Founder of Walmart, Sam Walton said, “There is only one boss: the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
This legendary statement is more significant than ever before. Economies are struggling to grow amidst the impact of COVID19 and global slowdown. For most products and services, our markets are overcrowded with service providers and manufacturers. To be successful in this competitive market and sluggish demands, meeting customer expectations in product quality is not enough. We need to win the confidence and goodwill of the customer. Irrespective of the industry sector and the sales channel, we need to nurture our relationship with the existing customers.
Charity begins at home
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, the pioneer in selling shoes online, says, “Customer Service is not a department, it is the entire company.” Every organisation that aspires to leave its mark, must have its CXO fully embrace this philosophy. We have to start the culture of customer service in everything we do within the organisation. It has to run in the DNA so that everyone who comes on board can see this and views the customer in the same way.
Many organisations state customer focus as a value, conduct customer satisfaction studies and run focused programmes to build customer loyalty. However, these initiatives do not deliver the desired results because its leadership team does not drive this enough in the mainstream of business operations.
The leaders need to believe in this principle, commit to it by making clear statements, draw up policies and live by these consistently. Mere policies aren’t going to move the needle significantly. We need them to be executed in the normal course of business. The way they acquire and onboard new customers, value relationships with existing customers, deliver value to customers, design and improve their business processes, resolve customer issues and inter-departmental stress set the tone for installing customer service as a part of the organisation’s DNA.
Basic Rules in place
All of us know some basics about customer service, such as listening to their views and observing their behaviours keenly, building a personal rapport, being proactive in communication, prompt in response and accessible like a friend or a member of the family.
However, many of us go silent when a tough situation arises instead of being visible in our efforts to address it. Many of us tend to ignore customer situations when everything runs smoothly and believe that no news is good news. We know that there is calm before the storm. Yet we do not put efforts to understand the reasons behind the calm. Maybe, the customer is evaluating other options and about to move his spend away from our brand.
Leaders have to show the way to their teams when these ground rules are broken or not followed rigorously. It is easy to state this, however not very easy to follow because the plates of leaders are full of many urgent challenges and they are consumed in solving those. More often than not, these challenges are rooted in poor customer service. Call centres get overwhelmed with calls; sales and account management executives get busy answering customer complaints and queries; marketing teams spend more and more money in promoting the brand and neutralising the negative sentiments; product managers push design teams aggressively to come up with innovative upgrades and methods so that the product offering can stand out in the market and the costs can be reduced; supply chain teams get pushed to squeeze unit costs southwards; everybody in the organisation comes under stress, pushes the other team for solutions to their own problems and thus, the seed of mistrust gets sowed in the environment. Given the changes in the socio-economic fabric of our society, patience is on a slippery slope and hence, people are quick to look for greener pastures elsewhere. We do not want to get there!
We need our leaders to implement the basic rules or norms well so that most operational issues are prevented and the challenges which come on the way are interesting and meaningful to surmount.
Technology at its best
The Tech landscape has been changing so fast that organisations must work with a bunch of fast-evolving partners who can bring the latest in technology to be leveraged. Their internal team can never keep pace with the pace of change in all aspects consistently. The debate of build vs buy is now heavily tilted towards buy. For example, the cost of building and maintaining a CRM system and upgrading it from time to time by incorporating the latest tools such as AI is far too high and a riskier proposition than buying a CRM system from the market and adapting it to one’s scenario. The outsourced service-provider has to stay relevant in competition with the other forces in the market and hence, will adapt faster than the in-house team.
Cloud technologies and developments in computing have made it very easy for numerous companies to own and use some of the best IT tools the market has to offer. Now, companies have to find the right technology partners and invest in the relationship to make their tech environment relevant and competitive always; and leverage them to nurture customer relationships and grow them.