getting compensation for his error. The waiter said that he was unable to give us a discount or a free round of drinks as the manager wasn’t working that evening.

Governance is key to many business critical business processes and especially business processes requiring compliance to specific industry standards or legislation. As we have seen in the example above governance however can have a detrimental impact on customer experience. Governance locks employees into fixed, inflexible business processes which from a customer point of view can deliver a terrible experience.

Governance may help deliver consistency of service but what if that service isn’t very good to start with? What happens if we quickly need to change the process? Governance then acts as a roadblock or at least delays the ability of the business to perform a rapid change to procedures. Customer experience governance simply adds another management layer for the customer service representative to navigate in search for an answer.

It may seem naïve but surely every customer facing employee should perform their own customer experience governance. We may not be able to define it but we all know what good customer experience is. After all we are all customers. As employees do we really need more layers of management within our organizations telling us what good customer experience is?

From a customer experience point of view the solution should not be more governance, instead the business objective should be to devolve as many decisions as possible to your customer facing employees. Let your employees do their own customer experience governance.

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Customer Experience – Using employees to fill the gaps processes can’t reach

Customer Experience is often defined as the aggregate of all of the interactions a customer has with your brand. From a business process improvement perspective the key word in this definition is “interactions”, that customer experience is determined over multiple interactions between the customer and the organization.

At some point in their interactions with your organization the customer will engage directly with an employee. Whether it’s face to face at a retail outlet, in a restaurant or via a service desk customer experience improvement projects must consider the needs of the employee.

In many cases however these customer facing employees at the service desk, at the checkout or employed as wait staff are your lowest paid employees. Yet these employees are the public face of your organization and have a disproportionate impact on the perceived customer experience. In addition the repetitive, inflexible and low paid nature of many of these roles means that they are characterized by poor staff morale and high employee turnover.

While BPM and process improvement technologies can go a long way towards delivering a consistent customer experience across the multiple customer touch points they can only go so far. It’s impossible to predict every potential customer interaction and automate it. At some point you rely on your employees to fill the gaps that your business processes can’t reach. Thus if your customer experience improvement project is to be successful one of the key objectives must be to empower and enhance the role of the customer facing employee.  This then becomes an opportunity for Case Management.

Case Management applications support your customer facing employees who fill the gaps your processes can’t reach. By devolving power and decision making authority from the center of the organization to your customer facing teams you can eliminate process gaps, manage unpredictability and through empowerment address staff morale, motivation and turnover.

Employees play a key customer experience role

Banks; Service so Bad it’s Good

I know it’s open season on banks at the moment and writing a blog post on how bad banks are at customer service is like taking sweets from a baby. It’s definitely not the most original topic but hey I can’t help it and I’ll explain why later.

Two banking related problems stumbled into view this week.

First of all this week the RBS in the UK suffered a SW upgrade fault that caused problems for millions of their customers. Thousands of customers failed to have money transferred into or out of their accounts leading to significant problems. Now we all know every company makes mistakes, what differentiates leading customer service organizations however is how they respond when problems occur.

So how did RBs respond? Well here’s one example where they left a customer stranded at a Spanish airport for 4 days and wouldn’t increase his credit limit to allow him to proceed with his holiday plans.

It’s not as though this problem was completely unexpected either. They had a similar glitch last year as well.

The second banking event of the week concerns the ongoing problems I’m having with my own bank. In my white paper on how organizations can use Case Management to transform ustomer service I describe how last year it took them over 3 months to process a name change on my account. This year it’s taken them 4 months to process my car loan application. Some of the classic customer service issues I experienced were:

  • Repeatedly having to submit proof of identity information.
  • Failing to update me on the status of my application.
  • Failure to meet any SLAs.
  • Having to interact with multiple poorly connected departments
  • Failure to have any coherent complaints management process

Both these events are clear examples of poor customer service processes. In the first case an inability to quickly adapt business process in response to unpredictable events and in the second an inability to manage processes that cross multiple departments and involve multiple participants.

So I hear you say, well if the service is so bad with your bank why don’t you leave? To explain why I don’t leave I’m going to quote Alvy Singer. Alvy Singer is the hero from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall movie and towards the end of the movie he uses a joke to explain why he keeps putting himself through the wringer of his bad relationship with Annie.

Alvy Singer [narrating] this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs. 

I guess I’m the customer service equivalent of Alvy singer. I need my bank because I need their eggs. I need them to continue to show me how bad customer service can be and give me the motivation to try and improve things.Their service is so bad that it’s good.

 

Is the 360 Degree Customer View Still Valid?

In a nutshell the 360 degree customer view is the ability to provide your service agents with all of the information they need to make a decision. At a basic level this means presenting the agent with all of the data relevant to the case on which they are working, as well as historical data on the customer e.g. previous incidents, other account information, purchase history. Multiple business applications and customer databases mean that even today for many organizations a basic 360 degree customer view, showing current and historical customer data, has been difficult to achieve.

In order to make the best decision on behalf of the customer and their organization agents need more than just historical and current customer information they also need future projections for the customer for example their estimated lifetime value and their potential to churn. Agents also need to be aware of current organization business targets as well as real time competitive information to for example validate customer claims about a competitive offer. Thus the 360 degree customer view is evolving extending beyond current and historical customer data to encompass future customer predictions, an organization perspective as well as competitive information.

As Data Analytics, CRM, BPM and Case Management applications begin to coalesce we will see new attempts to deliver the 360 customer view. CRM applications will continue to be used to manage the customer data and are today being be extended using BPM applications to automate and remove the mundane customer processes from the agent workload and Case Management applications to allow agents to handle complex customer cases and integrate with multiple data repositories. Add analytics tools that deliver predictions about future customer behaviour and real time data on your competitors and we begin to see how the service desk of the future will look.

The 360 degree customer view remains a valid if poorly executed concept.  With CRM, BPM, Case Management and Data Analytics we might however be on the verge of reaching the holy grail.

The Ideal Customer Service Agent

Empowered Customers need Empowered Employees

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.

Empowered customers need empowered employees. Customer management is a dynamic, unpredictable, ever changing environment. Businesses need to empower their employees so they can roll with the punches.

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.