Are your customers happy? It depends who you ask

Happy customer service women give information
© Photographer: Gabriel Blaj | Agency: Dreamstime.com

Every business strives to deliver a great customer experience, but how much room exists for improvement?

Surprisingly, employees see more room for improvement in customer service capabilities than managers do. By a factor of nearly three to one (43 percent to 17 percent), managers surveyed thought their organizations communicated well with customers through old and new channels such as text and email, whereas customer-facing employees, those on the front line dealing with customers first-hand, felt this was far from the case. At the same time, more than double the number of employees compared to their managers agreed that the businesses have older systems that require the customer to communicate in ways that they don’t always want to. Both groups however do agree in one core area – they have a strong internal program to address multichannel communications – but aren’t fully there yet.

Good customer service people can either be empowered with more timely information or held back, which can negatively impact customer relations. This depends largely on how workers are supported in terms of systems and underlying information management processes. Customer-facing employees deserve information solutions that enable swift problem-solving on any communications channel – in person or via mobile, landline or Web.

According to a Ricoh study, customer-facing workers stated they need “smarter solutions” that improve information capture, analytics, process management and information access. This assumes companies support these investments with the underlying document processes and systems. Customer-facing workers need “agile processes” that will give them the ability to handle exceptions in more flexible ways by having expert guidance, quick communication with experts and the ability to start new case processes.

Digging deeper
Why do customer-facing employees see more service shortcomings than their managers do? And how did this perception gap arise in the first place? “The answer may be that these communication issues fall through the cracks,” the study states. “They do not result in exceptions, lost customers, or delayed orders – things that managers track – but they will degrade the customer experience over time. Not closing these gaps through improved document and process support may result in inefficient workers, high employee turnover, declining competitiveness, and lost revenue.”

The disparity in the way employees and managers see customer-satisfaction capabilities builds on findings announced last month from the same study. Nearly nine in 10 customer-facing employees (89 percent) – e.g. bank clerks, call center operators, nurses, bank managers and shop supervisors – said there’s a gap between the experience they can deliver and the experience the customer expects.

According to the study, customer-facing workers are obligated to use systems that require too much time on low-value tasks – time and energy that could be invested more directly in providing a richer customer experience. Still, there’s hope for improvement.

The study is based on an online survey by Forrester of 250 global customer service strategy and operations decision-makers, as well as customer-facing individual contributors, between March 2013 and May 2013.

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