Stephen Lynn, CEO of Dovetail Software, posted recently about a theme we cover here a lot, the Forgotten Space of customer service and support (CS&S).
He describes how companies are fixated on the top-line revenues that tangibly accrue from sales, and how they can’t seem to focus on the value of customer retention that only comes from the loyalty bred by CS&S.
Ironically, for all that most companies neglect service and support as the forgotten space, every customer in the world remembers it at all times. No customer ever forgets the desire for service and support.
There is a vast, global conspiracy of customers who simply want to be treated considerately. And more like Keystone Cops than captains of industry, executives run around looking high and low for the secret to customer satisfaction. But they almost never stumble across this great conspiracy.
This failure is a lack or an immaturity of marketing acumen, and the solutions reside probably more in business culture than in Information Technology. As Denis Pombriant very recently said, in asking, what more than CRM do we need to serve customers well:
“At the end of the day, I think it’s not a technology issue at all – it’s a business model issue. Right now, we don’t think in terms of how to optimize what we do when we are not in a transaction, so we don’t do anything and we miss opportunities.” – We need more than CRM
There is one bright hope in technology however, and this lies in the area of customer participation with the enterprise: the customer feedback such as Dell is cultivating, and the phenomenon of the customer review such as Amazon has made famous.
“In the past four years, the desire to know about other customers’ experiences has more than doubled in importance as a top concern of online shoppers.” – Customer Satisfaction Feedback Has Shot Up in Comparison Shopping Importance
User participation and feedback is something that executives understand very well: they themselves are greatly dependent on peer recommendations for their decisions, as our friends at ITtoolbox report:
“IT decision-makers and influencers reference vendor Web sites more (and trade magazines and editorial web sites slightly less) than user-generated content for making purchasing decisions, but trust user-generated content more than they do either of these traditional content sources.
“Executive decision-makers have the highest usage profile [of social media use] among IT audiences” – ITtoolbox/PJA Social Media Index
Some companies simply don’t care about customer retention: churn for them is the nature of the game, and front-end sales goals are how they market. And as the incident of Jet Blue illustrated, the airlines are a great example of the typical ambivalence that exists throughout industry: for all they practice the cosmetic layer of loyalty incentives, they are “unafraid of losing customers” in Denis Pombriant’s words at the time.
But most companies are fearful of the emboldened nature of today’s customer – if not interested in repeat business then at least terrified by the specter of bad reviews made public – and are trying to do something about it.
The answer is customer centricity. But even in the desire to run a company according to its customers’ wishes – as Dell is currently reinventing itself to do – many companies still don’t quite grasp the aspect of brand loyalty, and pull up short at the line of matching buyer and seller.
Thus there is a great sense of providing what Amdocs calls the “intentional” customer experience, which is to say, one designed to offer for sale what the customer will buy in the moment. Intensified analytics are the software that most particularly accompanies this thinking.
And yet, and yet…
The great promise for the Forgotten Space is simply that individual customers are rising to the surface and coming to the forefront of the corporate focus. And this phenomenon is very much assisted by technology, software in particular.
Collaboration between the personnel of the enterprise, expanding seamlessly to include collaboration with external customers, all driving the great enterprise between them? This vision is actually beginning to happen, and the evolution of software and systems in the realms of CRM, business intelligence, knowledge management, and the architecture and elements of Enterprise 2.0, is testimony to this.