By Puru Govind
A rapidly growing number of business decision-makers have recognised that customer experience is a key competitive factor. According to a global survey among marketing and technology business professionals on their business priorities, improving customer experience is the number one priority.
This is not a time for dawdling because the gap between the self-assessment of many companies and the perception of their customers is considerable. 75% of the organisations surveyed in a study conducted by Capgemini describe themselves as customer-centric, but only 30% of customers actually agree with this assessment. Numerous studies have shown the consequences of poor customer service for a company: 66% of customers change brands after a poor service experience.
Companies overestimate the importance of “Wow” effects
Good customer service has become a central competitive factor in almost every industry. But what makes a great customer experience? In a global study, PwC asked around 15,000 people about their preferences and expectations:
- Nothing annoys customers more than lengthy waiting times. This is particularly the case in customer service, when answering a question or solving a problem is of paramount importance. From the customer’s perspective, the quicker the better!
- Customers expect access to be as easy as possible. Complicated log-in mechanisms for online services, annoying hold times in call centres or limited opening hours at shops drive many up the wall.
- Inconsistent processes irritate customers. Switches between touch points, queries where customers have to repeat the same information over and over again — these are all lapses in customer experience that companies should avoid.
- One of the most important factors: friendliness. A competent and courteous service makes for happy customers. This has been true for many years and has not lost its importance, even in times of digital transformation.
The formula for success: The closer to the customer, the better
At first glance, customer expectations such as high speed, easy access, consistent processes and a friendly service may seem trivial. However, their implementation is anything but trivial. What company could claim that it has no potential for optimisation if it subjected its customer experience strategy to a stress test based on these four factors?
In times of digitalisation, fundamental questions arise regarding the focus of the customer experience strategy. Younger generations — millennials and Generation Z — have grown up in a digitally connected world. This has resulted in an expectation that projects itself onto their interaction with a brand: services must be digital and immediately available, regardless of the time of day or location.
But how do companies deal with areas that cannot be fully virtualised? As soon as customer service has to deal with logistically complex tasks such as repairing a device or replacing a spare part, not all processes can be virtualised. This brings us to an area that has always been of fundamental importance for customer experience due to its close proximity to the customer — in-home service.
Service technicians who help a customer at home gain intimate insights into the customer’s privacy. With their demeanour and behaviour towards customers, they have more influence on the customer experience than any artificially intelligent chatbot or virtual customer service agent.
Four tips for an agile in-home service strategy
Companies like Google have recognised this and offer customers in a complex market such as India in-home services for a product category that would not necessarily be associated with this service — smartphones. Certified service experts visit customers at their homes, investigate faulty devices, and provide on-site support.
Repairs are a service that cannot be fully virtualised. To save customers the inconvenience of investing valuable time in finding the nearest service centre, service technicians drive directly to the customer. Appointments can be booked via Google’s customer centre and competent service technicians are on site at the desired time. This way, Google has fully covered the four basic ingredients for an optimal customer experience: fast and easy access to the service along with a consistent experience, supported by friendly and competent service technicians.
From the company’s point of view, in-home services present a considerable challenge at first glance: complex logistics, high costs, and low economies of scale. Here are three tips to help you discover what is important in an agile in-home service strategy.
1. Hybrid in-home service concepts
Human customer service is becoming automated and scalable. Bots are taking over personal dialogue with customers. Hybrid customer service concepts are created in an in-home service, and the benefits of digitalisation are combined with those of an on-site service. Before a service technician sets off, bots analyse the problem together with the customer on the basis of conversational AI. Thanks to the precise preparatory work conducted by the bots, the service technician is optimally prepared for the job.
2. Flexible in-home service workforce
A team with a flexible skill set is a prerequisite for an agile in-home service. Since job profiles are changing more and more dynamically at the workplace, employees have been encouraged to flexibly adapt their skills. The variety of products that service technicians have to support is growing rapidly. Competencies carved in stone are no longer enough. What is needed is a service organisation that constantly develops its skill set and makes training its core process.
3. Support through augmented reality
Augmented reality is a popular tool for training service technicians, especially since such technologies can be used to simulate typical on-site situations. Device manufacturers use AR applications to show how their products can be efficiently supported and repaired. In live operation, service technicians can retrieve helpful information about the device they need to repair without disassembling it.
Armed with the right strategies and equipped with modern tools, in-home service makes a decisive contribution to improving the customer experience. The ultimate goal is to close the gap between the often overly optimistic self-perception of businesses and the actual perception of the customer. For many companies, in-home service is a good starting point and is an area where there is still certainly plenty of potential for optimisation.
Puru Govind is the chief technology officer of Group IT, and managing director at B2X.
Stay updated with all the insights.
Navigate news, 1 email day.
Subscribe to Qrius