Principle #5: Customer Service Initiatives Can Lead to Significant Strategic Value

Customer service initiatives have enormous potential to improve customer experience and boost strategic value. For example, customer service can provide the broader organization with powerful insight on customers, products, services and processes. When this information is captured, identified, assimilated and turned into usable knowledge, it can literally transform an organization’s ability to identify and meet customer expectations.

I love discovering inspiring examples of how organizations leverage customer service for cross-functional improvements. For example:

  • The Australia Zoo turns customer inquiries into ideas for custom visitor packages (such as the koala experience and the wombat encounter), which has boosted per-visit revenue and the frequency of repeat visits.
  • Moen, a manufacturer of faucets and fixtures, mines customer interactions to guide how-to videos on YouTube.
  • Intuit uses customer insight when designing accounting packages for specific types of businesses.
  • Bose Corporation analyzes customer inquiries for ideas on simplifying product design and improving the clarity of user guides.
  • Amazon refers to its contact centers as “R&D machines,” providing information useful for continuously improving systems, processes and self-service capabilities.
  • UPMC Health Plan’s “Service Excellence Champions” engage directly with departments to address issues in those areas that impact the customer experience, and to identify and fix root causes.

How do you identify and leverage the potential of your customer service initiatives? A number of key lessons have emerged:

  • Develop good working relationships with the individuals who run all areas of the organization.
  • Build a team that is focused on capturing, analyzing, sharing and using value-added information across the organization.
  • Ensure that quality at the point of customer contact is given the broadest possible definition.
  • Define assumptions and unknowns in reports and data. Strategic decisions based on misinterpreted reports can be worse than if there were no reports at all.
  • Get the best tools you can. Analytics and performance management systems can help you analyze content, detect trends and causal factors, and identify improvement opportunities.
  • Every interaction with a customer provides insight into processes, products, policies, services, customers and the external environment. You have the opportunity to play a central role in building a stronger organization with better services and products across the board.

Note: This post is part of a series on Improving Quality and Performance in Customer Experience:
Principle #1: Quality Must Be Based on Customer Needs and Expectations
Principle #2: Quality and Access to Service Work Together
Principle #3: The Process Is Where the Leverage Is
Principle #4: Fix Root Causes to Make Lasting Improvements

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