Product/Service Quality, Not Necessarily Customer Service, is Key to CX
May 23, 2016
Delivering an excellent Customer Experience (CX) has become paramount for businesses’ customer and revenue retention, profits, and ultimately survival. But they should take a hard look at where to prioritize their CX efforts.
Facing slowly growing consumer and business available incomes, companies have had to become more competitive for customer spend against their rivals within their fields, and against other fields. Meanwhile lowering barriers to entry for many products and services are attracting competitors. It is becoming faster to go to market with new and often market-disrupting items. Cloud, on-demand, and products-as-service (PRaaS) models are making customer purchases and loyalty ephemeral.
At the same time customers have taken more control of their relationships with businesses. They demand goods and services that exceed their expectations, and they seek these out by researching before buying, and in turn influence others on purchases through social media. They also want to engage with businesses when and wherever they are, often on mobile devices.
In today’s environment, excellent CX is becoming the prime competitive differentiator. To use the old theatrical adage, suppliers are only as good as their last performances.
In response, businesses have been bolstering their customer service to improve their CX. Frost & Sullivan research, (downloadable for purchase on Frost.com), indicate they have been investing in increasingly cloud/hosted advanced inbound routing and multichannel outbound customer contact, chat, and IVR solutions, and mobile-friendly personalized web sites. Businesses also have been acquiring automated chat, SMS/text, and virtual assistant solutions.
More critically businesses are seeking to have a deeper and actionable understanding of customers by listening closer to the voice of the customer (VoC) whether in conversations with agents, through customer feedback, and by monitoring social comments, posts, and Tweets. This is resulting in the purchases of analytics (including social analytics) and enterprise feedback software.
Frost & Sullivan research identified hosted agent performance optimization (analytics, call recording, quality monitoring, plus performance and workforce management) as having the highest growth rates of the service segments covered. Frost & Sullivan research also identified analytics has being the only growth area in the contact center systems market.
That a leading vendor (NICE) in the analytics space recently purchased an inbound/ outbound supplier (inContact), rather than the other way around as in the past (e.g. Genesys of UTOPY), illustrates the expansion of business priorities from handling customer contacts to maximizing the CX value from them.
But by focusing perhaps unduly on the contact center and customer service side of the equation businesses run the risk of missing the proverbial forest for the trees. For what really matters to customers in the CX is ensuring superb product and service quality, priced to customers’ expectations.
After all, it is the products and services that customers are buying. Not the customer service and support.
The VoC is very simple: supply us with goods and services that work.
Poor product and service quality, more than any other factor, undermines the CX by aggravating customers. It also drives up costs through added service and support contacts, from returns, recalls, and repairs, and from discounts, replacements, and other “make goods”. It consequently (and understandably) risks driving away repeat and referred sales.
In fairness, excellent customer service plays critical roles in ensuring quality by providing timely information and service. Its importance will grow with PRaaS and connected Internet of Things offerings that combine complex multiple components and vendors. But ideally businesses should aim for zero service and support inquiries, and resulting expenses.
The top business priority set should be to ensure that the products and services are rugged and reliable, fulfilled correctly, delivered on time and in top condition, and have clear instructions and other critical information (eg FAQs, service schedules, warranties) for them.
With quality products and services, backed by quality customer service, and by listening and analyzing the VoC, businesses will then be able to deliver a powerful (and profitable) CX.
Brendan Read is Senior Industry Analyst with over 25 years’ experience covering business, communications, staffing, and technology. He has worked in, prepared reports, and blogged on a wide range of topics including customer contact, CX, CRM, IoT, social media, supply chain, and BC/DR. He also has backgrounds in construction, manufacturing, materials, resource extraction, site selection, and transportation. He examines the broad economic, environmental, innovation, political, and social mega trends, and their impacts on businesses, markets, and society.