“Customer is king”,” customer is never wrong “etc. Infact one of the critical and non-negotiable stages of a process creation was the collection of the “Voice of Customer” (VOC), especially as the Quality Management movement was at its peak – TQM, Six Sigma etc.
Early in the days, we often used to hear- “The customer is the one who pays our salary”.
“Customer is king”,” customer is never wrong. Infact one of the critical and non-negotiable stages of a process creation was the collection of the “Voice of the Customer” (VOC), especially as the Quality Management movement was at its peak – Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, etc.
So, what has changed in the businesses over the years? Do the new lines of thought still consider Customer voice and interaction as paramount? Are they “moments of truth” or more data points in an overall data collection plan?
With the growth in technology adoption at every stage of business there is exponential increase in remote customer interactions. More and more of our discussions, Demos of products or services and even negotiations are online. Now it is no longer mandatory for a company to have regional and local offices in every city/state to sell or service local clients. So yes, there is a new definition to “Meeting and talking to customers “in this technology enabled era. The need getting amplified by incidents like the recent pandemic.
Standardise service delivery
However, while there is increasing use of technology and processes to drive the repeatability and reproduce ability of interactions (to enable rapid scaleups), what is vital is that the customer focus is not lost. What is happening is that there is an attempt to templatise customer responses – to fit it into data capturing tools – CRMs and its sort. Earlier a Customer interaction was a process which used to start with the customer VOC and a work flow to resolve or address the same. Now the technology of how that customer VOC would be captured, analysed and responded to is being structured and automated, helping in reducing the “Human” variable and have as uniform a response as possible. Like they say in logical reasoning – “if this…then do this…”
How is Technology helping?
There are numerous exponents advocating how some companies are not thinking about their customers and are replacing human customer interactions with automation. Technology is meant to improve customer experiences but reducing variations in improving data collection. Proper planning, scoping creating and deploying of an automation solution can definitely improve the customer experiences. Automating an activity need not address process issues, and can have gaps resulting in an undesirable customer experience, but addressing the full chain can ensure a seamless customer experience – internal or external.
Therefore, Automation has to be undertaken at a full process or Value chain level – each stage – upstream and downstream. Today there are multiple tools helping to automate and capture the Customer facing processes, be it
- Mobile apps for field forces to capture actual customer interaction as and when it happens.
- CRMs to capture all leads and customer interactions into an application for record and analysis.
- Templatising tools and automating internal work flows – to ensure faster, less ambiguous responses.
- Logic defined work flow tools -enabling automatic escalations on non-actioned cases to ensure SLA/TAT adherence.
- Use of Chatbots to enable quick responses and immediate actioning of a resolution process etc
These are areas wherein technology is attempting to reduce or remove Human interaction or intervention (often called a variable causing failures) at a very basic level.
So where are we headed?
Tools which analyse each customer’s interaction to suggest potential responses are becoming more productive today – this aims to understand a customer issue as it happens before she/he actually talks about it. As they say, the objective is to reach an” n= 1” level, wherein each customer is understood and addressed, rather than categories of customers basis their behaviour or demographics. This would no doubt take each customer process to predict failure rates and proactively help improve them.
How do we get there without failing?
Use of technology can help capture customer issues better if right tools are used and the complete value chain is understood and addressed in ways possible rather than automating “for the sake of automation”. While going in for automation – the operations teams and the IT partners need to understand upstream and downstream processes, current technology used, its compatibilities, operating workflow systems, company’s IT and Change Management ROADMAP apart from Budgets which can be attributed for the same.
The key is to look at the complete customer service delivery process – its current baseline of experience and technology, potential failure points and then mapping what a potential solution can be and what would be the cost benefit trade off. Never look at automation as a stop gap activity, especially when it comes to customer facing processes.
So, is Customer VOC still important?
Definitely, what most of the companies are wanting to do is to understand customers better, not necessarily waiting for them to voice out their concerns. The objective of most organizations is to increase process automation to improve customer experience as well as reduce costs. With the advent of the social media there are more ways to vent dissatisfaction than just raise concerns, so to enable a systemic correction -automation is the key to ensure “Customer still pays our next salary”.