The potential to disappoint is huge – delivering something late, not at all, or in worse condition than when it started the journey
How often does a service company truly exceed expectations? For many consumers, the satisfaction from purchasing a physical product often increases significantly from the moment they unpack and begin utilising the product (i.e. such as a new technological device). However, when it comes to services that consumers utilise, the satisfaction delivered as a result of the service rarely increases to the same extent once the service experience has come to an end.
Gloria Torres, Head of Customer Service for DHL Express Sub Saharan Africa , says that due to these lower satisfaction levels post a consumer’s experience, businesses within the service industry need to constantly look to truly exceed a customer’s expectations to peak satisfaction during the process of delivering a service, and this is often achieved through a seamless and positive customer experience.
The recently released Global Customer Service Survey by Interactive Intelligence Group Inc. highlights the importance of a positive customer experience. It revealed that 64 per cent of consumers would tell others when they had a positive customer service experience and that 45 per cent of consumers tend to make purchase decisions based solely on customer service.
“The professionalism and attitude of a company’s employees, especially in the services industry, can have a massive influence on a customer’s experience and perception of service, and in turn, how a customer promotes the company to other potential customers. Customer service therefore plays a significant role in a business’s bottom line,” says Torres.
She adds that that the world of logistics is a key area where customer satisfaction levels need to be managed. “When a customer is paying you to deliver something within a specific timeframe, the upside, at first glance, is limited. You can get it there on time, in one piece. But that’s what the customer expects. Even getting it there earlier might not be welcomed. For example, if the customer is not at home or their warehouse is not yet ready to take receipt of more stock. At the same time, the potential to disappoint is huge – delivering something late, not at all, or in worse condition than when it started the journey is almost guaranteed to create immense dissatisfaction.
“Add to this the numerous interactions a customer has with diverse interfaces in many service companies and another important dimension comes into play: human relationships. In most businesses – even in today’s digital, automated world – there are still numerous people who provide different aspects of service to the customer. From the account manager who makes the pitch, the booking agent who takes an order and the operational employee who delivers the service, right through to the billing department that issues the invoice and follows up on payment – every single person can impact customer service levels. It is for this reason that we at DHL see huge potential to help service companies deliver additional value beyond what a customer is paying for.”
Torres says that there are three key areas which DHL believes are crucial to delivering service excellence:
1 The voice of the customer: Ensuring that the voice of the customer resonates throughout the organisation is essential to great service. Initiatives, such as the Net Promoter Approach (NPA) management tool, which measures promoters and detractors among your customer base and proactively sources feedback from them, can have a huge impact in identifying areas for improvement and enabling the company to make the necessary changes to enhance their offering and continually offer better ways to deliver excellence to customers.
2 An insanely customer-centric culture: An employee who simply smiles at a customer can have a huge impact on the customer’s perception of their experience. The only way to drive this perception in the service industry is through promoting a culture that is intensely customer centric, with the customer at the forefront of every activity. Service is not just the responsibility of the customer service department. However, the customer service function, given its expertise in this area, can play a key role in focusing the whole organisation on its customers.
3 Transparent key performance indicators: While a service culture is largely an intangible thing, the “measurables” are still important. When these are set correctly, they help to focus teams on achieving a common objective, and managers to identify areas for continuous, incremental improvement. Performance indicators should also be built around service quality from the customer’s viewpoint, and they should be constantly visible to top management.
“The service industry, despite its name, can be one of the most difficult in which to consistently deliver great customer service and to exceed customers’ expectations. However, through focusing relentlessly on the little details that drive quality, listening intently to what your customers are telling you, and making sure that every individual in your business understands the impact they can have on the customer experience, businesses can deliver value beyond the “transaction” level and ensure long-term success,” concludes Torres.