Is it the responsibility of Customer Service leaders?
Business continuity, crisis management, incident management, disruption planning – call it what you will – we all need to be prepared for incidents and crises. It’s the only way to protect our profits, reputations, customer relationships and staff (from excess stress!) when something goes ‘pop’.
Most businesses accept the need for plans to cope with, and recover from, disruption to their systems caused by technical failures, cyber-attacks, data breaches and the like. Usually they expect their IT teams to make these plans. They tend, though, to focus on ‘disaster recovery’ (DR) – getting data and systems up and running again in a defined timeframe. Most companies, though not all, plan for the other ‘major’ risks too – total loss of their building, catastrophic damage from a cyber-attack or other long-lasting incidents but these often focus on DR too, rather than business continuity (BC).
But what about the more likely or ‘normal’ risks – snow days, floods, power outages, flu bugs, school closures and more? Not to mention lottery syndicate wins. Who should plan for those? How can you reduce the risk and impact on your business and customers? That’s business continuity.
The customer-facing leadership, with suitable help, should be at the heart of planning for all disruption to front line services – whether that’s for a few hours or days, as in most cases, or longer. After all, the people who deal with customer issues daily will bear the brunt of any problem and should best understand the impact the issue is likely to have on customers. They should also be well placed to judge which support services will need to be in place soonest to cope with it and reduce the impact. They will also, of course, be the people with the greatest empathy for the customer. Of course, the longer the crisis lasts, the wider the team that needs to be involved, but for the most likely situations, having a customer-facing BC plan is vital.
What would you do if, for example, a builder dug up the internet cables to your office? How would you cope? How would you tell customers? How would you tell your staff? Would those plans actually work in practice? How long would the disruption last? How much would it cost you (in money and reputation)?
What if a weather event that stopped staff reaching your office? You might have ‘cloud’ and social media services, accessible from anywhere, but could your staff actually login from home? Do they know the login details? Could they access information they would need? How would they know the office was closed? Do they know their role in the plan? What if the weather event also caused power outages at their homes so their home internet didn’t work and they couldn’t charge their phones? What then? How many parents could work from home if the schools also closed?
Planning a successful business continuity strategy is complex and needs a lot of collaboration – yes, relying on the expertise of the IT team but, most importantly, with customer-facing staff too.
You’ll need to ask ‘but what if?’ a lot to create a good business continuity plan that helps your customers and protects your business reputation.
Are you ready? Are you sure?
CsCx offers business continuity planning consultancy and advice, focussed on customer impact and protecting your business reputation. Please get in touch if you need help (email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +44 1793 272383).
Chris Butcher - Founder of CSCX - January 2019
Some years ago, I needed to travel to Dusseldorf to visit my employer’s German office for the first time. Two airlines – BA and Lufthansa flew there. Prices, flight times and reputations all seemed similar so I asked colleagues which airline they used and why. To be honest, that didn’t help to separate them much until one colleague mentioned that Lufthansa had leather seats. That tipped the balance for me. I booked my flights with Lufthansa.
The outward flight was fine. The service was OK, neither great nor awful as far as I can remember, but the leather seats looked great.
On the flight back to Heathrow, things were much the same. Nothing especially memorable but a pleasant enough flight. Apart from the landing.
Having descended smoothly from 35000 feet we were over the runway, maybe 20 feet off the ground when, or so it seemed to me, the pilot decided that was good enough. He dropped the plane hard and we bounced along the runway a number of times. Many of us screamed, fearing we were crashing. Those beautiful leather seats did nothing to reduce the force of the repeated impacts.
Thankfully we came to a halt and taxied to the terminal. Pretty shaken up, we began to leave the aircraft. As we walked along the tunnel, we looked out of the windows towards the cockpit. The pilot was, in full view of his 300+ passengers (customers), creased up with laughter as he watched us leave.
An RAF veteran recently explained to me, in some detail, why the landing might have been bumpy and enthusiastically defended the pilot’s flying skills. Something about low level turbulence, apparently. That, however, misses the point. I’ve flown enough to know that landings can sometimes be bumpy. Normally, the pilot announces an apology and gives an explanation. That’s fine.
What was, however, inexcusable on this flight, was the lack of an apology and clear hilarity. The face of that pilot has stayed with me long after the rest of my memory of the flight has faded. In customer service terms, the customer’s perception is their reality. And their perception depends on you.
The well-respected Business Insider’s report has shown that it takes 12 positive experiences to overcome one bad experience. Lufthansa won’t get the opportunity to give me those 12 good experiences – the pilot’s behaviour has already cost them my custom. That’s a heck of an expensive moment of ‘fun’, especially if any of my fellow passengers ‘voted with their feet’ too, as I suspect they did.
So the question is – what happens when something goes wrong in your business? What do your customers perceive? Is one of your team a ‘pilot’ who acts inappropriately and creates lasting, negative memories for your customers? Or do they apologise quickly and do all they can to share and resolve the customer’s concerns, turning it into an opportunity to impress the customer?
It only takes a moment to get it wrong – but negative memories can so easily be avoided!
First published nn Total Guide at https://www.totalswindon.com/business/i-will-never-be-swayed-by-leather-seats-again-cscx/
Chris Butcher - Founder of CSCX - December 2018
It’s common for a business to spend vast sums on their appearance – websites, premises, signage, advertisements. But is that beauty only skin deep?
