Archive | February 2013

Setting the base for Customer Satisfaction.

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Different organizations have different strategies to achieve excellence for providing services. Customer Satisfaction has many facets and many bases to cover to give that ultimate experience to the customers and thus many view points.However, there are some basics which should be in place before and after deploying any strategy to work successfully to achieve satisfaction.

In my earlier blogs I wrote about cultural excellence, customer centricity, establishing balance between authority and responsibility, understanding what customer wants.These all assist in creating the right kind of environment congenial for providing service excellence to our customers.

Once the environment, culture and team are established then we start focusing on the core ingredients which culminate into means of providing services , these further move into the cycle of continuous process improvements which help in keeping the customer retained and happy in a long-term association.

What are these Core Ingredients:-

1) Reviewing internal processes and technology platform:-before embarking on this journey it’s very important to review internal processes and map them to current work environment and future requirements.All gaps should be addressed, clarification sought and given, changes incorporated, document version updated and closed with interdepartmental teams for seamless implementation, thereafter.Any necessary technology updates should be reviewed keeping the vision , strategy and customer VOC into perspective.

2) Data collation and analysis:-Simultaneously with the above activity, data collation and analysis should be initiated. Post data collation and analysis one should consider the top 10-20% areas impacting the performance and leading to poor VOC. This could be looked at for different segments provided the company has invested in segmentation of their customer base and if not then this could be the right time for a consolidated activity to:

a) Identify customers basis the available information:-Any information that helps in knowing the customer better should be updated in the systems such as salutations, age, gender, date of birth,identification proof, occupation,any service specifications.Mostly the basic information should be updated on priority and then KYC implemented for a more customized approach.While the basic customer data would be available either in an integrated system or in bits and pieces, in case of no integration, where it would be important to have parity and authenticity of information on applications being used by sale representatives, documentation agencies, field force and frontline.

b) Identify the customer segments basis their spend and longivity:-At its simplest level, a segmentation may be based on service usage.  Some segmentations are based on demographic or attitudinal characteristics, or a
combination of both. Exploratory qualitative research can also be used to tease out how different customers use a service.

c) Developing employee view of service priorities:- by conducting open forums with the frontline to understand their perspective of customer behaviour. In order to make the life of frontline easy a VOC module could be introduced within the CRM software to capture information regarding customer problems, difficult service situations and sources to customer anxiety by the front line.

3) Developing customer view of service priorities:-The customer view of priorities could be captured through focus groups,one on one interviews, these not only provide a realistic view of customers perception of the company but also highlights its strengths and weaknesses.The other way of capturing customer priorities would be through customer satisfaction form which evaluates customers overall experience with frontline, showrooms, products and processes, overall satisfaction and loyalty with the organization.Some recent methods of capturing information would be through IVR or email, instant customer surveys through sms or  capturing VOC through social media.Research carried out in the UK organisations suggests that there are five themes that are likely to be relevant to all organisations:
● Delivery of the service (how problems were handled, reliability, outcome etc)
● Timeliness (waiting times, number of times contacted)
● Information (accuracy, enough information, kept informed)
● Professionalism (competent staff, fair treatment)
● Staff attitude (friendly, polite, sympathetic)

These could vary basis priority and importance set by the organization.

Once the information has been collated from VOC modules and survey the data will need to be interpreted to provide actionable insights for the organisation. Finally, the results will need to be communicated across the organisation in such a way that the findings are taken on board and action taken as a result. For many organisations this process will form a continuous cycle of improvement.

The results should be customized while sharing with the target audience. The senior management would be keen to know about key findings such as how does the customer perceive the performance of the company, information that would help the management decide on targets for transformations. While the middle management and frontline would be able to build operational actionable and engage in trainings with the help of in-depth findings on each and every parameter impacting the customer service function.

