The reports, “Service Transformation: The Business Case” (pdf) and “Reviewing Field Service Strategy: Aligning Focus and Execution,” (pdf) provide important insights that executives should consider in redefining customer service and field service strategy.
According to “Service Transformation: The Business Case:”
- Almost 75 percent of survey respondents indicated that service is more important now than three years ago.
- 71 percent of non-service professionals have seen an increased importance placed on customer service over the last 12 months.
- 60 percent of respondents believe that service and support will be the key competitive differentiator in three years.
The studies find similar trends in the field service area, as the focus shifts from containing costs and improving internal processes, to providing customer solutions that improve customer satisfaction, profitability and maximum value.
- 84 percent of respondents believe improved diagnosis at the first point of contact is critical to providing a first-time fix, resulting in improved customer satisfaction.
- Organizations with a first-time fix rate of less than 50 percent struggle to drive customer satisfaction results, compared to those with a first-time rate of 90 percent or more.
“Customer service is actually the heart of your brand strategy,” said Jamie Anderson, global vice president product marketing, SAP customer engagement and commerce solutions. “The test of any relationship, business or personal, is not how you feel when things are going great, but how you feel when there is a problem and how that problem gets resolved.”
Here, Anderson offers three strategies business leaders can use to differentiate service offerings that boost customer satisfaction, drive revenue growth and help companies stay true to their brand promise.
1. Empower Your Front-Line Staff
In addition to having a very clear vision of differentiation, Anderson believes that the entire company, “from the C-level down to the person that is engaging the customer,” must feel empowered by leaders to take action based on that vision.
“Employee engagement and empowerment is a key aspect that is often forgotten in the rush to solve problems with innovative technology,” said Anderson. “You have to consider the strategy you have in place for engaging your customers and how you will empower your front-line staff -- your brand ambassadors -- to answer and resolve customer issues in the most effective and appropriate manner.”
2. Think of Customer Service from the Outside-In
According to Anderson, most internal processes are developed from the inside out, focusing on service efficiencies, and not always thought about from the customer perspective. Further, he stated, the systems of many companies were built for an age that pre-dates social and mobility.
“There is a trend that the traditional contact center is the place of last resort for some customers,” said Anderson. “When people have a problem, first they search on Google to see if they can solve the problem themselves, then go to social media, and then your contact center.”
For companies looking to improve service by meeting customers where they are in the support process, Anderson provides this advice:
“Don’t make the process difficult from the customer end. Customers own the power and ability to react, and it is our job to provide tools of engagement to manage the process.”
3. Recognize the Power of Peer-to-Peer Influence
“Because people trust reviews of peers before they trust brand advertising, it’s so important to get it right,” said Anderson. “Furthermore, in today's transparent world of peer reviews and social media, your problems and challenges can quickly become magnified.”
He cites two statistics that illustrate the influence word of mouth has on purchasing decisions:
- 53 percent of customers are willing to abandon an in-store purchase based on negative sentiment they read in an online review via their mobile device (Interactive Advertising Bureau, 2013)
- 75 percent of consumers cited the fact that they would pay more to a brand offering better service (American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, 2012).
“Service always tends to be about the exception, and is also the most telling area of a company,” concluded Anderson. “I firmly believe it is the strongest test of your brand strategy. Fail at service, and your brand promise is literally not worth the paper it’s written on.”