Phil Dunlop, Progress
Rob Shaw, Fluent Commerce
Martin Taylor, Content Guru
Ian Thomas, Node4
At the heart of the success of any business is excellence in customer service. It has the ability to grow customer loyalty and increase the amount of money each customer spends; it impacts brand reputation and loyalty and can make or break a business.
In October we celebrated National Customer Service Week, an international celebration of the importance of customer service, and of the people who serve and support customers on a daily basis. Like many industries, the coronavirus pandemic turned the customer service industry upside down overnight. So, in a celebration of appreciation and gratitude to the service industry, this year’s theme was named ‘The Power of Service’.
In recognition of National Customer Service Week, we spoke with four experts from businesses renowned for their customer service, on what they believe makes for excellent customer service, and how organisations can reflect on the services they are providing.
A client-centric approach
Ian Thomas, COO at Node4 told us, “Richard Branson once said, “Clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients.” Now, this makes sense to me, so you won’t find me trying to argue a different point – a happy employee will certainly be more engaged, motivated and willing to ‘go the extra mile’, which in turn will benefit your customer.
“However, I personally think that to achieve service excellence, it needs to be more than this. Even with the most engaged, happiest and motivated colleagues, we need to ensure the culture and direction within which they operate is right for them to drive and focus on client centricity. This means creating an environment whereby they are putting the client at the heart of everything that they do – ensuring that every action, every interaction and every decision has the client at the forefront of their mind.
“At Node4 I ask our teams – do we know what it feels like to be the client? What is it like to consume our services, use our products and engage with our teams? Have we ‘walked a mile in their shoes’ by using our own services? Initiatives such as ‘A Day in The Life’, ‘Client Charters’ and ‘Client Calendars’ also play vital roles in creating a client-centric perspective. They bring the client experience front and centre to all teams to help build that understanding and empathy.
“We believe in the concept of ‘Continual Service Improvement’. We must learn to review, adapt and change, to ensure that we always keep our clients at the heart of what we are delivering and in doing so, we are successful in delivering excellent levels of service that customers positively respond to again and again.”
Phil Dunlop, General Manager, EMEA at Progress commented, “There is one essential tool required to facilitate a digital transformation; a Digital Experience Platform (DXP). A DXP is a platform-based set of technologies that provides many and various users with consistent, secure and personalised content across multiple digital touchpoints. It plays a critical role in optimising customer experience by enabling brands to create personalised digital journeys for their customers.
“There are some key features to consider: Usability is a critical DXP feature, in terms of exceeding the expectations of the technology users across digital touchpoints. If customers can’t use the technology and engage, and if collaboration is inhibited across digital functions, the digital campaigns are ineffective. Customers today expect individualised experiences, consistent across all the channels they use. A DXP with integrated analytics, personalisation and optimisation will help your marketing team gain full visibility of all the segments, prospects and touchpoints they need to target visitors with appropriate and impactful content. Multi-language support flexibility is also key to facilitating the highest engagement levels. To maximise the potential of a DXP, ensure that the DXP fits the needs of the business to deliver content and digital experiences to the customer in an agile and flexible way. By meeting customers’ increasing standards for continuous digital experiences, this business tool can enable an organisation to convert mere digital processes into real business success.”
Martin Taylor, Deputy CEO and co-founder at Content Guru said, “Consumer behaviour is constantly evolving. While many businesses were already grappling with heightened customer expectations pre-pandemic, the rapid shift to digital communication channels over the last 18 months has raised those expectation levels into the sky – via the cloud.
“In the last year, as more customers have interacted with organisations through digital mechanisms – either through choice or necessity – huge pressure has been piled on those organisations to deliver a new type of customer experience.
“As the world passes this digital tipping point, the ease and speed with which customers can change providers of almost any service means the experience a brand affords its customers is now its key competitive advantage or impediment. The key to gaining an advantage is developing brand trust, as it has always been. But while most organisations have spent years honing how they build trust during human-to-human interactions, many have had relatively little time to optimise their digital customer experience.
“In particular, customer service teams are looking to offer customers DIY, self-service processes as a route to improved efficiency. Choosing the moment to usher in human help is itself now a machine-controlled process, with pattern monitoring and sentiment analysis triggering the change in service flow at just the right time.
“DIY service clearly has a huge role to play in developing effective and lasting customer relationships. By giving service teams the tools they need to meet the heightened expectations of their customers across every available channel of engagement, forward-looking organisations can deliver business efficiency and benefit from the huge dividend that customer trust generates.”
Protecting the in-store experience
Rob Shaw, Managing Director EMEA, Fluent Commerce said, “The events of the last eighteen months have ushered in a growing expectation that retailers will harmonise their digital and physical channels into a unified and cohesive environment that makes it easy for shoppers to move seamlessly across channels. To stay competitive, and profitable, retailers will need to take action to improve order margins and enable the best possible experiences for high-value customers. Fine-tuning their operations to generate incremental improvements that protect and improve in-store experiences, reduce reliance on markdowns, and make it cost-effective to introduce omnichannel fulfilment options that resonate with today’s time-pressed – and ever more demanding – customers.
“Protecting the in-store experience for customers will be critical, especially at flagship locations where stock-outs of top moving lines will potentially generate negative customer emotions and lost sales. Preserving the in-store experience means store capacity will need to be tightly managed, using order management rules that limit the number of Click and Collect and/or Ship to Store orders that are sent to an individual store according to total orders per day. These automated rules will ensure that stores always receive a manageable flow of orders, so staff have the time and resources to service their in-store customers.
“This level of flexibility should also apply to product selections. Having the ability to add or remove products or product categories at a store level will help prevent poor customer experiences or returns. For example, if a store in one location is impacted by a local flood that damages stock, customer orders can be quickly fulfilled from another nearby store.
“Delivering an exceptional customer experience is the key to maintaining and growing the loyalty of high-value customers. Omnichannel retailers have the unique advantage of being able to leverage their stores to offer a highly differentiated VIP experience. This may include restricting the availability of selected inventory to customers, based on their loyalty status. Or giving VIPs exclusive or early access to buy first before the larger inventory pool is made available to all customers.
“Other options retailers can leverage to reward VIP customers include offering high value, limited edition, or in-demand items for Click and Collect only. Or offering fast-track order fulfilment and preferential delivery options for customers designated as high value or long-standing and/or loyal. That includes providing optimised ‘white glove’ fulfilment services such as VIP pick and pack orders for fast pick-up or delivery; fulfilment from designated ‘VIP service’ stores; or fulfilment from locations where expedited shipping – such as a one-hour delivery – is readily available.
“As retailers prepare to reinvent their store networks for heightened agility and new omnichannel fulfilment models, they’ll need a highly adaptable order distribution system that makes it possible to establish unique parameters and rules so that inventory, fulfilment and pricing can all be synchronised to reduce costs – and maximise outcomes – without impacting on the customer experiences that drive value-added loyalty.”