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Serving the true purpose of a customer

April 26, 2010 1 comment

There’s quite a famous quote from business guru the late Peter Drucker that is often used by customer service people.  He said: “The single most important thing to remember about any enterprise is that there are no results inside its walls. The result of a business is a satisfied customer.”   And I don’t think there is much to argue with there.   In many businesses I have seen managers spending far too much time worrying about themselves, their meetings and their processes and as a result are often deflected from what they should be striving to achieve – the satisfied customer.  

Interestingly though I have often seen Drucker misquoted as the “purpose of a business is a satisfied customer.”   There is a lot of customer service chatter in which we compete with each other to state how committed we are to customers and how passionate we are about service and this misquotation is a product of that zealousness.   

There is a big difference between result and purpose: a result is a completed outcome while a purpose is an ongoing goal.   A business without satisfied customers is unlikely to succeed that’s true but just having satisfied customers is not going to pay the bills.

The purpose of a company is something quite different.  The purpose of a company is to deliver value to shareholders. 

So then the  first question is what kind of value are you to deliver:  is it going to be long term, short term, capital growth, dividend etc etc?  How the company then fulfills this purpose is its strategy.  No doubt service and customer experience management must be at the heart of that strategy.   But it should be recognised that satisfied shareholders are the true purpose of the business while the buyers of product and services are a means to that end.   

Obviously profitable buyers are crucial to a business, and the right culture is essential and so is the effective use of efficient processes, people and technology.    Experts have been telling CEOs for years that they have to adopt a service culture in their business and I agree with that whole heartedly.   

But the rest of the team – managers and workers – have to recognise that service is not some blind faith where the customer is always right.  Good service has a purpose and they need to adopt a business perspective what that is and so to understand the purpose of their organisation and why they are being asked to do what they do.   Call centre agents, front of house staff even the back office teams can get mushroomitis where they are kept in the dark and fed an unpleasant diet. 

As a result of such employee engagement, of them seeing the big picture, of treating staff like intelligent people,  performance will surely improve.

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Personalising the faceless transaction is key to winning online business

April 12, 2010 Leave a comment

There was an interesting statistic last week from the Office for National Statistics that said for the first time more than half of the UK population has bought something online.  Frankly I was a little surprised that by now  it was still only half but then that is probably my fault for living in a tech bubble and forgetting that so many have yet to be touched by the eCommerce revolution. 

However what it also suggests to me is that there is still a huge amount of growth still to be had for eRetailers – above the 15% pa they are currently experiencing – as existing buyers get more confident and more and more people join the party.  So there is a great opportunity but also a great challenge as the honey pot attracts more and more competitors. 

The big question is how do you make yourself stand out on the web – or why will the consumer choose you, keep coming back to you and recommend you to their friends?  The days of technical innovation on a site while not behind us yet are unlikely to make a huge difference so it has to be something else.

No, obviously the answer is around the service you provide and the experience that the customer takes away – pretty much like in store retailing really (and don’t forget price IS a part of the experience).  But unlike store retailing, online the transaction is faceless and impersonal.   Your best customer could be online and you may well have no idea who they are, what drives them, what repels them.  If they stay, great; if they go why? How can you possibly win them back?  In a flash they are gone and you have no understanding why.   Interestingly you also have no idea why those other customers are staying but if you did know why then you could do those right things more often. 

I discussed recently why personalisation is important  over routine “hygiene factors” in making the positive difference to customers but there lies the rub – how can one personalise a service to a customer when you don’t know who they are.    Your analytics and other clever software systems will tell you what they do on your site, not why they do it?  Nor will they tell you what their reaction is to that experience and how that will affect their propensity to repurchase or recommend.  Nor will they tell if the delivery agent was surly, the packaging damaged or any number of things that could go wrong with the fulfilment.  Nor will they tell you when the customer phoned to ask for explanation that the agent in the call centre was considered surly and inattentive.  But now the customer may well have gone for ever even after a successful online experience.  

Will pure play online retailers have to have a high street, bricks and mortar presence as a way of establishing customer relationships and securing brand values?  Possibly not if they can find a way of personalising (and always improving) the online experience.  Will all retailers doing business online need to align their channels so they present a consistent brand and customer experience across all touch points – absolutely certainly they will.