4) Benchmarking internally and externally for continuous improvement:-One question that often gets asked, however, is “x% of customers say they are
satisfied with the service, but is this good or bad?”Benchmarking against other sources can help to answer this question. There are two possible ways to
do this:
● Comparing over time with previous surveys about the same service
● Comparing with other surveys about other similar services.

With all these activities being run parallelly its important to check the impact and the implementation status on the services being delivered to the customers. Customer Satisfaction Surveys and benchmarking activities are not conducted everyday but are scheduled activities .Thus meanwhile, its important to keep the leadership informed via:

1) Regular call listening by the management team or mystery shopping.

2) In house Quality audit and process compliance routine:-This will enable the management to track any deviations at the frontline through regular audit check and process audits at various levels i.e. people, technology and process compliance on new, revised processes, upgraded technology platforms, ease of usage by frontline in adopting to new processes, technology and assessing customer behaviour through them.

3) Internal audits should be a mirror image of the external surveys:- This enablement is not as easy as it sounds, as this would involve creating a very highly focussed customer oriented team which can think exactly like the customer.This will not only involve highly evolved training sessions which enables the frontline or any customer facing group or technology team responsible for creating frontline applications to think like a customer but also to gain thorough knowledge about products and processes with all its strengths and weaknesses. Once any organization is able to achieve this feat the data that will be captured through VOC module will be highly authentic and could be used by marketing, IT, customer service or senior management without filtration. The audits conducted will then be close enough to give us a surrogate customer satisfaction score giving time and scope for improvement, if required.

4) Comparing between customer spend “then” and “now”-The organization has invested in setting up or improving customer satisfaction strategies, upgrading technology platforms, revisiting training, customer service, backoffice and enabling frontline. While it is  reviewing the change in customer satisfaction levels its important to check any comparable improvement in the spend by the customers. A considerable time should be allocated in understanding what segments of customers are showing a higher allegiance to the brand post the changes were implemented and towards which products or services.This will also provide another view and that of retention in case certain segments of customer refuse to accept  or are unhappy with the change.

Sometimes the then implemented solutions might not work now. In such scenarios the next step is to go right back to the start, review where you are now, and start a new cycle of research to assess the success of your interventions.

Authority or Responsibility..Way to Success?

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The most complex yet undeniably important inter-relationship between authority and responsibility, paves the way to success if and only if the relationship can be understood and used to create a harmonious and rewarding environment.

Lets look at the definition first:-

au·thor·i·ty n

  1. the right or power to enforce rules or give orders
  2. somebody or something with official power
  3. power to act on behalf of somebody else or official permission to do something
  4. somebody who is accepted as a source of reliable information on a subject, or a book in which such information is given

re·spon·si·bil·i·ty n

  1. the state, fact, or position of being accountable to somebody or for something
  2. the blame for something that has happened
  3. somebody or something for which a person or organization is responsible>authority to make decisions independently

As seen in most of the cases any authoritative position comes with responsibility. Responsibility to authorize, delegate, monitor and be responsible for the end results. So the job does not end if you have passed on your responsibility to your team/team member, infact it becomes all the more critical and takes up your ownership towards the task a few notches up.

To understand this better I have categorized individuals with Authority:-

1) Individuals who pass on the authority and forget.

2) Individuals who pass on the authority and keep a hawk’s eye on the task delegated.

3) Individuals who do not pass on any authority but believe in working themselves to complete the task.

Who do you think will be most successful.There might be different opinions as in all the three categories the situation might differ and so would the leadership style.

Lets try and evaluate some situations which have led to the above categorization:

 In the first category the person in authority has delegated and forgotten because:

1) (S)He is basically forgetful.But will remember after a month that there was a task which was delegated and starts inquiring when at that point some other task might be more critical.

2) Has too many tasks on hand and less time to attend to all the open tasks thus these are delegated and forgotten. This usually happens when there is an overlap of responsibilities or less people compared to org. structure.

3) Has a very mature team and (S)he knows that the task wll be completed without any reminders.

In the second category:

1) Absolutely distrusts his team; does not value their involvemnt , knowledge or experience levels.

