A Roadmap to Making Your Business Customer-Centric

A loyal customer base is the cornerstone of a successful business. As such, companies see growth and progress when they are purposely built around customer feedback and insights. An easy way to achieve a customer-centric business is focusing on the customer service team, since agents are on the front lines of all customer interactions.

While businesses are recognizing the importance of customer service, there is still work to be done. A recent survey showed that organizations scored the importance of customer service to loyalty and retention at a hefty 8.4 out of 10. However, the survey also showed that 84 percent of businesses think they usually or always provide excellent customer service, while only 9 percent of consumers think they always get excellent service. Cleary there is a disconnect that needs to be bridged, so what does it take to become truly customer-centric?

The End Goals are Important...

As you work to foster a company better suited to your customers' needs, it is easy to hone in on the ultimate objectives but lack clarity about the steps needed to achieve them. You can be left overwhelmed by focusing on lofty aspirations, including the following:

  • Hiring a C-level customer executive to run the customer side of the business;
  • Quickly treating the major customer pain points;
  • Employing cutting-edge technologies to expedite processes; and
  • Restructuring the whole training process for customer service.

These processes might seem like the moves you need to make, but they also likely feel complicated and unattainable. Jumping right into each of these would cause chaos in any workplace. What follows is a simple and measured roadmap to creating a customer-centric business.

But the first steps are essential.

Step 1: Empower your customer service representatives.

Hiring an executive to head up and implement the customer efforts is beneficial, but it is unwise to uproot the structure and culture of your organization in doing so. Make your first step investing in the work ethic and morale of your current customer service team. Often, the time spent on the phone or emailing a representative is the only contact your customers have with your business. So, empower agents by giving them a voice beyond just handling customer queries. By creating channels to gather representatives' feedback and allowing them to relay personal and customer insights, they will know they are part of your greater organization.

Step 2: Forget the scripts.

In service-based professions, proper instruction on the products/services and procedures is essential to an individual's success. To become more customer-centric, it might be tempting to overhaul your entire training process, but it can be very costly and takes quite a bit of time. More affordable in terms of time and resources is eliminating one small, but crucial piece of the traditional customer service job: call scripts. With the exception of a few compliance and data protection scenarios, scripts are an outdated tool. Again, empower your representatives by allowing them autonomy. You can offer opportunities to interact directly with the products they represent and hold sessions on brand immersion so they understand the product in and out, without need for a script. This is a building block to transforming your training program on your road to becoming more customer-centric.

Step 3: Reframe the problem to find a simpler solution.

According to the earlier survey, the top customer complaint is long hold times, with 34 percent of consumers listing them as their biggest customer service pet peeve. Some quick and logical solutions to this issue might be new technology or additional staffing, but more creative solutions are available. Step back and reframe the issue. Perhaps your representatives can offer to call back when the problem is resolved, giving the customer more time back in their day instead of spending it on hold.

Step 4: Choose technology smartly, not smart technology.

Buzzword technologies are tempting, but they might not be worth the investment just yet. Virtual assistants and artificial intelligence promise a lot, but are they delivering results? Before implementing a technology that will drastically change your business structure, consider what it will actually achieve and then look to data for guidance. Chatbots might seem like a viable option to save time, and they are making progress; however, as it stands, 49 percent of people do not want to be served by a chatbot. They do do want to see technologies that foster a more convenient experience on their part. For example, 31 percent want more automatic call backs, and 28 percent want more real-time order updates. Choose your technologies based on the measurable value they will deliver to the customer.

By taking these four first steps, you'll find that your end goals are much more attainable. A chief customer success officer and cutting-edge technology might be on the horizon, but will such major changes make for swift transitions and continued profitability? The industry experts agree that taking a more measured approach will translate into clearer initial results, gradually mending the divide between your service and your customers. You will then be prepared for higher peaks later on.

Fara Haron is CEO of Global BPS at Arvato.