In a recent national survey, customers on their customer service experience scored lower than 60%.
While these results did not tell us anything that we did not already know, it begs me to wonder the faith of retail stores, corporate and government if this trend does not start taking an upward curve.
Let's face it, if you are having dinner and the topic of customer service in Trinidad & Tobago comes up it will dominate the dinner discussion for more negative reasons than positive ones. In our mid 2016 survey ninety-one percent (91%) of respondents indicated that they we were totally unsatisfied with the level of customer service received from service providers.
Out of the many different categories the top five (5) areas where customers indicated they had the most interaction and challenges were;
Retail stores which categorized Malls, Supermarkets, clothing/jewelry stores, Quick Shops, etc. showed that consumers engaged with them ninety-three (93%) percent of the time as opposed to the other categories. However, we also noticed that with this high level of engagement also came the highest level of dissatisfaction as it relates to customer service/engagement.
Some of the concerns expressed by consumers ranged from lack of simple courtesy to a low level of professionalism and most importantly the staff's level of sales skills/understanding customer's needs and aligning them to the right product or solution.
WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?
Lack of Customer Focus
It's our general belief that there is no real focus on The Customer. Even if companies say they are focused on the customer, its still not enough in raising the level of engagement to give the customer a different experience.
To be able to do this requires a change in thinking, to be more specific, the level of thinking has to be critical to mix some traditional techniques and skills with present day technology. If this is not done, companies, service providers, etc. will continue to experience a shift in the consumer buying behaviour and of course a serious decline in revenue, increases in unemployment, etc.
"Fifty percent (50%) of any solution is recognizing/admitting there is a problem"
To just say companies, retail stores, service providers, need to be more customer focused is too easy. What needs to happen is a change in how we currently think about our customer service, realising that what we are delivering currently is not enough.
From our findings here are just six (6) of the many things that can be done to improve the customer engagement & experience levels. Note: The first two (2) are the most important and they are;
QUESTION: "Are companies more interest in revenue, than they are about service delivery?
1) Give a Crap:
Eighty-Four percent (84%) of respondents indicated that they believe companies were only interested in one thing...'Revenue" and not improving customer service.
This is an extremely high negative perception that needs to change but it will only change once companies start showing that they genuinely care.
Having service culture that seeks the customer interest first will yield major dividends for companies and their stake holders. If we look at how strong relationships are build it starts with caring and supporting first without looking for an immediate return. In the business world this concept is a reality and customer will pay for services once it meets their emotional and logical needs.
This will always be a sore point with us at OPAAT-SWY, you would have heard our founder mention it in the video link earlier where he used an example of a manager within a retail store more focused on his phone than who is walking in and out the door.
"Leadership sets the tone" - Azra Nathudkhan
We must thank one of our readers and lead consultant in Customer Service Experiences Ms. Azra Nathudkhan for making sure we did not omit leadership as a key component in the level of customer service, consumers receive. We acknowledge there are some companies doing their best and may experience customer service missteps from time to time, but this should be more of the exception that the norm. It all starts from the top and should be strongly filtered down to every employee/stakeholder.
It's not what you do but how and our data clearly indicates that there needs to be some changes in how service providers do things. Sales and Customer Service are critical components to a company's business, they can be even considered its life-blood. With the current economic challenges plus heightened competition from local and foreign suppliers all offering "value". Companies must improve their level of person-to-person engagement. Remember, people still buy from people, but they buy faster from people that add value.
4) Effective & Creative Marketing:
With the abundance of information all grasping for customer attention how can you get even 30 seconds of your existing or potential customer's time? By being more strategic, creative and effective in your marketing activities. Marketers need to be more focused on gaining customer Attention/Awareness, Interest, Desire and calling them to Action. Yes, the A.I.D.A principle is still relevant in 2018. Companies should be positioning themselves as experts through their marketing campaigns so that they stay top of mind as it relates to retaining existing customers and attracting new ones.
5) The Tag Team - Marketing & Sales Collaboration:
This one area involving two departments we see having the ability to create greater impact in business, however, they are mostly disconnected. Sales & Marketing are a team or at least they are supposed to work that way. However, they operate as two entities running their own race or sometimes the sales team is running by themselves.
Sales & Marketing has the responsibility of keeping their finger on the pulse of what happening in the industry. Furthermore, with effective collaborative efforts, they can work together in creating ways to give better customer experiences and change the competitive landscape. Not every industry will have the ability to make some sort of drastic change, but sometimes the subtle changes are the ones that have the most impact.
6) Invest in Technology to Drive & Support the Process:
The way we work has changed so too has the way our customers buy and interact with us. The beauty is that over the last 10 years technology has been consistently giving us opportunities to improve the way we work, interact and engage.
In a recent Sharp Electronics Dealer meeting, Sharp shared with their dealers that the evolution of work started where people drove a process that was supported by technology. Now in 2019 it's the complete opposite as technology drives the process that's supported by people.
One key tool that's driving that level of change that companies should invest in is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool, as it has the ability to help improved productivity with simple automation, enhance customer interactions and other things across the board. CRMs are now also evolving to help support marketing initiatives not to mention monitoring website and social media activities as well. One new feature recently launched by Soffront CRM actually monitors and helps manage a company's reputation across all of its web platforms. This is just a plus as it relates keeping up with customer review good and bad and how we respond.
The Apple Example
One company that has set the stage in giving clients an excellent user experience is Apple and this is where we believe retail stores, automotive dealerships, corporate entities, etc. needs to take their example from. Apple committed to not just having a showroom or showcasing products online but in showing their existing customer how to best optimise their devices which improved the user experience and in most instances extended the customer lifetime value.
Everything comes down to the customer experience. As a consumer if you do not have a good experience from a service provider, you will not recommend them nor will you return. This is the same flipped mindset that needs to be taken as there is substantial room for improvement within the sphere of service deliver in Trinidad & Tobago.
However, the will power to change and serve, must be bigger than your company's top and bottom line projections.
Written by: Lyndon Brathwaite
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