Hooda's blog

Create Advocates

Last week I bought a Reliance Broadband Data card and immediately encountered some issues with its activation. I called their customer support (aka call center) folks. The support representative listened to my problem patiently and asked a few probing questions. Then she conferenced me with various stakeholders (Sales Person, who sold the data card to me, and Field verification person, who has to verify my address) and solved my problem within 30 mins. I was ecstatic!!

Involving your customer in problem-solving and making your internal workflow transparent to them will make your customer believe you. Shroud of secrecy and keeping everything hidden from customers didn’t help companies much to date. Empower your support folks with requisite knowledge and skills and give them authority to make decisions. Zappos gives full freedom to its Customer Support Representative (CSR) to decide whether to give replacement shoes or not. CSR is your front end to the customer so they need to be empowered to take timely and right decisions and hence kindle trust in the customer. The customer doesn’t like CSR who just reads out the scripted answers and fails to make any decision for them. CSR folks should be aware of the bigger picture of the company. They should be aware of all workflows in the company, the scope of various Business Units (BU), and which responsibility lies with whom. Awareness will help them to make the right decision and authority will allow them to make things happen with people from various BUs. CSRs are generally seen to pass the buck to other departments and just act as mundane information providers. They generally crib about not getting a proper proactive response from other BUs. The customer is not bothered about what your internal company limitations are and why things are not working at your end. They just need a solution.

CSR should be customer-focused and should have a conscious inclination toward the customer. This will help them understand customers’ pain points better. CSR, in addition to working as problem solvers, can also act as a consultant to the company. They can give feedback to management on areas that can be improved. Feedback would be more precise and holistic if CSR is aware of all workflows internal to the company. CSRs' continuous feedback will smoothen various business units’ integration and inter-BU communication.

In case of a customer complaint, CSR should pull in all stakeholders in a conference call, find out the root cause of the problem, assign action points to concerned stakeholders and then follow up after expected closure. In case they find some process flaw/blip they can give feedback to the concerned person so that problem can be eliminated for all future customers.

Transparent processes will make all stakeholders accountable in product servicing. A product manager told me once that the key to success is to make every stakeholder accountable (in success as well as failure). People are more responsive when they are accountable. Various BUs act as if to do their mechanical work and push the work to the next basket so that they can say their job is done. They are more focused on avoiding any possible blame rather than focusing on delivering the right service. Once the responsibility of delivery is shared amongst various BUs they will act more coherently and with enhanced communication. Stakeholders should be properly trained for this transparency and they should be made aware of various dynamics of other interfacing BUs. People generally think that things are too complex so they can’t do anything about them. But if things seem complex then it means that you still have not understood them logically.

Once things are transparent customers will start to gain faith in you. And faith is far more valuable than, usual, customer delight. Faith makes your customers your advocate. They will be able to vouch for your service in front of anyone. An advocate is even more valuable than a social-sharer as a social sharer only spreads information but an Advocate vouch for you along with spreading information.

Transparency should be practiced with utmost caution in the beginning. When you are becoming transparent you are exposing your flaws to the customer and a few customers might not act in a very genial manner if they are aware of your flaws. Also, stakeholders should be proactively responsive to CSR. CSRs should also act as a moderator in stakeholders’ conference calls to facilitate resolution.

PS: This post was originally posted on hoodasaurabh.blogspot.com

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