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Customer experience: postcards from Tenerife

Commentary by William Carson Teleperformance. A family holiday abroad is essentially a ‘field trip’ for the customer experience professional. In a relatively short period of time,… View Article

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Customer experience: postcards from Tenerife

Commentary by William Carson Teleperformance.

A family holiday abroad is essentially a ‘field trip’ for the customer experience professional. In a relatively short period of time, the customer will engage with almost every vertical sector from travel, financial services and retail through public services, utilities and telecom.

At every touch point the consumer will experience a broad spectrum of customer facing skills, qualities and competencies – and the lack thereof.

During this summer’s trip to the Canaries I was struck by the primordial nature of the symbiotic supplier / customer relationship and was reminded that for all the developments in e-commerce, mobile payments and social engagement, some businesses fundamentally thrive or dive on the nature and quality of the customer service executed at the point of interaction.

There were numerous instances on this vacation when I discovered myself using age-old skills such as haggling (thank you Brian), negotiating, and plain old chancing my arm which I observed were skills that were no longer so evident in my usual day to day consumer behaviour at home.

Because so many of the products and services we buy are now supported to a greater or lesser degree through online systems and portals, there is a reduced opportunity to ‘be creative’ in that relationship, and suppliers on their part are systemically no longer set up to respond appropriately.

However, before I jumped back in the pool, I did jot down five of the most pertinent consmer / supplier lessons that it occurred to me should always be kept front of mind when seeking that better deal and customer experience (and therefore value) from the suppliers and brands we favour:

The business people do with other people will always be more likely to generate better revenues, customer advocacy and repeat custom. On this year’s trip, one pair of flip flops from a ‘customer-centric’ shop owner led to a family sale of wet socks, two flamenco dresses and matching shoes (castanets were a noise too far).  Clear and credible information at the point of customer interaction will always be more likely to help close a sale than ‘promotional’ dialogue which pre-supposes ‘less good outcomes’ for the customer if they fail to act, and act now. That’s why Sal on the beach got the parascending booking for two by asking the right questions (what weight are you) than the other guy who said we needed to book there and then to avoid disappointment.

Don’t let the fluidity of online e-commerce inure you to the value of presenting the supplier with your own proposition, be it on cost, discount, or add-ons; they will reassess the value of you walking away with your custom vs. doing the deal and taking a calculated hit on some element of revenue/profit – usually in your favour! The deal on the flamenco dresses was probably better than anything I could get at dfs on a Bank Holiday Monday! There is no substitute for a customer who smiles, they can decide where and how often they do it each day while suppliers have no choice and need to do it all day – every day. The customer who smiles back has added to their currency before they’ve presented payment and is more likely to extract direct and / or indirect value from the transaction. Which in my holiday world amounts to free aperitifs for the gentleman and the lady before dinner, and free liqueurs at the end (and ice cream for the kids).

Good after-sales service isn’t a myth, and it is enshrined in the mindset of the supplier as well as in law. Don’t be afraid then to request the refund, the exchange, the alternative – its still good business to the supplier and a good experience for you – a reversal if you like of the G B Shaw’s old maxim: “don’t wrestle with a pig, you get dirty and the pig likes it”!

Working with so many brands that are now using more and more self serve customer engagement models, I can see the value to the bottom line is the ability to better plan (and report to shareholders) for ‘x sales @ y value over t where t = time’ than the ever shifting order value of consumer / supplier led pricing negotiations.

At the same time, I am convinced this underplays the revenue potential of a truly engaged and dynamic customer services team that matches the customers experience to expectations. Analyses won’t always be able to extract this data as it’s what ‘didn’t happen’ that is the thing that most likely would have added value to the business – but undoubtedly ensuring the customer facing team on assisted voice and non-voice channels are the best that they can be (tools, motivation, development) is fundamental to driving high value customer interactions and great CX. Along with my new watch, this is my key ‘post-vacance’ take away as well as a determination to reassert my age old consumer skills!

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