The four axes of customer service and why it’s absolutely strategic

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Isabel Marant, The Myndset digital marketing brand strategyIsabel Marant, The Myndset digital marketing brand strategy

A simple business plan: Make products that people want to buy.

Over the last years, we have seen an increasing emphasis on customer centricity.  It seems clear that the direct relationship that one can now have between brand and customer has rendered being customer centric a strategic necessity.  In a recent survey in the UK*, 46% of companies stated that customer centricity was a top priority. It almost sounds rather odd nowadays how any organization could think not to be focused on the customer.  It reminds me of an absurd statement (especially when taken out of context) in the October 2013 Bazaar magazine.  Writing about Isabel Marant, the Parisian fashion designer, and, what amounts to her business plan, the journalist writes, “her idea [was] simple: to create clothes that she — and other women — really wanted to buy.”  The question I pose would be: as opposed to what?

Which foot first?

Customer Service, The Myndset digital marketing brand strategy

The attention on the customer typically comes in opposition to being highly (overly) focused on the product.  As the pendulum swings toward customer centricity, two thoughts spring to mind.  (1) Try selling a shoddy product. (2) Try making a product that caters to everyone.  It’s not about one without the other.  There is, of course, nuance in the extent to which one must adapt one’s model toward a greater customer orientation.  For companies intending to inject value into their proposition, the intangible service component can become truly determinant. The decision is thus about prioritization and the consequent implications for business.  In reality, though there are even other options and stakeholders on whom to focus, including most notably employee first.  In my conception of branding, this is where my heart lies.  The most loyal and impassioned customer should be the employee.  These are the employees who are on the front line who are customer facing, but also the folks in the back office because there is new found urgency to the integration and collaboration between front and back office.

Customer centric initiatives

With this new found emphasis on customer centricity, we have seen companies grappling with and investing in new CRM programs, social media, big data and, in certain cases, customer service.  However, it appears that not all companies have received the memo about the strategic importance of customer service.  {Click to Tweet}. It is after all, the only department in the organization with word customer in it. {Tweet this!}  The necessary consequence of being customer centric is a reorganization — or at least a re-engineering — of the company to enable a singular voice to be heard by the singular customer (as opposed to the infamous line “it’s not my responsibility”).

The 4 Axes of Customer Service

In today’s internet-enabled world, it is without doubt that customer service has become decidedly more complicated.  The channels are multiplied, the timing is accelerated and the risks are amplified.  {Click to tweet}.  Moreover, the way to segment customers has had to evolve owing to the appearance of new metrics and tools.

There are four axes for customer service to take into consideration when managing or servicing a customer.

  1. The nature of the situation/complaint from the customer.  This relates to the degree of urgency, customer irritation and tone, etc.
  2. The specific platform or channel through which the complaint has come requires a specific style of answer (long form, 140 characters, etc.)
  3. The importance of the client in terms of amount of his/her business (i.e. loyalty and purchasing power)
  4. The influence of the customer (especially in an online environment).  Even if they are not perfect, online tools such as Klout and Traackr can help if the customer database is so equipped to identify online profiles associated with real life customers.

In this new world, customer service teams are needing to detect and understand the nature of the demand, determine the type of client (size and influence) and find a response in a shortened timeframe.  The burgeoning use of smartphones has made customer service demands even more immediate and cross-channel (via phone and/or internet).  {Click to Tweet} To do this without a radically complicit and deeply understood support system throughout the organization will make the customer service team’s job extremely difficult.  For companies that have decided to outsource their customer service or create automated services that make no effort to distinguish the type of customer, the service component becomes proportionately more ineffective according to the value being injected into the proposition.  One sure litmus test of a customer centric organization is the degree to which the CEO and C-Suite executives intentionally listen to clients — without the accoutrements or dressing-up of local operational teams.  CEOs should take inspiration from O2 Telefonica CEO in the UK, Ronan Dunne, who “walks the aisles with his customers” in the evening on Twitter.  It sounds obvious, but the CEO should fully understand the customer journey and, ideally, experience it him or herself.   For example, has the CEO actually tried calling head office to get someone, to say nothing of posting a Facebook message or sending an email and getting no response?

*May 2013 Research of 300 top companies in UK, by Incite Marketing and Communications

 

3 Comments, RSS

  1. […] Over the last years, we have seen an increasing emphasis on customer centricity. Customer service is a strategic component of customer centricity.  […]

  2. […] Over the last years, we have seen an increasing emphasis on customer centricity. Customer service is a strategic component of customer centricity.  […]

  3. […] industry. There is, as ever, the retail store where store staff meet and manage customers. There is customer service (that can also serve as tele-sales) that typically operates via some mix of phone, letter, email […]

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