2) Has a team which requres constant follow up..Its either new or there are fitment issues.

3) Does not have the right knowledge for the job thus constant intervention not only allows him(her) to understand the task better but also present the completed task in front of the management.

In the third category:

1) Believes in his work more than his team’s.This could be because of inexperience, fitment issues or (S)he is a control freak.

2) Does not want to share information with the team fearing better accomplishment by the team/team member.

3) Knows that passing on the authority could add on to the workload so the shortcut is to finish the task on his/her own.

What is the best way to find the right balance between authority and responsibility:

It is important to pass on the authority but its also important to adequately empower the team to handle those tasks by way of:-

1) Training and bridging the gaps in the improvement areas so that the team is able to participate in your success to make way for themselves eventually.

2) Paving the path by the co-ordinating and collaborating with interdepartmental teams for seamless work co-ordination and closure by your team members

3) By creating an environment of mutual trust and respect within the team.

4) Building team passion and maturer outlook by inculcating team work so that if you succeed the team should know that they benefit from your success too.

Some words of caution do not expect the job to be completed without authority as this will not only hamper your performance evals but will also seep in layers of demotivation within your team/team members.

Rest as one says KEEP ROCKING!!

Building Cultural Excellence

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In my experience as an Operation and Quality head I realized that there always was a gap between the vision and understanding of Cultural Excellence. The management agenda and vision digressed and disintegrated by the time it reached the middle management layers.Why was it so? Lets try to understand the reasons for such dichotomy:-

Where did the middle management layers miss BIG opportunities:-

1) Transparency within their teams,

2) To give full autonomy for any task.

3) Believe in the credibility of actions of one’s team.

4) Give space for innovation and best practices.

5) Share knowledge and information for the benefit of the team.

6) Try and build a stress free environment.

7) Listen to new ideas and give way for implementation.

8) Keep the lines of communication open

9)  Build a congenial environment which is open, responsible and felicitates proactiveness.

10) Collaborate and communicate with inter-departmental teams for higher and better efficiencies.

11) Closeloop what has been promised to be delivered and be responsible for your actions.

12) Seek solutions to problems, rather than ways to lay blame.

13) Eliminate gossip and complaining.

Now all these factors could or not be present  in the thinking and actions of the responsible layers..But even ONE factor can have a negative impact.Alas, the vision of the management though present at the top has not trickled down appropriately.It is key that senior management be an integral part of the process, and that — from the CEO to the clerk — all employees are engaged.Its important to understand that just creating a vision will not be enough thus its criticalto demonstrate vision practically and visually not once but ALL the time by the top management. The organization on the whole should participate in such events where they get to see examples being set and felicitated. A vision is a thought but to give this a practical shape requires focus, determination and conviction.

A Concentrated effort to build prioritized focus areas is a great step towards achieving excellence and getting attention for eg: FOCUS AREA 1-Developing positive and productive relationships, FOCUS AREA 2-Communicating and Collaborating efficiently and effectively. These should be explained well by further breaking up the focus area into groups and sub groups in short and concise manner  for better and clear understanding at all layers.

Practices that Foster a Culture of Excellence.
Specific practices may seem mundane after lofty discussions of the culture of excellence you are creating. Nevertheless, it is often in“the little things” that great shifts are effected. Ultimately the practices that make a lasting difference in the culture of an organization fall into three categories:
1. Those that generate alignment,partnership and a powerful place to stand,
2. Those that foster effective communication, and
3. Those that maintain an environment of experimentation, creation and
invention. 

A final note:-

Throughout this process its important to imbibe and foster the vision as this would act as THE ingredient to SUCCESS! All circumstances should be seized as opportunities for learning.To keep oneself motivated be sure to capture the changes in the environment that positively impacts productivity and effectiveness and makes your organization different from others.

So don’t forget that you are not just working but INVENTING , STAYING ENGAGED and BEING ALIVE  in a Culture of Excellence.

