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Monthly Archives: March 2012

What works for you or what works for your customers?


A couple of experiences recently have prompted me to think about how process and procedures adopted by businesses can impact on the customer experience.

I recently purchased an item from a concession of Coast in a department store. I went into a Coast store to return the item but was told I would have to return it to the department store.  Aside from this being irritating and inconvenient it got me thinking…..the item is a Coast product and is on sale in their high street stores, so there is no difference in product, so what was the reason behind the store not being able to accept it back?

My conclusion was that really it was down to the internal processes in place at Coast and/or the department store, probably as part of the concession agreement or for accounting purposes.  To my mind who made the rule is immaterial, the question it raised for me as a marketer is, are company’s policies and procedures reviewed with the customer in mind?

Another instance was when completing my tax return online. After receiving a plethora of codes, passwords and unique reference numbers, I finally needed to speak to someone as my online account was not working.  The phone system was a myriad of press 1 for this 2 for that, 9 for the other, I must have been through 3 long, confusing and unclear menus when I was directed to the website and cut off.

Again the question in my mind was, for whose benefit were these processes put in place? Certainly not the customers!

Of course the banks, phone companies and Inland Revenue will tell you that automated phone systems are the best way to direct your call to the right person.  More often than not I suspect it has more to do with managing volumes of calls so they can reduce manpower.  Whilst customers are left frustrated by waiting times, unclear direction and annoying messages telling them their call is important when it is clearly not.

From the moment a customer engages with an organisation, whether it be over the phone, on the web or in person they are experiencing that organisation’s internal procedures.  Yet I wonder how often marketing get involved in the formation of these procedures and to assess their impact on customers?

I would argue that it is certainly marketing’s remit to get involved in this and below are my tips for finding out how your internal processes and procedures impact on the customer.  Using these will help you identify bottle necks or over complicated procedures before they have a negative impact on your customers.

  1. Find out what it is like to be a customer of your organisation, if your organisation is large enough for you or your team to be anonymous make mystery calls to sales reps/ customer services/ your online help team and accounts. Browse your website (how easy is it to find your phone number, the product you are after or the location of the business), attend an event (how easy is it to register, what information do you receive, how are you greeted on the day, are you introduced to the right people)
  2. Employ a mystery shopper to test all of your routes to market,  to return a faulty item, query an invoice, reset an online password, visit reception, make a complaint or attend a marketing event.
  3. Do some customer experience research, all too often marketers ask customers about the attributes of products and services they want, but how often do we ask about how they would like the product or service to be delivered? E.g. how would they prefer delivery (using Royal Mail or a Distribution Company could impact on their ability to pick up if they miss the delivery).  Do customers like your automated call answering or would they prefer to talk to a person in the first instance? Is your reception area welcoming?  Is your payment process clear and straightforward? How easy is it to return an unwanted item?  How easy is it to park at your premises?
  4. Liaise with other departments in your organisation, ask them questions like why is it that invoices are processed in this way, what is the procedure for logging complaints, why is the returns policy this way, how come customers can’t call the sales team? How come our reception area is not manned?  Why can’t the sales team see the same customer information as accounts? Often these procedures are there because “its the way its always been” and that they are not that effective internally either. You may find that there are other advocates for change in your business.
  5. Report back to the senior management team on your findings and suggestions for improvement.
  6. Review regularly.

There are some organisations that get this right.  I recently had a very positive experience with LK Bennett, which demonstrated a good linkup between their phone-based customer service team and their stores and Amazon who always impress with their slick and user friendly ordering and distribution service.  Good examples of where process and procedure are driven by customer need.

If you are a business that would like help on understand your customer’s experience and improving your processes to meet customer need  contact me on jer@josrichardson.couk or call 01405 764525

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