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Posts Tagged ‘customer experience’

Why customer service engineers benefit from the human touch

November 17, 2010 Leave a comment

I have had two conflicting conversations recently about the installation of new mobility technology in field service applications.  On the one hand a vendor of tracking solutions said the age of the difficult engineer refusing to accept this sort of ‘spy in the cab’ technology was over.  On the other a service manager said things may be better than they once were but management certainly does not have carte blanche when it comes to putting technology in the hands of engineers. 

Obviously these two people have differing perspectives and I am sure many readers will have had their own interesting experiences here when driving change.  It does seem to be one of the ironies of life that is the human’s ability to adapt to its environment that has made it one of the planet’s most successful species but we can all still get uppity when we are given a new tool at work. 

So one of the big challenges on any new mobility programme (by which I mean communicating with field engineers or their vehicles either directly or indirectly) is to get the engineers on board. Issuing orders or diktats isn’t effective – you might get it installed but you won’t get it working to the best of its capability.  “Engineers have that passive aggressive thing which means equipment has a strange habit of malfunctioning if they don’t like it,” said my friend.

So how do you get them to not only accept but also embrace this change? Appeal to their self interest was the conclusion of my straw poll.  Here are some favoured ways I’ve heard.

  1. Tell them it’s for their own safety particularly when working alone.  This won’t necessarily win their hearts but for their minds it is difficult to argue against
  2. Sell them the more interesting, personal benefits such as how much easier it will make their working day by reducing paperwork, better diagnostic tools, access to colleagues to discuss tricky problems.  Perhaps it might even give them access to the internet while they are travelling or an app which can tell them the location of the nearest donut shop
  3. Get them flashy kit they’ll like to show off to their mates down the pub – engineers are gadget lovers so appeal to that one-upmanship
  4. Bribe them – give them cash at the installation and a reward once it starts producing savings
  5. Appoint a peer group leader – someone who has the team’s respect, will champion the cause and lessen the them and us attitude 
  6. Run a competition for the best engineers and the winners get the new system – make it a badge of honour and having it aspirational
  7. Engage with them on the kit or system you are buying.  Let them test it and feel they have had a hand in the purchase and that it’s not foisted on them

In summary, although it may be hard to believe for some managers, engineers are only human and so may have a better nature to appeal to.   If you have ever done that successfully some other way please share it with others at the Service Management LinkedIn Group

This article first appeared on Service Management 365.

How do we calculate the result of poor customer service?

January 19, 2010 1 comment

Poor customer service is costing businesses £3.4bn each year concluded a recent study by Merlin Stone  for Oxford Brookes University. My first reaction was this is just stating the ‘bleedin’ obvious’ and why was money spent on it.

Of course, all I was seeing was the press release and so there is probably a lot more weight to this – especially if Merlin Stone is behind it. I have followed his thinking on service for over a decade and it could never be described as lightweight. And I am sure the sponsor wanted some facts particularly around the amount of money involved/lost to poor service to help them shift product. Interestingly there was another report at the back end of last that put the cost of poor service at £15bn to UK businesses  – anyway the fact remains that we all know instinctively that poor service costs businesses and the numbers are little more than guess work.

My more considered second thought was that the process of trying to simplify the ‘poor service equals lost business’ equation down to that single number means much of the detail is lost as to how one gets to that point.  Understanding that calculation is important in running a service business (is there any other kind?).  The difficult bit is knowing what aspects of poor service affect the customer’s buying habits and how big their direct and indirect effects are. There are plenty of supposedly “poor” service companies doing well (sorry to mention Ryanair again) and “good” service companies struggling eg British Airways.

As an aside here do we mean customer experience rather than customer service

There is a slight problem with supposedly instinctive understanding. How do we know God exists? Because the evidence is all around us. Faith works for believers but not for bean counters so the effect of good service needs to be calculated. Otherwise we could be spending millions on services the customer doesn’t care about or is going to leave us anyway or nothing at all because the manager can not justify it to the CFO.

Someone, somewhere, will have done a formula for the effects of service on sales and profit (what about share value or market share?). It will have a number of variables in it – the customer demographic, their spend, the market, your strategy/goals, the competitive landscape, the regulatory landscape, your brand and so on. Sadly it means the calculation is always going to be a very individual one for each business.

These sorts of research surveys are really only there to get people thinking about the impact of poor service and to get publicity for the participants, so don’t place too much faith in them.

Why is customer experience more important than service?

November 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Some recent research indicated that the customer experience is now a more important competitive differentiator than customer service.  I twittered this and got an interesting response from Nigel Dean that raised the question: “Surely Service is a massive part of the customer’s experience? Can the experience be good if the service isn’t?” 

Admittedly I have found it hard to think of an example of when a customer experience would be considered good when the service wasn’t but, on the other hand, quite often the customer experience can be poor even when the service is good.  Essentially service is one contributing factor to the customer experience but it is wrapped up in many other factors many of which are not directly in the control of the provider.

Consider the interaction with the customer. On one side the provider presents things to the customer: quality, a brand, trained staff, service and so on.   They provide these things in the hope – even the strong belief – that they will delight the customer. On the other side of the deal the customer takes away an experience. 

But this means the focus of the service provider is on what they provide and not on what the customer actually sees, feels, touches and emotes about.  These reactions constitute the customer experience and they are the factors that will affect the result or outcome of the experience.

Understanding the customer experience is an exercise in empathy.  What is their emotional point when they first deal with you? Are they angry, desperate, indifferent etc?  These are emotions generated before contact and quite often be less than rational.  What does the customer expect from your brand? I expect different things  from a Ramsay restaurant than my local greasy spoon where frankly the service is often better but my experience at Chez Ramsay is better.     

How did they react to your way of doing business – remember, it may not be theirs. Was their issue resolved, be it service or purchase?   Did they get value for money? 

And finally how was the transaction loop closed – what was their emotional reaction to what happened?  What was the outcome of those reactions? Will they promote you or be a detractor? In the age of social networking the voice of the customer travels at the speed of light through a network of millions so this is crucial.  Do their peers think the experience/outcome was cool? (Peer pressure is a surprisingly powerful motivating force from kids with the latest gadget to business people and their BMWs?)

For a time there was a philosophy around called Customer Relationship Management (CRM) that attempted to round up this ‘experience issue’ but it suffered from two flaws.  It suggests you can control the relationship with the customer – the customer is now in control.  And the second problem is that CRM is about making managers look inwards at how they do things:  structure,  technology, processes etc and not at the customers’ experiences.  Having said that, CRM software tools are great at collecting massive amounts of raw data and we are now seeing some clever analytical tools work that data to give tremendous insight into customer activity and behaviour.  There is a caveat there, of course, that previous behaviour is no guarantee of future behaviour.

One other route to understanding the customer experience is to carry out a customer satisfaction survey but that will give you a figure for “how much” – it does not give any real insight into “why?” or “what was the outcome?” which are much more important if you are to keep doing the right things and put right the bad.

There are some real experts in this area – not just an old hack blithering on – and the one I would recommend is Colin Shaw at Beyond Philosophy.