Sykes: Serve Your Customer, Improve Your Business
It is tempting, and often beneficial, for businesses to cut costs. However, reducing costs at the expense of good customer service can severely damage the reputation and dent the profitability of a business.
Customer service today often leaves consumers feeling frustrated and looking to take their custom elsewhere. To remedy such a situation businesses need to look at the customer’s experience as well as their own aims.
The expression 'the customer is king' is a warning to the lazy or arrogant that the customer can go elsewhere. However, in a highly competitive market, margins come under pressure and the money allocated to after-sales care and support is often squeezed. When this happens, customers can end up feeling badly let down if things go wrong, and it is then that they may desert a brand.
There is nothing wrong with cutting costs – waste needs to be minimised in any business. But making a customer who has bought your product feel the pinch almost guarantees that their next purchase will be from your competitor. We shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that cutting costs is the same thing as being prudent and exercising good business judgement. Rather than building up future demand, cost cutting can result in wasted product development and marketing.
One option available to companies is to outsource their customer service needs. Outsourcing can be used to reduce costs, improve service performance and implement a business model change.
The contact centre industry has seen a lot of change as local in-house operations have been moved to a remote location, sometimes through outsourcing, where the accent and culture can be quite different from those of customers. The resulting cost reduction ticks a box, but customers are often unhappy. In extreme cases, customers say that it takes them longer to get the right answer, that they can’t understand the agent on the call and, worst of all, that the agent can’t understand them.
Companies in many sectors have found that there is a high price to pay for not serving their customers properly: poor satisfaction ratings, a short relationship and complaints. The brand is damaged and very often customer service is blamed. Companies are accused of not caring, listening or understanding.
The key to customer service lies in looking at everything – not just the calls made but the decisions, conflicts, compatibilities, communications, service activities and transportation events that touch the consumer. Achieving the best for your customers and your own company requires a multi-faceted approach:
- Choose the right contact centre partner, one with a track record of providing and improving customer service.
- Look at the entire customer experience. Include non-customer service events that affect them and use your contact centre partner to do it.
- Listen to your contact centre. As the voice of your customer, the feedback can drive effective business process changes.
- Don’t look only at unit costs. Use a model that identifies how related activities, frustration, repeat calls and a poor customer experience affect the consumer and whether he will buy your products in the future.
- Use customer service to create revenue. After a good experience it is quite likely that seven out of ten people will buy a product or service offer made at the end of the call.
- Work with your contact centre partner. Be a rewarding client to work with, and your partner will blossom before your eyes.
Sykes' Science of Service methodology is an example of an outsourcer model that looks at customer service activities and the needs of its clients and clients’ customers, to deliver a solution that drives double-digit percentage improvements in performance, satisfaction and cost management.