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US and UK Customers Will Switch More than $60 Billion of Business this Year due to Poor Service

Richard McCann looks at Bringing Innovation to Customer Experience and the Role of Business Process Management

Wal-Mart Founder Sam Walton said, “There is only one boss - the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”

And Dell CIO Jerry Gregoire warns, “The customer experience is the next competitive battleground.”

 If your business fails to give customers a positive experience 'you risk being one of the companies that collectively has lost $41 billion when customers switched to a competitor,’ explains New York Times bestselling author Shep Hyken.

Hyken is referring solely to US losses. The UK adds a further $20 billion to the total. Add in a few more countries and go figure. No wonder 91% of financial services businesses say their ‘future growth depends on making customer experience special’ and 81% are ‘planning to invest more in customer management’.

But how to achieve this? Well, 98% of those businesses apparently believe that ‘the future lies in essential transformation of channels, processes and data’. Uh? Let’s investigate what that means.

“Being on par with price and quality only gets you in the game. Service wins the game,” says Tony Allesandra.

When survey firm Opinion Matters questioned more than 4,000 respondents in both the UK and US, a resounding 94% of all customers surveyed revealed that they would take 'some action' the very first time service levels failed to meet their expectations.

And while the British are sometimes perceived to be tolerant of poor service, the same survey indicates that 42% would take their business to a competitor ‘immediately’ if they were dissatisfied with service. North American customers still lead the way though, with 58% of respondents saying that if they experience poor customer service they never use that company again. Maybe worth taking a moment to reflect on that..?  But as Bill Gates says, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”

And in an era when some people think the youngest are the fastest to voice their dissatisfaction, in fact the 55+ generation was found to be the most impatient of all groups questioned. Clearly loyalty and tolerance of poor service does not increase with years…

But many enterprises are working to improve their service. Isn’t that enough? Sadly, no. Process standardisation and improving efficiency have, in past decades, been significant drivers of business transformation.  But squeezing ever more efficiency from what has already been improved is increasingly difficult!  In this “Age of the Customer”, continuous improvement is not what’s needed; businesses must innovate.

“Companies are learning,” says Martin Scovell, CEO of CX experts www.MatsSoft.com, “that improvement is not innovation. And business process management (BPM) can represent a move from improvement to innovation. The two are often confused but they're very different”, he explained. “A policy of continuous improvement can give the illusion that a company is innovating, when radical transformation is what’s actually required. Some businesses need a crisis to force them to innovate; but in innovation should be continuous rather than episodic and not seen as a last resort. Innovation should be your obsession; part of your company’s DNA.”

Such innovation inevitably involves IT.  Pretty much every bunch of statistics and reports one reads say that customer experience improvement is the top priority for the C-Suite in 2014.  Is this reflected in in how organizations are deploying BPM technology? “Very much so,” says Scovell,  “More often than not the goal of our clients’ BPM initiatives is about improving customer service.”

According to Forrester, the global research and advisory firm, there’s a seismic shift underway between two different categories of IT investment.  Traditional back office “systems of record” and a new category they call “systems of engagement” (processes and technology focussed on winning, serving and retaining customers).  Expenditure on systems of record is in decline, while expenditure on systems of engagement is on the rise, and is forecast to overtake all other IT spend by 2018.

 “There is no shame in being wrong – only in failing to correct our mistakes.” George Soros

So given the wide array of technology that’s available to organizations, what in particular makes BPM suit the task of improving customer experience?

Accelerating Change

Accelerating customer experience improvement is a high priority for most businesses; and it’s possible to make rapid progress.  Let’s look at three quickly deployed sure-fire tactics to reduce chaser phone calls, allow transparency of customer service KPIs, and exploit the advantages of Cloud Computing.

Reduce Chaser ‘Phone Calls

Whether you have a just a few customer service staff or multiple contact centres employing many hundreds of customer service agents, improving customer communications and self-service can have a dramatic effect not just on customer experience, but on your efficiency and cost effectiveness as well.  Do you know what proportion of your inbound ‘phone calls are chaser calls? “I called earlier, I’m trying to find out when my order will be delivered?” “You’re processing my insurance claim, what’s the status?”  “Where are you with my repair, I’ve heard nothing in three days?”

Chaser calls are a major cause of customer dissatisfaction.  Particularly as in many cases to get through to someone to ask the question will involve navigating call menus, waiting in queues, and then eventually having to answer security questions. No wonder tempers fray!  According to Forrester, 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service.

Chaser calls are not just a sign of lousy service; they’re a drain on morale and productivity.  They occupy customer service staff who should instead be serving and delighting other customers.

Reduce Performance ‘Black Holes’

“The use of a business process management platform doesn’t just streamline a process,” says Martin Scovell, “it also makes the process completely measurable.  You can now see how long a case resides at each approval stage.  Management have complete oversight of the approval pipeline, enabling them to balance workload across the processing team.  Process monitoring dashboards and alerts help you meet service level agreements and identify performance bottlenecks, including further process improvement opportunities or staff training needs.”

The old adage “you cannot improve what you cannot measure” reaffirms the validity of applying business process management tools and methods to customer service.

Reduce Project Duration and Complexity with Cloud

The quest to become more agile at improving customer-facing processes is likely to put Cloud Computing at the centre of your customer service strategy.  The majority of CRM software implementations are delivered via the Cloud – why is this?

“Customer-facing departments need the agility to innovate without the restraints and long lead times typically involved with centralised IT,” says Scovell. “A Cloud deployment approach enables operational teams to get started, without the need to wait for IT to provision servers and install software.  Additionally they want the ability to develop and then continuously improve business solutions without being dependent on programmers.  Again, this enables agility and shortens project duration by lessening dependency on central IT resources.” 

The provision of more “business-friendly” software - which business users can configure rather than program - is making this a reality, and this category of software is on the rise. “It’s not about ripping out legacy systems and rebelling against IT,” adds Scovell.  “Far from it. Integration with legacy systems is essential.”

Digital is the Customer’s Channel of Choice

More than ever, the customer service channel of choice is digital, with 85% of businesses relying on this as their preferred method of communication (Call Centre IQ 2014 Executive Priorities Report).  So It’s about keeping the development business friendly, starting from a process perspective, and leveraging the integration, communication and web-deployment capabilities that modern BPM platforms provide.

As Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos says: ‘In the old world, you devoted 30% of your time to building a great service and 70% of your time to shouting about it. In the new world, that inverts’.

And the time to implement CX innovation is not ‘someday’, it’s today. Because “the road to someday,” says Tony Robbins, “leads to a town called nowhere.”

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