Customer Care - Raising the Profile

Raising the Profile of Customer Care

by John Kemp

Disappointingly, customer care departments are often poorly resourced and under valued in the corporate hierarchy, rather than seen as an opportunity to get closer to customers..

This is quite strange, particularly at a time when the focus of many organisations is on Customer Relationship Management. CRM rarely addresses existing customers’ needs, CRM is about getting closer to customers in order to understand and meet their needs more effectively.

Unfortunately, in many cases an admirable business strategy has ended up an ineffective software solution. Typically, CRM applications assist the sales
process or contribute to marketing data rather than address existing customers’ needs.

Effective Customer Care

The strategy for maximising customer satisfaction and loyalty is to aim to deliver perfect products and services but supported by an effective customer contact process that kicks in when problems arise or customers have queries.

This process should also provide a channel for customer feedback so that issues that undermine customer satisfaction and loyalty can be identified and resolved. The customer contact process must also be cost effective both in operational productivity and the ROI generated in terms of its effectiveness
at improving customer retention and loyalty.

Finding out about what matters to existing customers is often left to the Market Research department. Such research, probably valuable in terms of understanding future product requirements and profiling potential customers, is not necessarily geared to understand the issues influencing and the current needs of existing customers.

It is also not uncommon for a positive spin to be put on such research in terms of customer satisfaction rather than identifying problems.

Representing the Voice of the Customer

This is where the Customer Care department can add significant value. Listening to customers who have experienced problems - and are committed enough to contact the organisation - provides the concentrated feedback that traditional market research cannot reach.

It alone has regular contact with customers who have experienced problems or have issues to raise. It knows the issues causing most concern and is best placed to represent the Voice of the Customer in future business decisions. But sadly, this voice is rarely heard.

There can be a number of reasons for this:

Service recovery teams are working flat out to resolve immediate problems and have no time to be proactive with reporting

They do not have the data collection, analytical and reporting tools to deliver such feedback

Any data collected may only represents a small percentage of the customers who have issues and therefore is not considered important

Customer Care is positioned too low down the organisation for anyone to hear the messages it tries to send

Management may not believe them even if a message gets through

This lack of visibility is partly the responsibility of senior management - undervaluing the payback from customer care - but also that of the Customer Care Manager who is guilty of not promoting the potential value of effective service recovery and customer feedback.

The following eight guidelines provide a framework for raising the profile of Customer Care and promoting the value of its dual objectives of service recovery and customer feedback.

Next: Eight guidelines for raising the profile of Customer Care>