In today’s business economy, the customer experience matters more each day. The digital age has brought quick fingers in that people post their experiences with the organizations that they do business with for all to see. Before making a purchase, many look for online reviews of the organization and the products or services that they offer. They have zero moments of truth (ZMOT) before ever engaging the supplier in any manner. ZMOT experiences are common today, before there is any contact with a supplier or company a consumer will assess the organization based on the reviews they find.
Service and product brokers, such as Amazon, take advantage of customer reviews. The customer is king and the supplier has to be competitive and in tune to customer needs and service expectations, or they risk the chance of becoming optional and out of business.
There are two key aspects to service delivery and support that should be formalized for many businesses. These two are engagement and experience management. Engagement management is simply understanding, designing, and managing the different engagement models in which your customers interface with you. Typical engagement models can be in person or virtually over the Internet. Each engagement model can be further categorized based on the engagement and engagement type. Experience management is understanding, designing, and managing how interactions, communication, and expectations of the service engagement is handled for buying and supporting the service or product. People want to have a good experience and feel good about the decisions that they are getting ready to make or the decisions that they have already made related to a supplier.
For example, in person engagement can be for a customer or user (customer is engaged with a salesperson, user with the service desk person over the Internet). The same engagements can apply and you can go further based on the technology engagements, you can engage with a virtual person, self-help capabilities, or with Interactive Voice Recognition System (IVR). In either case, organizations should follow good practices and formalize these two process areas. The experience for each engagement matters. The experience should be easy and frictionless as possible, in such it does not frustrate the customer or user.
Here are 10 good practice steps to improve the management of customer engagement and experience:
- Train team members so that the engagement and experience is consistent. Ensure the people that interface with your customers are customer-friendly and understand the organizational value of a customer and a returning customer. If they are not people friendly, they are in the wrong job.
- Create easy to understand service level agreements (SLAs) that are easily interrupted by the customer and employee. The SLA with your customer should articulate specifics of service/product delivery and support in their language.
- SLAs should reference policies and contracts, and in many cases include simple to understand language that interprets any constraints.
- Take customer and user satisfaction surveys for continual service and product improvement, including internal process improvement for customer support engagements.
- Use data from top consumer review websites to help with continual service and product improvement. Again including, improvements for customer support engagements. These reviews could identify important training needs for employees that engage your customers.
- Metrics allow you to better understand the use and demand of each engagement type, allowing you to make better strategic decisions on the investment in engagement.
- Focus on product, service improvement, and simplification, so customers don’t have to use support engagements. The better the product or service the less support that is needed.
- Customers want fast service. Improve your overall practice of service management and how you utilize IT to digitize, making your overall value chain leaner for delivery and support of your products or services.
- If you sell a product, remember it is for a service. Understanding why people buy your product will help when engaging the customer/user and overall improving the experience
- Use business relationship managers to obtain customer requirements for the market segments that you serve. These requirements support your strategy, and your strategy should support how you design the customer engagements and experiences.
Experience and Engagement Management should be a formally documented process within organizations. These process areas should be included with ITSM processes in Service Design and Service Operation, included in Service Design for overall planning and design related to business and IT strategy and Service Operation for agility, collecting metrics, and overall improvement based on execution.
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