During the past year, businesses around the world have had to reimagine their business models and operations multiple times. Nearly overnight, the pandemic forced most companies to pivot to remote working, creating an instant demand for new technologies and services that had previously been thought about in conference rooms, but never fully implemented.
As businesses continue to look for ways to navigate this new world order, they are looking for partners who can help them along in that journey.
For service providers, the differentiation they can offer in a partnership comes not in any single product, but in the ability to understand a customer’s need and to react and help customers solve a problem at a moment’s notice.
Customers will always choose a vendor or solution based on how the vendor interacts with them on a personal level. That’s a fundamental fact of how business is done, regardless of the industry. A product can have lots of fancy bells and whistles, but if the customer doesn’t feel like they’re being embraced by the vendor, they won’t buy it.
The key for all companies to succeed is to fit their products into the services they offer, rather than the other way around, which is what most companies do. Indeed, recent research by Ipsos found that 91 percent of CEOs believe they deliver a superior experience, yet only 30 percent of their customers agree.
How can companies close that gap? Let’s explore a few ways to build a better experience – and relationship with your customer.
Listen to the voice of your customer
A strong customer journey – and experience -- always starts with the human element. Building a strong and effective experience platform is more than just a process -- it’s an opportunity to build an emotional relationship with your customer across all touchpoints.
To truly connect with customers, and understand their experience, business leaders must spend time with them, face to face. And that means really getting to know them, not just dealing with events when they need services. It’s imperative to spend time with the customers during and after an event, to show them the plan and ask for their input.
While understanding their needs is key, it’s critical to always focus on allowing your customers space to make the right decisions and choices for themselves. As a service provider, you should, in some respects, offer staff augmentation. Focus on enabling choice while offering a very simple entry point into how clients gain access to services. Provide them with the simple tools they need to remove the stress and worry out of managing their complicated business environments.
Align your sales and service teams
Many companies overlook the need to engage the whole organization, including its support functions, in their quest to build a memorable customer journey. Guaranteeing high levels of service requires companies to have large, effective engineering and logistics capabilities, and to be innovative to ensure they have the tools and processes customers can rely on, 24x7.
To accomplish this, it’s critical to avoid “silos” in your organization. Silos never drive good results. Collaboration across functions is key. The service team should be a tool for the sales team and the sales team can serve as support for the service team.
To drive this collaboration, be hyper aware of your strengths and how you build a team that complements everyone’s strengths and opportunity areas across the organization. This will help the team feel empowered in their various roles.
A collaborative approach has been proven to work. The Ipsos study noted that empowering an insurer’s agents to resolve customer queries on that first call has increased customer advocacy by more than 50 percent.
Strategic focus on SLAs
Service level agreements (SLAs) are a transparent and accountable way to meet (and exceed) client expectations. Flexible service level agreements and co-terminus contracts should fit client needs to gain an operational advantage in maintaining servers/storage and networking devices. Clients should know they can -- and know how to -- consolidate multiple vendors, and add or delete equipment whenever it is needed, and without penalty. Parts depots strategically located around the globe help ensure that field service is able to meet a customer’s SLA, based on their specific equipment configurations.
One strategy is allowing multiple SLAs in the same location, so service levels are dictated by customer request, and not necessarily what a service provider offers in a specific location.
Experienced teams of field service and advanced engineers are key to meeting SLA agreements. Constant, ongoing training across all Tier One OEMs, coupled with keen understanding of each client’s expectations, put these “front line workers” at the forefront of SLA compliance and reporting.
Real-time monitoring is also key to meeting SLA and customer experience standards. Portals, mobile apps, and trackers should offer real-time information on assets, contracts, open tickets status, and event history.
Growing at scale
All companies are at different stages of their customer experience journey but no matter what part of the journey you’re in, a well-aligned, embedded service team can provide an experience that will help drive revenue without ever moving a product. According to Ipsos, 86 percent of people will pay more for a better experience. That means a better customer experience can lead directly to increased revenue.
There are two ways to drive this growth: organically and through acquisition. Organic growth is driven by good service and performance by the team in the field. This leads to customer satisfaction and loyalty, which in turn can lead to greater revenue.
On the acquisitions front, expanding your business’ capabilities and offerings through acquisition is a fast way to accelerate your growth. However, taking this approach, which Park Place has done numerous times during the past few years, requires a fast integration. It’s vital to quickly bring the service team you’re acquiring into the culture of your organization so the same level of service can be maintained. The new team must be trained to understand the expectations at the outset of the relationship and given the necessary tools to succeed.
The new normal is unknown. Budgets are getting squeezed and new decisions are having to be made. It’s critical to make sure your customers don’t have to worry about risk or issues in their businesses.
As services providers assess their customer journey, it’s imperative to identify the moments that matter most and what customers need, expect, and what the ideal experiences are for them. As we move forward though the pandemic and beyond, the companies with the closest personal touch on this front will be the ones that succeed in delivering a top customer experience.
Nicola Buckley, Executive Vice President, Global Service Delivery, Park Place Technologies