Understanding Operational Efficiency

Improving Operational efficiencies improves profitability but also customer satisfaction.The trick is to balance between profitability and customer satisfaction.These two are often seen as disparate aspects of business solutioning…rather than 2 sides of the same coin.

Before I proceed there are some critical definitions one should be clear about:

1) Difference between Efficiency and Effectiveness  –

Efficiency – “A measure of whether the right amount of resources have been used to deliver a process, service or activity. An efficient process achieves its objectives with the minimum amount of time, money, people or other resources.”

Effectiveness – “A measure of whether the objectives of a process, service or activity have been achieved. An effective process or activity is one that achieves its agreed objectives.”

So using these definitions in order to be efficient we must also be effective.

A common practise to achieve operational efficiency is by reducing the costs of delivering service,this could be applicable in any business environment i.e. B2B or B2C. Though this could have an immediate negative impact to an extent of going out of business as  the customer realizes the drop in services and moves on to competition, publicizing across known social media leading to poor VOC.

Most organizations have a knee jerk reaction.This also happens when timely action is not taken to correct recognized and acknowledged issues.Typically in a  service industry the operational issues could arise due to 

– Inappropriately designed contractual agreement,

-Hasty resource hiring due to high attrition or mismatch of demand vs supply,

-Short cuts in training due to high inflow of manpower and sudden increase of volume /new business opportunities,

-Ineffectively designed  training modules impacting Operational KPIs and eventually Customer Satisfaction.

With all or some of these prevailing travesties the most common action to reduce cost are:

-Permanent Headcount Removal

-Travel ban,cancellation of bonuses or postponement of promotions

-Loss of key headcount resulting in stretching of existing resources

-Reduction in motivation and thus productivity impacting service quality leading to loss of customers and revenue.

This forms a cyclic pattern usually taking place between six to nine months. Very often all such issues can be resolved by  focussing on tools and people, redesigning processes and making them clear & repeatable , investing in automation and overall improvement in Service Quality.

 The key of providing the right kind of Quality at optimal cost is:

-Using the available resources and tools efficiently to deliver cost effective service in the best possible manner.

-Pick up the top call drivers and products driving maximum revenue to improvise efficiencies rather than lower value products.

-Management buy-in to strike a balance between cost and quality, thus building a culture of driving efficiencies.

– Promoting a realistic thought process that prevails across all lines of businesses i.e. cutting cost will not lead to efficiencies.

-Standardization and implementation of processes which are baselined across competition so that best practises can be replicated.

-Improvement should be planned not only be at strategic but also at tactical levels.

-Considerable Improvements can be attained at operating core levels by bridging gaps in AHT,Forecasting,Shrinkage,Attrition, revisiting support spans.

  -Timely testing of products and services and launching them for the right customer base also giving the partner teams appropriate time to plan for resource  hiring and training.

Whats important is to learn from good and bad experiences and appropriately plan realistic targets. Its not important that success is achieved in the first attempt thus any new solutions should go through a documented pilot phase before moving into full fledged implementation stage. All phases of implementation should be subjected to internal governance and regular checks.

The balance between providing services and managing costs is critical to survive in today’s highly competitive world.

Being Customer Centric

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Being customer centric has so many facets and all need to fit perfectly like a  rubik cube…Its has trillion permutations for it to look as one similarly in order to achieve co-ordination in any organization for a customer centric approach to evolve and sustain , departmental disengagement and disintegration, has to abstain so that the  right juxtaposition can be achieved  and a true customer centric organization can evolve! The method could be many but the result has to be  BEING -ONE.

BUSINESS-CO-ORDINATION

But how do we get everyone to work together?…Its easier said then done when everyone has a separate agenda driven by their department KPIs , budgetary constraints and even politics! While everyone might agree in principle but is everyone really putting in their bit? The fear of this being reduced to flavor of the month is significant in scenarios where its treated more like a fad than a rigorous drive towards providing the right treatment to the customer.

