Monday, June 20, 2016

Perspective - Customer Service Brilliance : Forgotten Marketing Heroics || Wasim Akhtar || Chandragupt Institute of Management, Patna || February 2016

Customer Service Brilliance

- Wasim Akhtar

The focus of my article is to look at the customer service from the perspective of start ups.
For all those who are looking for start ups or advising start ups, the article may come in handy. And how the customer service can not only give you a competitive advantage but will also edge out the competition in the early going itself. There is an ample of amount of studies that says fifty percent of the businesses fail. A large of that is because they haven’t given a thought about differentiating themselves and they haven’t included customer service in that equation. Let’s just talk about customer service and why should people really pay attention and have a enterprise system for managing customer service today.

A typical company with 24/7 box and the moment you clicked and you have someone who will answer the phone is not smart. What smarter companies doing these days are quite different things at customer service front. They are actually valuing service level agreement. They are producing pretty much the same products like any other but it’s the service they provide around the product and way they engage with it is actually what helps them differentiate. So, we think about small companies and let’s take an example like ZENPAYROLL and it is an awesome company that is disrupting the industry. They are using their support to differentiate. They are allowing themselves to engage with the customers in a deeper way. They take it to a level deeper and leveraging it with product innovation as well. They have their product managers engaged in desk and looking at the tickets to get that information straight from the source. So, when somebody is complaining about something or they frustrated, there might actually be a product idea or product feature painted into that. Having that direct line to see that the customers actually took the time to write or say gives product managers a little bit of edge when they are innovating and that’s what people need.

So let’s shift our focus on what is the best practice when customers are so empowered
because of social media. Let’s give a thought when such customer gets pissed off or something goes wrong, what best practices has to be diffused because it is not personal experiences any more it can get public and it may affect your brand at large. Research has shown that 89 percent of the customer won’t do business with you again if they had a bad initial support experience and yes, they would be vocal about it. SO it is like you call up customer service desk and it doesn’t work and you’re like, ‘I am not going to buy’ and that is substantial business when the figures grow at some pace. Because there are other alternatives available and lot of other products that people are approaching to in different ways. Issues come up in every companies and there is very little one can do about it. So if we talk about how can companies deal with it, the best way for a support team to address and address it head on and if you have a tool or desk to deal with it. It becomes
an east going process. You can reply to it and reply it at multiple places and owning the experiences from the good to the bad. Companies have tried to shy away from anything bad but that doesn’t really work either. They got to accept the fact that it is not going to go that great and when it doesn’t own it, fix it and be proactive and rapid response is critical. I will share my experience with OLACABS. I was in ola cab in Bangalore last month and I got mischarged and it was accidental. So they drop me an email stating that it double charged you and the next ride you get is free. Now that is the kind of customer service that keeps the people engaged. Like, think about the companies like ZAPPOS, when they started many people thought this is a crazy idea. Who is going to buy shoes online? Now every time a season people go online to buy shoes from Zappos. The customer service is so easy there. And what is surprising to me is that they are not giving deals on shoes. They are not competing on prices rather they are competing on service. Lot of reviews says that they don’t really bother paying extra to the company they’re constantly engaged and they keep advocating about it as well. Why would a customer care about saving 100 bugs when he has got great relationship with the company going? BOOM! Honesty is the best policy when it comes to support. People don’t like jerked around.

When it comes to the idea of best practices of things, you need to think about the support road map. Support road map is equally important as product road map. And companies that do not do that won’t do well. Look at some of the best customer support oriented companies, they have big customer desk and start ups are handling things like 24 hours. Start ups in the west have used the best practices and able to bring the support within an hour and they did it by thinking about how can they optimize the engagement experience. They had a plan for the support. It is very imperative to optimize the support. Consider start ups like OYO ROOMS and STAYZILLA. It is critical for them specially. Suppose you booking the room after 12o’clock. So let’s say you booked it at 1.30 PM and you thinking of getting a room at 4o’clock. There is a very little time. If something goes wrong the customer would have no clue and retaliation would be instant. They are businesses based on making sure that actually happens. Many people have talked about it is “the handling time”. How long is it taking to pick up a case?  In their situation they are supposed to do it at a lightning fast speed but in some bad practices people touches a poor case just to touch it and meet the service level agreement. And that’s wrong. Putting all the emphasis on the support team to get a certain number of hours done without telling them how to do it a constructive way. It is more about their engagement. It is more about willing to pay more for shoes at ZAPPOS because you like them. There is a “like factor” that a consumer takes into account.

Well we all make mistakes and in service industries like most start ups are it is inevitable to
avoid mistakes. How do you deal with it and having plan about it? It really is. Having a roadmap, a plan and an eye where you want to take in the future. A plan for today is one thing but don’t plan a product roadmap and say, “Hey, this is what I am going to build this month”? You do but you have 6-12 months plan and they may change but I think that the companies that don’t think about what’s my support system look like now and what’s it going to look like in 10 years when it is big, I think that is where the focus on managerial outlook of an organization be like.

People are looking at support as a different vehicle than to see if you computer is on or off. It is a loyalty program in a way and a brand building process. At the end of the day the fact of the matter is there is a lot of competition out there. People can knock off your product very easily. It is very easy to copy stuffs but you cannot copy the love and the concern that a company has for actually customers and that is an intangible advantage a start up should focus upon.

It is very imperative for start ups to think about creating and delivering values not only in terms of products but also in terms of support that will help them to build loyalty, affection and brand over a period of time.

1 comment:

Medha raut said...

Truly an effective customer service and ORM should be an essential part of a company's digital marketing strategy, both startups as well as established brands. Leading digital marketing company in India can help devise such a strategy.

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