Your business is much like a model. It may have a beautiful face but what about its voice, its eyes and its ears? Are they equally attractive?
Your customer-facing staff are your eyes, ears and voice. Do you invest as much time and money in making sure they portray your beauty too? When they listen to and speak with customers, do they convey the true beauty of your business – or do they reveal your beauty as just skin deep?
To gain long relationships, your business needs to be attractive throughout. Anything less and you’ll have customers who are just one night stands!
So, invest in your staff – help them listen well, see issues and speak sensibly. Make them feel proud, motivated, enthusiastic, empowered and trusted.
That’s real beauty. Beauty that will excite your customers and create a deep, long lasting bond.
Chris Butcher - Founder of CSCX - November 2018
Are your staff trained to empathise with the underlying problem?
To get your customer experience right, you need to understand why your customers buy. That might sound obvious, yet many companies get it wrong.
Let’s say you run a spade store. You have lots of spades; some cheap, some expensive, some basic, some with luxury features. Your customer doesn’t really want to buy a spade – they want to dig a hole. Whether a basic spade fits their budget or a luxury one would make digging the hole a little easier, they want to dig a hole. Maybe they want to transform their garden or put up a fence to stop their neighbour’s dog chasing their cat. Whatever their goal, to do so they need to dig a hole. Your spade is just a tool to let them do what they actually want to do. They don’t simply want a spade to put into their shed and never touch it again.
You can, of course, apply this idea to whatever you sell. Birthday cards make friends happy, flowers tell people you love them, fuel means you can drive somewhere.
So stop and think for a moment. Do you know why someone buys your product? Do you market the benefits or just the features? Is your after-sale support designed to match?
What about your support staff? If the customer calls your Customer Service team to complain that their spade hasn’t arrived, are your staff trained to empathise with the underlying problem? Whilst the practical solution is unchanged (ship another spade or issue a refund), understanding the impact of the failed delivery – the neighbour’s dog is still chasing the cat – means you can deliver a far more personal support experience.
A moment’s recognition of their plight and some focused empathy makes a massive difference to the conversation. That will surely be far more memorable for your customer and far better for your business reputation.
Chris Butcher - Founder of CSCX - August 2018
Your customers expect their feedback to be heard - but is it?
With most companies keen to improve their “customer experience” (CX), we are deluged with reports, research and analytics demonstrating its importance. Whilst the numbers may vary, the message is clear – CX is increasingly important and affects reputation, customer retention and, therefore, profit.
For most businesses, CX improvement means that new, specialist staff are employed (or existing staff are re-titled) and hopefully, long overdue change begins to happen. Website navigation, web shop and maybe front of house signage changes, even colour schemes. A lot of conversations occur around how we must listen to our customers. ‘Feedback’ methods are provided and statistics created.
Sadly, in my experience, the existing customer service (CS) teams are not always included in the development project. Too often, CS staff are described as “necessary”, even “important”, whilst continuing to be excluded from the heart of the CX improvement programme. So, many Customer Service staff feel undervalued and that their input is not valued or even heard.
To deliver a truly effective CX improvement, businesses obviously need to listen to their customers. To do so effectively, they must understand that their Customer Service teams (or whatever they call them) are both the ears and voice of the business. Day in and day out, these teams speak to your customers. In many cases, the CS team member is the only person in your business that a customer speaks with. They listen to customer comments, gripes and concerns, many of which are hugely important in CX terms. Their conversation will be memorable – probably more memorable than your website, web shop, colour scheme or signage. Yet the CS team’s remit and focus, all too often, is simply to provide the customer with a satisfactory solution to their problem and not to inform and influence effective CX improvements. Even worse, they are not trained, encouraged or equipped to focus on the experience they provide to the customer during the conversation.
Providing a “feedback loop” to the CS team or drawing ‘insights’ from support systems is great on paper but misses a great deal of vital feedback – is this true for your business? Statistical analysis will often overlook the details and not pick up great suggestions from customers. As focus groups demonstrate, some great ideas are not suggested by a large volume of people.
Valuing feedback needs to be embedded in the business culture, not just be a process or mechanism. If CS teams, the ears of your business, don’t believe that they’ll be listened to they simply won’t pass on vital feedback. Why would they bother passing it on, however valuable or true, if they feel that no-one will take action? Can (and do) your front line staff confidently reassure customers that their feedback will be heard by those who can make changes? If not, the CX experience is damaged.
Often the people on the front line will have the best CX ideas of all, the best understanding of what your customers think and feel. So, to really hear what your customers are saying you need to use your ears. Invest time in talking with your front line CS staff. Sit with them, chat with them, buy them a coffee – and listen! Value their comments.
So should the CS team become part of the CX team? No, I don’t believe so. CS staff need to be skilled professionals, delivering a high quality experience whilst resolving the customer’s issue or concern. That’s best done by a specialist team – the skills required to be good at CS are different from the skills required to integrate great CX across the whole business. It is, though, vital that both teams work closely together. Bill Gessert’s recent article explains the difference well - https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/customer-service-vs-experience-101-bill-gessert/
So my plea is simple: use your ‘ears’ more. Listen carefully to what your customers tell your CS team then act on their feedback! Chat with them, listen to them, train, empower, equip and encourage them. Your customers expect their feedback to be heard!
Chris Butcher - Founder of CSCX - May 2018