HOW TO ACHIEVE and SUSTAIN THE DRIVE

We need all hands on deck and that means we need a purposeful agreement not only from Customer excellence team but from Marketing, HR,IT ,Infrastructure and other related departments.The Customer experience team should comprise of individuals from all the departments with the senior leadership team as head of the Steering committee reviewing the performance on regular i.e. weekly/bi-monthly basis.Nothing should compromise the occurance of these review meeting and the core team should be evaluated on the customer experience improvement activities as their primary KPIs.At this juncture its very important to allign departmental KPIs with customer experience. All the internal quality measures/IVR or any kind of outbound , external surveys should be redesigned to measure and capture the actual experience of the customer  throughout the complete customer life cycle.

Not to forget that the leaders should reward anyone and everyone who puts the customer first!

CUSTOMER’s WALLET SHARE

All customers deserve the the right kind of service as per their allegiance and wallet share.Thus its very critical to segment the customer basis the same and provide differentiated services and customized solutions for them. Providing individual solutions can be restricted to the top customer base.

A significant opportunity awaits any organization which delivers what it promises.These opportunities come in the shape of  customer retention and an increased market share and delivery to the customer by way of  incentivizing  them through the loyalty programs.This should be a continuous process of identifying and incentivizing . Thus,Stelios Haji-Ioannou, Chairman of easyGroup and founder of easyJet, makes this clear by saying: “You can spend £15m on advertising, go bankrupt and your name can still mean nothing to people. Your brand is created out of customer contact and the experience your customers have of you” .

IMPORTANCE OF SYSTEMATIC TRAINING

There is a lot said about how to achieve customer satisfaction and deliver “the” experience to the customer but do we really need to go through insatiated hours of training or read 100 pages of any manual to instill the culture of being caring, giving ,expressive,having an ability to trust, care and listen when we all are consumers and customers in our own world.All we need is to deliver what we expect to be delivered. Whats important is to grasp the core essentials like how to deliver, identify the right customer, how to analyse the behavioural pattern, spend, likes-dislikes,voice of the customers and priortize.

Its critical that systematic training should be imparted at all customer facing fronts in case of any new product/process launch, changes in technology,customer service vision, brand awareness, upskilling of identified individuals from a perspective of providing consistency in values, service levels and the information/service/assistance provided to the customers.These trainings should not merely be a tick in the box but followed by routine checks and balances.

WHAT DOES BEING CENTRIC ENCOMPASS

Any customer centric solution should be weighted around how customer needs are likely to change over the coming decade; the subsequent impact on the business; and how they could meet these challenges. All these solutions should be multidimensional so as to cover all aspects of business from strategic to tactical and then brand them in such a way as to create excitement and involvement across all lines of businesses.

Checklist for a customer centric organisation:

Map customer journey and lifecycle

· Refine operating model  to enable customer centricity

· Align technologies and processes to support and drive customer engagement

· Engage executives and leaders

· Focus development around target areas and behaviour change

· Integrate disparate business unit cultures

· Transform culture top to bottom

· Measure change using key metrics

· Incorporate customer feedback into processes and behaviours

Till Tomorrow..Wish you great beginings to a great week ahead!!

Why does an organization need Customer Experience Managers?

Customer_experience_hierarchy

So how do we reach a point where the customer becomes a advocate of the products and services being offered , a true loyalist and recommends the services to his circle of friends and family?

Another day full of surprises at work but isn’t that a routine…elevation from rudimentary levels will only happen when you break away from your mundane activities and concentrate on what really needs your attention…such as when was the last time you heard a call or spoke to your customer,viewed any interaction made with the customer by any of the customer facing teams,evaluated the best option to be provided to address the top 3 concerns of the customers,institutionalized a VOC program,checked if those million actionable implemented are giving any results or not? But everyone has SME’s today to conduct such activities..Why Bother? Do we realise the need of a team which targets,designs/ redesign,actions and checks and while doing so promotes and elevates the importance of customer experience for seamless co-ordination and collaboration.

