Therefore Strategic Technology Services

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Is poor service your Customer’s fault?

The Frustrated Customer
Some time ago a blog article caught my attention. The gist of the article was that if you are receiving poor Customer service, it may well be that you are simply a bad Customer. Initially I was a little irritated by the thought, but after thinking it through, I decided that aspects of the argument hold true.

Let’s step back a little. A few years back I was doing a project for a Client of mine, who for the sake of this article will be called Acme Incorporated. In short, Acme sells a fairly complex set of services to consumers. Acme had an ecommerce web site that had been underperforming their expectations and they wanted to know why their Customers were disinclined to use it. One evening, the Acme Team and I were sitting behind a one way mirror while a focus group of their Customers was being led through a discussion relating to the merits or otherwise of the Acme service offering, both relating to the website and the Acme service offering in general. One of the participants of the focus group was an elderly gentleman who was an absolute fan. The Acme Team loved the old chap. There were lots of comments like, “If only all our Customers were like that!”

For the sake of this article, let’s call the elderly gentleman Mr Smith. What made Mr Smith so different? In short, he was well versed in how to do business with Acme. He seemed to know all the “Rules of Engagement”. He also knew a couple of unpublicised “tricks” that he could use to make the process a little easier. Many of the other participants, particularly the ones that took the opportunity to vent, were clearly not well versed in the Rules of Engagement. Doing business with Acme was by all accounts hard work. The bottom line … the better versed the Customer is with respect to the Rules of Engagement, the easier it is for him or her to do business with you, and as a consequence the more profitable the relationship. Sadly, companies seldom place much emphasis on communicating the Rules of Engagement to their Customers.

Therefore has developed a product, Therefore Quantum™, which has been designed to allow for the efficient resolution of queries. One of the benefits of the Therefore Quantum™ offering is that it allows you to identify queries that occur repeatedly, which one would logically use as context for reengineering your business to make it less error prone. None the less, one of the typical observations that we have made over the years is that approximately 50 percent of queries are the consequence of errors made by Customers. Why would this be the case? Perhaps half of these Customer led errors are unavoidable. The balance of the Customer led errors are typically a consequence of the Customers not knowing the Rules of Engagement. The resolution of queries is an expensive exercise, albeit often difficult to quantify. The more your Customers know your Rules of Engagement, the less likely they will be to make errors in their dealings with you. Consequently, less of your resource will be tied up in query resolution. Perhaps more importantly, you will be saving your Customers a great deal of frustration, thereby making it more attractive to them to do business with you.

One of Therefore’s specialities is to assist companies that take product to market by means of Distributors, to change to a new Distributor in a low risk fashion, without disrupting the flow of product to market. A key component of these supply chain transition projects is the communication of the new Distributor’s Rules of Engagement to our Client’s Customer base. We have over the years developed a pretty slick recipe for this exercise. The interesting thing about supply chain transitions of this nature is that our Clients normally see a sustained turnover uptick, generally to the tune of between 10 and 15 percent. Logically, this can in part be put down to the new Distributor being more efficient than the old one. I believe that the bulk of the increase in turnover is attributable to the communication of the Rules of Engagement that occurs as a component of the transition project. Again, if your Customer base knows how to do business with you and the processes that they have to follow to do so is user friendly, they will be more inclined to transact with you.

In closing, some thoughts relating to the communication of Rules of Engagement to your Customer base follows:

  1. Marketers, particularly those that operate in a B2B space, are always looking for content. Surprisingly, they often overlook Rules of Engagement material as viable content … probably because they are that close to the subject that it gets overlooked. Similarly, the Rules of Engagement make great content for your Sales Representative Team … and it shows that you want to make the Customer’s lot easier, which reflects positively.
  2. New Customers need to be “on boarded” in much the same way that new staff are introduced to the organization. Ensure that the communication of the Rules of Engagement to new Customers is centre stage in your “new Customer on boarding” process. Surprisingly, I know many companies that in fact have no “new Customer on boarding” process. New Customers are left to figure things out on their own. This practice tends to result in relatively few “Mr Smiths” and a lot of Customer frustration.
  3. Don’t just accept the status quo. If your Customers don’t find your Rules of Engagement user friendly, it’s time to start doing some re-engineering. You may find the “Moments of Reality … and the development of Strategy” blog article to be a useful read in this regard.
  4. Communicating the Rules of Engagement is not a once off exercise. You need to continually be on the search for new mechanisms that you can use to make sure that your Rules of Engagement are communicated to your Customer. Customers are only human, they tend to forget.
  5. When Customers are in need of help regarding doing business with you, they tend to resort to a visit to your web site. It stands to reason that your web site must accurately and simply document your Rules of Engagement. Your social media strategy should likewise operate on the same basis.
  6. In business, change is often the only constant that we are in a position to predict. Your Change Management procedures need to be drafted in such a manner that any changes in the Rules of Engagement are clearly communicated to your Customer.
  7. The better your Customers understand your Rules of Engagement, the lower your exposure to queries that are the consequence of Customer error. This will have cost, service and ultimately profitability benefits.

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