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When Being 'Customer Focused' Is No Longer Enough

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When Being 'Customer Focused' Is No Longer Enough

May 19, 2015
By Tracey E. Schelmetic
TMCnet Contributor

Being “customer focused” is a great thing: it sounds good on an annual report, and it’s a terrific line to put on marketing materials. Even when it’s true (and it’s often not), being “customer focused” may no longer be enough. The kind of companies that will succeed going forward are those that are “customer-obsessed.” Today, customers expect it, and if they don’t get it, they WILL go elsewhere.

According to a recent blog post by Forrester (News - Alert) Research analyst Michael Gazala, a confluence of events has occurred to put the ball firmly in the customer’s court today.

“Chastened by a weak economy, presented with copious options, and empowered with technology, consumers have more market muscle than ever before,” he wrote. “The information advantage tips to consumers with ratings and review sites. They claim pricing power by showrooming. And the only location that matters is the mobile phone in their hand from which they can buy anything from anyone and have it delivered anywhere.”

But it’s not enough to master simply mobile or the social media channel. Customers still expect high-quality phone support when they need it, so the channels must be integrated thoroughly to allow customers to “jump” between them. In addition, long call queues leading to long hold times, multiple transfers, incomplete answers and the need for customers to call back to finish transactions are beginning to cost companies today, particularly those companies that now have competition from non-traditional arenas.

Image via Shutterstock

“Cable and satellite operators lost almost 400,000 video subscribers in 2013 and 2014 as customers dropped them for the likes of Netflix,” wrote Gazala. ‘Lending Club, an alternative to commercial banks, has facilitated more than $6 billion in peer-to-peer loans. Now that most B2B buyers would rather buy from a website than a salesperson, we estimate that 1 million B2B sales jobs will disappear in the coming years.”

Going forward, the customer-obsessed company will need to facilitate several concepts for customers: speed (customers want their problems solved now…not next week), intelligence (companies had better be prepared with data and a way to use it), impact (to stand out from the competition and build a better customer experience), and flexibility (customers don’t want to conform to your business methods; they expect you to conform to the way they want to do business).

Too many companies have tried to improve the quality of their customer experience in a piecemeal approach: “Let’s add social media!” “Let’s make sure all calls are answered in two minutes” or “Let’s redesign our Web site.” The truth of the matter is that changing to a customer-obsessed organization requires that companies engage in a far-reaching, cross-channel program of pleasing customers, from their contact center experience to their retail experience to the quality of product and service.

“Most companies have made some progress on mobile, big data, customer experience, and digital transformation initiatives,” wrote Gazala. “But the most advanced companies — including McDonald’s in France, Home Depot, Salesforce, and T-Mobile (News - Alert) — truly embrace customer obsession when their strategies combine these mutually reinforcing imperatives.”

Customers won’t stay inside the channels you have built. To truly accommodate them, it’s time to eliminate silos and think from the customers’ perspective. 

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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