Satisfying your customers is a very important way of defending your company’s bottom line over the long term. A loyal customer is a steady source of revenue. But sometimes this long-term benefit can be difficult to prioritize when pitted against opportunities to cut costs in the short term. And yet, many companies are now prioritizing in precisely this way, valuing long-term plans to retain loyal customers over short-term savings.
A Changing Business Philosophy
This focus on the customer is made clear by the results of a recent Gartner survey of customer relationship management (CRM) programmes across Europe.1 Whereas in previous years respondents had listed boosting revenue/generating growth among their top three priorities, this year, the primary objectives cited by survey respondents are all decidedly customer-centric:
- Increase customer satisfaction (ranked #1 for four consecutive years)
- Increase customer engagement (new category, not previously an option in prior surveys)
- Create a single, holistic view of the customer (supplants revenue/growth as #3 objective)
Clearly, the agenda — even in a time of economic uncertainty — is focussed on investing in the customer. As for how this investment impacts strategies for short-term savings, Gartner emphasized:
“Cost cutting might be unavoidable in some circumstances, but any action that has a negative impact on the customer experience can have serious long-term implications on corporate performance and should be carefully considered.”
Of course, we all know that the bottom line has not utterly disappeared from the agenda. Managing spending and seeking out ways to improve efficiency will always be valid and important company concerns. All the same, it’s clear that a remarkable shift is taking place. Customers now have almost unlimited access to information and an overall sense of connection and immediacy that is very empowering. And it is this power that companies have learned to respect — by making customer satisfaction an inviolable goal.
But how do they plan to achieve it?
The Roots of Customer Experience
When it comes to developing a strategy for customer satisfaction, there’s no better resource than customers themselves. So what do they say they want from companies today? I recently came across an Oracle survey of 1,400 online shoppers in Europe who had interacted with a customer services department at some point in the previous year, in which customers listed the following as their top four wishes:
- They want their issues resolved in a single conversation (84%)
- They want their emails answered within 24 hours (58%)
- They don’t want to provide information or explanations more than once (58%)
- They want customer service agents to have access to purchase history and information (57%).
Email responses rank pretty highly, but people still like to have their issues resolved by talking to other people. So the workers you have staffing the contact centre need to be well trained and fully equipped with the information and tools that enable them to deliver the kind of service customers are saying they want. Equipping your workers in this way requires optimizing business processes and removing obstacles to the flow of information. Customers’ most emphatic desire is to resolve issues in a single conversation — and this is only possible if the people they’re speaking to have instant and easy access to all the information necessary.
Ricoh commissioned a global customer service study by Forrester that found that more than one in four managers cited poor information access as a “major” barrier to effective customer service. A similar percentage specifically identified poor document services support as something holding back their efforts. Based on this research, Ricoh encourages a focus on:
- Adopting and implementing technology and processes that free up time for customer-facing workers
- Stressing processes that improve worker agility — such as their access to guidance and ability to start new case processes — which enables them to handle complex customer issues with speed
- And, finally, streamlining document processes, which helps create a smooth, consistent path for information between diverse customer touchpoints and the back office.
Without that kind of cohesion and fluidity, you can’t develop the “single, holistic” view of the customer that companies are committing to obtaining.
The quality of customer experience can directly affect company performance. And with customers growing ever more demanding and enabled, companies are stepping up their commitment to customer satisfaction. Following through on that commitment requires empowering the people who serve your customers, and this is where a third party can help: mobilizing valuable business information from capture through transformation and management, so that customers have their needs met in the moment — and trust your company to take care of them in the future.
1 Gartner, “Gartner Says European CR Budgets Remain Strong Despite Economic Uncertainty,” March 2014.
2 Oracle, “Why Customer ‘Satisfaction’ Is No Longer Good Enough,” 2012.