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Not only do customers' individual needs vary on a case by case basis, but as an aggregate
whole. Customers' needs are maturing and have become much more complex and
demanding than in earlier generations and, as a result, the need for higher standards of
service has arisen. Companies are constantly looking for ways to not only meet these high
expectations, but to exceed them. One way for companies to take customer service to the
next level is to take into consideration the element of context and how this can translate into
improved customer care. Identifying the context of a customer and their specific concerns
can lead to more tailored resolution and a more satisfied and loyal customer.
People want not only personalised answers to their enquiries; they are also looking for
personalisation in the way they are handled by a company and its service representatives.
One way in which customer context can be factored in, to achieve a more tailored support
process, is by supplying more information about the customer to the CSR at the point of
As an example, once a call is placed to a customer service agent, it can be immediately tied
to the customer's record. As soon as this correlation is established, the agent is provided
with not only that individual's order information (both past and current) but also with
supplementary information that can be helpful in solving the problem or dealing with the
purpose of the call.
Depending upon what is learned from each interaction with an organisation, customers may
alter their behaviour in ways that affect their individual profitability. So, by managing these
experiences, companies can orchestrate more profitable relationships with their customers.
The work of management consultants Bain and Co (inventors of the Net Promoter Score) in
directly linking customer retention with profitability has meant that building closer
relationships with potential and existing customers is now a vital competitive strategy for
The Net Promoter Score
The Net Promoter Score is a calculation that takes into account how strongly people would
be likely to promote your brand and returns a single score, expressed as a percentage.
It was developed by Frederick Reichheld for Bain and Company.
Internal Influences on Customer Service 111
The main premise of the technique is that a single question provides an accurate
measurement not just for customer loyalty but corporate success. Customers are asked a
single question to be rated on a 0 to 10 scale: "How likely is it that you would recommend
our company to a friend or colleague?" Based on their response, they are coded as
promoters (9-10 rating), passives (7-8 rating) or detractors (0-6 rating).
The NPS Score is simply the percentage of promoters minus the percentage of detractors.
Any score over 50% is quite good while 75% or above is exceptionally good. Low (or
negative) scores are indicative of companies that may have serious issues regarding
Research by Bain has shown a correlation between NPS and revenue growth, the higher a
company's NPS score the higher the revenue growth.
Research has illustrated that there is a general consensus among executives, across a
range of industries, that customers often value how they interact with organisations as much
as or more than what they actually buy. Consequently, increased emphasis is being placed
on managing the customer experience during the service interaction, whilst personalisation
strategies aimed at providing customers with individually tailored services are becoming
increasingly important. Better education, technological innovations and the availability of
information means that more knowledgeable customers are now better placed to engage in
informed interactions with customer service personnel. They want to collaborate with
customer service professionals in determining what the specific service offering should entail
and this collaboration is increasingly helped by technology.
The essence of this is information – from the company's point of view, about the customer,
but also from the customer's point of view about the organisation he/she is dealing with. This
may include acquiring information relating to the customer and the company itself, the
company's industry, publicly available financial information, recent company news or press
releases and the like from external applications. It may also incorporate information
developed from informal internal sources such as:
Journaling – Journaling by customer facing employees is a useful tool for gathering
deep insight through observation and conversation that is often not captured in
systems. These informal impressions include the reason for engaging with a company,
reactions to steps in a specific process that they may find confusing and/or
unnecessary, and suggestions for improvement.
Personas – Personas help bring customer segments to life or, if none currently exist,
can be an ideal way to begin creating informal customer segments. Personas are
created by using data from all potential sources such as front line employees, partners,
databases etc. and provide a rounded picture of customers beyond standard
demographic data by recording personal preferences, skills, interests and hobbies,
buying behaviour, etc.
Unstructured data – Companies today have access to an untold amount of customer
data through a variety of channels such as blogs, online forums, wikis, call centres and
more. However, most companies have yet to determine how to exploit that data
effectively. Companies that make the effort to identify the most relevant sources of
customer insight, understand the data and analyse it in conjunction with structured
customer data from internal databases and CRM systems, will have the most
comprehensive understanding of their customers.
The collected data, which is pushed to the customer service agent immediately, enables that
agent to further understand who the customer is and the context of the enquiry. This creates
not only a more engaging one to one interaction but also adds depth to the level of
customisation the caller receives.
112 Internal Influences on Customer Service
Giving support and service staff access to client histories, a variety of support documentation
and the most relevant information relating to the context of the contact enables them to
harness this pre-existing data and use it to their advantage – both to solve the problem and
make for a better customer relations environment in the process.
Customer relationship management systems can flash suggestions on the screen to help
service reps identify potential solutions for an individual customer. However, computer
software cannot pick up human nuances. Software is no substitute for good judgment based
on training, experience, and selection of perceptive agents.
Case Study 3
Examples of good practice include Dell Computer Corporation, whose
technicians are trained to hone the customer relation skills they need for
telephone support and problem guidance and to focus directly on the
customer‟s needs without using technical jargon.
The Ritz-Carlton hotel group combines employee training with information
systems to provide its guests with superior service, whenever they stay with
the hotel chain. Employees are given a „guest preference pad‟ to record
every preference gleaned from conversation, or observation. These are
entered daily on to a worldwide database so that the requirements of a
guest staying at any other Ritz-Carlton in the world are immediately known
to the staff. In both cases, staff training and motivation are vital – a great
deal depends upon accurate and consistent recording of information and
the ability of staff to multi-task across functional boundaries.
Service Level Agreements
Following on this concept of pulling in pre-existing information to enhance the interaction
between a CSR and the customer, another way in which a client's account context can be
incorporated into the customer service process, particularly in the business to business area,
is to manage service level agreements (SLAs). SLAs often play an important role in the
business to consumer relationship, in that they lay out the service responsibilities that are to
be delivered by the organisation to meet the expectations of the customer.
While SLAs can be universal in nature, an individual SLA can also be unique due to
variations in the specific nature of the business to client relationship. Any single SLA can
include many different service options, which define the type of service that will be available
for example, in terms of IT support, advanced technical support, phone support or simple
email and online support – as well as the time frame during which any issue should be
closed or how problems should be escalated. Based on predetermined standards in an SLA,
the customer service team immediately knows what level of service should be given to any
particular customer and can prioritise the customer service response based on this
information. Also, the available services and a customer's privileges can vary from one
customer to another, given the context of the SLA. Having this predefined in the SLA and
automatically accessible for reference, allows the service representative to immediately know
what format of service should be applied to the enquiry.
Internal Influences on Customer Service 113
In this chapter we have:
Examined how internal processes, including IT, contribute to the efficient delivery of the
Identified the factors for and against the establishment of a specific customer service
function and how co-operation between functions is crucial to customer service
Analysed the risks and benefits associated with outsourcing and offshoring for service
support roles or direct customer interaction facilities
Investigated the importance of personalised service organisation.
Competition is probably the most significant force boosting the demand for world class
customer service. More complex products, the role of technology in driving down costs by
automating certain tasks and extended customer bases are forcing companies to re-evaluate
how they do business and serve to highlight the need to see world class service as a highly
strategic part of the organisation. Delivering exceptional customer service can be a key
differentiator for success in competitive markets.
Contact centres and automated software applications may be viewed by some as impersonal
and separate from the main business of the organisation, but there is no reason why they
should not be customer centric by design and efficiently operated to provide excellent
114 Internal Influences on Customer Service
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