| Customer Experience

"Kundenservice ist essenziell für das Kundenerlebnis"

Keine positive Customer Experience ohne exzellenten Service an jedem Touchpoint: Davon ist Bill Price überzeugt.
Bild: Bill Price

Wer seinen Kunden wirklich eine exzellente Customer Experience verschaffen will, muss exzellente Service-Erlebnisse bieten. Das ist Kern jedes Geschäftserfolgs, und es betrifft alle Mitarbeiter im Unternehmen, nicht nur die mit direktem Kundenkontakt. Davon ist Bill Price, Unternehmensberater und Autor des Buchs "Your customer rules" (und des Klassikers "The best service is no service") überzeugt. Wir haben uns mit ihm unterhalten und bringen das Interview im englischen Originalton. 

In your new book you talk about the Me2B World. What does that mean? 

After David (Jaffe) and I finished writing our first book, The Best Service is No Service, we were pleased to see many companies adopting what we called the “7 Principles of Best Services” but the last Principle, “Deliver Great Service Experiences” continued to be hard for most companies to do on a consistent basis.  We decided to go out and ask some of the recognized leaders in customer experience, companies like Hyatt based in the States and Vente-Privee based in Paris, and we started seeing a pattern form:  instead of operating in the traditional “B to C” or “B to B” mode, they truly believe that “the customer is in charge”.  It dawned on us that they are using a very different orientation, one that we started calling “Me to B” or, for short, Me2B.  As with the first book we started collecting stories about this new Me2B orientation, and found many “bad stories” as well.  The customer experience leaders all liked our Me2B term, and so we now call it the Me2B World, or the Me2B era.

Your book is about service. Before all: How important is service for the customer experience?  And for business success?

Coming from customer service leaders like MCI (as US-based telecoms provider in the 1990s that successfully challenged the AT&T monopoly) and Amazon (where I was the first VP of Worldwide Customer Service), I have always believed that designing, measuring, and delivering memorable customer service is essential to create great customer experience, which in turn leads to business success measured by greater customer retention, increased sales at a lower cost, and profitability.  For many years the connection among customer service, customer experience, and business success has been made clear, starting perhaps with the book The Service Profit Chain and demonstrated by companies such as Amazon, American Express, Apple, Dysons, Hyatt, Starbucks, T-Mobile, Vente-Privee, Yamato Transport, and other “Me2B Leaders” whose stories we share in the book.  With excellent service you can produce lasting customer experiences that in turn lead to customer loyalty and retention, positive word of mouth (and NPS), and then business success.  Of course you still need to have products or services that meet or exceed customer requirements, at a fair price, but we make the point that when companies pull their customers into their product design, development, and delivery, service + experience + business success become very tightly linked.

You have identified seven needs of the customer. Which one is the most important of them?

Ah yes, that’s an interesting question to explore!  In our book we present what we call a "hierarchy of customer needs" that starts, at the bottom of a triangle or pyramid, "You know me, you remember me", intending that to be one that you have to get right to have a chance to achieve the other six customer needs.  To me, all seven of the customer needs are equally important, some harder to get without doing very well with the first three needs (the second being "You give me choices", the third "You make it easy for me").  But whether or not "You know me, you remember me" actually the most important of them is what we want readers and the Me2B Leader companies to tell us!  I do want to suggest a related angle to you – these seven customer needs also need to be in place to deliver great employee experiences which, as we all know, will help to produce great customer experiences.  Many companies are already beginning to apply these seven needs to build more employee engagement and empowerment in order to produce business success, and that’s an exciting development for David and me.

Service today is or should be multichannel service. Companies often give the impression that they are unable to integrate the different channels.

I agree with both statements, and unless or until companies produce multi-channel (or, to use the new buzz word, omnichannel) experiences, they will never be able to delight their customers or enter fully into the new Me2B world.  I have always believed that “creating and sustaining a consistent and awesome customer experience across multiple channels and touch points” should be one of the uppermost objectives for every company.  As we point out in the book, the explosion of social, mobile, and the Internet has added more channels and many more touch points, and customers now expect companies to remember them across all of the channels and touch points – reinforcing the first of our seven customer needs "You know me, you remember me".  The trouble is that most companies have built these channels as independent entities, and have distributed ownership of them and the touch points across many different executives, functions, and reports.  Harnessing all of them into a coherent picture is, admittedly, a challenge, but with Big Data and mash-up systems, cross-channel overlays, and more intelligent engines behind the channels, the Me2B Leaders are getting their arms around this challenge.  Here’s the question that I like to ask my clients and audiences:  "Your customers know everything about you, and when they contacted you, but do you know everything about them, and their contacts?"  Unless the answer is "yes", it’s a point of failure that means that customers become frustrated, many of them simply walking away to find another provider or company to supply their needs.