Like I mentioned in my previous blog on Customer experience there is a need to nurture and create Customer Experience managers.So if you work in an organization which has recognized the importance and need of providing customer experience ,collaborating internally and 100% supportive, then these are some of the activities that require the focus of the Customer Experience Management team:
1) Fix the gaps in the Customer Life cycle management.All layers and divisions in the organization should be involved in the activity of identifying the gaps depending on their job description, making changes in the process/sub processes/backend/applications and finally control checks for evaluating success of the changes made.

2) Create a strong VOC (VOICE OF CUSTOMER)program building rigor around studying the reasons for customer satisfaction and dissatisfaction.Illustrate,celebrate and set benchmarks levels on consistently meeting targets on areas where customer continues to be satisfied. Target concern areas, prioritize the issues as this will help focus on right data than more data.This will also help build on better operational efficiencies and customer loyalty.Not to forget that a very dynamic and sophisticated system would be required to capture VOC from all channels and delivers the finding back across the organization for action.Closelooping all programs is essential to see a positive impact.

3) The above 2 steps will help us uncover the customer expectations and build or redesign systems, processes, applications keeping the same into perspective.We now need to track and measure all these thus imperative to build a customer experience scorecard.this will allow the organization to focus on what really matters to its customers, to understand how well it’s doing and make targeted investments to improve those elements of customer experience which promises to improve the gain share.

One should not forget that customers are people and not numbers thus they all should be dealt with individually.The services they are provided should be personalized and customized.The emotions of the customers should be captured, studied and feedback actioned upon. All products and services should be created keeping customers point of view into perspective.

Most importantly all this can be done with a well-rounded customer experience management team.

Keep the customers happy!!

Will Return with more on Monday..Till then have a great weekend!

A little more about customer experience…

As promised I am back with more today however before I start writing about Quality Assurance I wanted to clear the concept of Customer Experience/Satisfaction..I have often felt that this term of Satisfaction/Experience is the most overated jargon,and I know I am not alone when I say that as many of you would have also felt this often.I am sure you would have all heard about the story of “Elephant and blind men” (taking the cue from this story)its overated because of varying perspective within hierarchies,divisions and organization and tends to be repetitive without a clear agenda or objective set for achieving the target of making customers happy.While some organizations might have clear agenda, strategy and even customer experience embedded goal statements/brand but the objective withers down and gets pushed ito corners because of sudden drop in profit margins..Do we forget that the only way for a prolonged, long lasting gain is through the customer!

And if both were aligned wouldn’t that be better as most of the business problems arise due to bad customer experience.While some companies are prepared, but the pace of change and requirements to be flexible mean that many are still struggling to keep up. Very few people are thinking strategically.
WHAT TO DO: Management driving single point agenda and organization wide actionables with sustained efforts to achieve the goals
WHAT NOT TO DO: Don’t take a one-size-fits-all view of the customer experience that focuses only on incrementally improving basic metrics while ignoring how customer experience can help achieve more-
strategic business objectives.
IDEAL LEADERSHIP QUALITY: To align customer experience capabilities to tactical efforts to improve bottom line and promote customer experience in the organization.Build Customer Experience leaders/managers…buld a strong collaborative organization where everyone respects and adheres to one single truth of providing true Customer Experience with this truth in mind sharing of data and processes across teams and departments supporting and owning both.

Thus:-
“Three Secrets of Success for Customer Experience Organizations.” They are:
1-Executive commitment
2-Organizational alignment and process redesign
3-Employee engagement
All three of these elements must work together to create right internal environment. But before any steps can be taken, “businesses need to know what they and their customers get out of the customer experience,”

This is the reality of approaching “experience” from customer point of view.Once the customer buys in to this reality and credibility he would align with the organization as ONE.

Will be back tomorrow with more….Till Then Make an attempt to make atleast one customer/client/stakeholder HAPPY:)

 

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