Conquering the customer experience
In today's fast-paced managed services industry, it is more important than ever that a company acts as a trusted advisor to its customers.
"The greatest technology in the world hasn't replaced the ultimate relationship-building tool between a customer and a business - namely, the human touch."
This pearl of wisdom can be credited to global customer service expert, author and speaker Shep Hyken, and he's bang on the money.
In the ever-competitive, tech-advancing-by-the-second, constant-call-to-innovate environment that is managed services, the key to unlocking the door to real and sustained business success has a great deal to do with mastering the customer experience.
Gone are the days of companies living in a bubble of arrogance, thinking they have all the answers and knowing what's best for their customers, without them having a say-so.
Today's customers are incredibly well-versed. They have access to copious amounts of information and they expect suppliers to work with them in finding solutions for any known and unknown challenges. They expect honesty, transparency, clarity and open communication from their service providers - and that's just for starters...
Become a trusted advisor
The old saying that people do business with people they trust has never been more critical in today's ever-evolving services industry. Developing the mutual-trust relationship is critical in building a strategic relationship with clients as it allows service providers to enable customers' success in their business, which is the very foundation of the customer experience.
Clients have access to the competition and other service delivery partners and suppliers, making it simple for them to ascertain whether you can deliver on your promises. They do their homework with a magnifying glass, and it is therefore paramount that the data or info shared with them is accurate and relevant to their environment. Your actions should be measurable, with a clear end result.
Always make customers part of the discussion in the journey of continuous improvement.
Admit if something you're offering is new to you, admit to the possible risks, put it in a contract, review it on a quarterly basis if need be, just play open cards. Put it out there so that you can come back down the line and say, look we've overcharged or undercharged you here, we see it now, this service model isn't working as well as we'd hoped, let's brainstorm a new plan of action. Always make them part of the discussion in the journey of continuous improvement.
Displaying this kind of business maturity will go a long way to elevating you from mere service provider to a valued and trusted partner and advisor in the eyes of customers. And don't only expect CRMs to fulfil this advisory role. Anybody that is customer-facing in the organisation, including the field service engineer that gets dispatched to resolve a glitch in the system, should be able to consult and carry a deeper knowledge than is expected.
These guys probably see your customers more than you do. Their mindset should be, 'I'm not just here to fix a device; I'm here to build, maintain and retain a relationship. I am an ambassador here; I am my company's reputation.' They should live your company values and vision real-time.
As a trusted advisor, you need to stay on top of trends and developments worldwide so that you can have regular, informed discussions with customers. Host innovation workshops for them and make solutions available to them that you believe could work in their environment.
Trusted advisors are proactive, they deliver on their promises, they listen, really listen and - this is a big one - they put up their hands when they've made a mistake and admit their faults and failings.
Operational flexibility and agility is crucial
Customers want options, not fixed and rigid service-level agreements. They don't want one-size-fits-all services and solutions, and unfortunately this is where many businesses go wrong; by not being flexible, by not embracing whatever their customers are bringing to the table.
Don't make it complex and inconvenient for them. Rather say, we are ready to listen to you and provide you with different service models and solutions that meet your business requirements.
Give them the versatility they need and be willing to shoulder some of the risk on their behalf.
Make the data count
Tailor-make offerings based on an in-depth and detailed analysis of customers' environments and business models. The goal is to help them stay relevant and profitable and offer innovative ways for them to enjoy maximum operability, uptime and efficiency in their day-to-day workings.
It also goes without saying that trust is paramount when it comes to data, bearing in mind sensitivity from a competitor perspective.
This is where becoming that trusted advisor over a mere service provider enables you to get to the heart of the business, to potentially identify underlying issues that may be affecting productivity, to report back on business strengths, to help customers stay relevant and allow them to make informed decisions.
Demonstrate 'value' to customers (and we're not just talking value for money here). Show customers in every way you can - through the services and solutions offered, through displaying honesty and integrity, through commitment and dedication, through your ability to innovate and deliver on promises...
Be real, be sincere and really earn and deserve their business, don't just expect it.
The level of satisfaction customers experience will always be the true measure of the success of your service delivery.
Louis Dell is executive of service account management at Bytes Managed Solutions. He joined the company in 2014 and prior to his appointment as executive of service account management, he fulfilled the role of programme manager. Dell's focus, and that of his team, is on customer satisfaction and service management excellence, managing the interface between Bytes Managed Solutions and its clients. He brings 23 years of experience in operations management, key account management and new business development within the IT, retail, logistics and financial services sectors. Dell's role involves prioritising customer focus, service excellence and client relationships, identifying solutions to business problems, and creating opportunities that make customers and their end-customers successful.