Customers today want to decide, when, where and how they talk to companies. Has the "You can call us from 8 to 8" era ended?

The "8 to 8" era ended a long time ago, it’s just that many companies haven’t figured it out yet!  This is one of the essential takeaways of the new Me2B orientation versus the traditional B2C or B2B thinking:  if we believe that the customer really is in charge, as the Me2B Leaders sincerely believe, then we need to be with the customer on a 24/7 basis.  Surveys confirm that when companies are “closed”, for example with after-hour messages on their phone system that do not suggest alternatives ways to contact them, customers leave.  This is also what David and I described in our first book The Best Service is No Service with the 4th Principle "Make it easy to contact your company". 

How can companies cope with this always and everywhere demand of the customers? Must they always cope with it?

Companies can, and they must not only cope with the always and everywhere demand of customers, but they have to get ahead of it!  What I mean by this is that when companies reach out proactively to their customers, for example to announce that after reviewing the customer’s usage they have decided to move her to a lower-cost plan, then all sorts of goodness happens, and there’s a new level of understanding, and a much better relationship.   We can’t stop the tide from coming in twice a day, but we can build floating docks and predict the flows so that we don't have any bad surprises.  Apart from that crude analogy, we can’t constrain or restrict our customers’ requests or needs; instead, we need to follow their lead while also creating exciting new avenues – this is what Jeff Bezos says when defining how Amazon is aiming “To Be Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company” … “You have to listen to the customer and invent for the customer” and, moreover, “We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed.  We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards”.

Some say that service is the new marketing. Which role does service play in a totally connected web X.0 world?

Service and marketing, and all other teams in our companies, all play a critical role in the new always-connected world.  It’s unfortunate that we have been using an organizational structure for the past 75 years or more that anoints functional "leaders" with broad titles such as "marketing", or "service", or "IT".  Whenever I ask clients or audiences "In your company, who owns the customer experience?" I get a wide range of responses such as "Our Chief Customer Officer" or "VP of Marketing", but isn’t the only answer that everyone in the company, and 3rd-party partners as well, own customer experience?  Sure, some single executive might produce the core document or vision, but every single action or reaction in companies affects customer experience.  When companies understand and embrace this, like the Me2B Leaders do creating cross-company teams and unifying visions, and breaking down the walls, then wonderful things happen, some unplanned, reinforcing the seven customer needs and creating greater business success.  I’ll close with a short example.  After losing its respected leadership in customer experience, Starbucks studied what had defined its earlier success and came up with the customer experience (marketing? service? both!) vision statement "We create inspired moments in each customer’s day" with four verbs:  "Anticipate, Personalize, Connect, Own".  Starbucks shut down all of its locations around the world to share this vision and train the baristas to deliver against it, and put into action the four verbs.  Starbucks also replaced its green aprons with new ones that had this vision and the four verbs stitched on the inside.  Not long afterwards my wife and I were leaving Nashville after visiting some good friends, and passing through the airport I picked up drinks for us and asked the barista if she had the new apron.  She beamed and said "yes!", promptly turning it over so that I could clearly see the words.  I then asked "What do those words mean for you?" and she immediately responded that they "are my crew-minder", and that every morning when she puts on her apron she knows that they are right over her heart, reminding her to do the right thing for customers who travel through the airport.  I took this story back to the Starbucks headquarters where I live in Seattle, and the VP of customer service whose team led the charge with the four action verbs loved the invented term “crew minder”, and then shared that since that location was a franchised operation, not staffed by Starbucks employees, the vision was clearly extending to 3rd-party partners.  Starbucks has rebounded, as we describe in our book, becoming once again a respected leader in customer experience, in the Me2B World.

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