If you’re like many software companies you have a number of critical touch points with your customer that shape and define the overall experience your customer has in doing business with you.  I’ve mentioned this before, but it’s so easy to narrow our focus to just the software application when we focus on improvement efforts.  Often we overlook two critical areas that our customers utilize (or not if we don’t even offer them) on a regular basis - they both relate to how our customers obtain support for the products that they are using from us.

As part of a new report, customer experience gurus, Temkin Group, is examining channel preferences for consumers across many different industries.  After surveying 5,000 US consumers on their preferences for completing a wide variety of activities the two top channels that were preferred were:
  • Talking on the phone
  • Self-service on the web
And by a wide margin I might add for most activities.  Only activities that involved complex interactions such as opening a new investment account or purchasing a new insurance policy was good, old face-to-face a preference.  And even with those phone and web were still not far behind.

So, if you’re currently not offering these channels, you might be missing a significant opportunity to improve your customer experience that your customers prefer to use when dealing with you.  And, if you haven’t paid much attention to the customer experience you’re delivering in these area, you might want to take a serious look at how they can be improved.

But, you say, “that’s a consumer study, I sell to businesses”.  I wouldn’t be too quick to dismiss this information.  The people who work at your customers’ businesses are also consumers and, as such, will expect you to provide the same high quality customer experiences in these areas as they’ve had with the best consumer products companies they personally do business with.  You’ve being measured, not just by your direct B2B competitors but by the best-in-class consumer companies as well!

In my previous company, phone support and web self-service was, and still is, a very important area to shape a superior customer experience.  The support organization was (and probably still is) one of the best of the best in phone-based support.  One of the areas that we invested in quite heavily several years ago was a self-service, web-based knowledge-base.  As we answered customers questions on the phone, we had a group of individuals who’s job it was to take the raw call notes and turn this into fresh content for the knowledge-base.

This work doesn’t come cheap, but how it paid off in helping to deliver a truly superior experience.  It provided a powerful combination for the customer to quick resolve their questions on a self-serve basis, while also providing them the option to talk to an expert on the phone.  It also provided us with valuable information on what articles were being searched and what areas needed additional content emphasis.

Skill-based routing is another powerful way to deliver a superior phone experience utilizing a complex combination of personnel training, performance management and phone technology.  In many of these areas, you can not only find ways to improve the customer experience, but also ways to improve your internal productivity and efficiency - a real win-win.  There are many ways to provide innovative and powerful customer experiences in these areas.

On the darker side, we also experienced the power of these channels to severely damage the customer experience when things don’t go well.  We were the first to implement a new CRM for entire business unit including the support department. This was part of a company-wide effort to upgrade all the North American businesses over time.  Because we were first, we experience many issues during the initial implementation that hadn’t been discovered in the pre-release testing.

One of the areas that significantly failed to work as well as the previous technology we were using was in our business partner (VAR) portal.  We quickly realized just how much our business partners depended on this crucial (but somewhat neglected) self-service area!  They weren’t happy campers until we got these issues worked out, to put it mildly.  Which also brings up another key point - remember your secondary customers - they often depend on phone and self-service web channels as well.   And their experiences are just as important as your primary customers.

So, as you look forward to customer experience improvement initiatives for the next year, take a close look at your phone and web self-service areas.  You may just find some “low-hanging fruit” that will dramatically improve your customers’ lives as they work with you and significantly move your closer to deliver a truly superior customer experience.  After all, that’s what’s it’s all about, right?

Finally, on behalf of all of us at VALUE:driven Group, I’d like to wish you and yours a very joyous Christmas season and happy and rewarding New Year!

 
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    John Geffel

    Value is a much abused, misunderstood and misused word, everyone thinks they provide it but so few show real evidence that they do!
     

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