Great Expectations: Are You Serving Gruel?

Great Expectations: Are You Serving Gruel?

Ok, setting aside the literary reference, what I am referring to is the mismatch between the service customers have come to expect and what most organizations can actually deliver.

Customers can now learn about products and services (including yours) through many different online channels, in a variety of information formats, and according to their schedule and preferences.  They are increasingly a self-directed and sophisticated seeker of information.

What Customers Expect by Channel

In my opinion, this represents an opportunity for the business that can meet (or exceed) the high expectations of this new, well-informed breed of buyer.

But the opportunity does not come without its challenges.

Great Expectations phishing banner
Source: “The Autonomous Customer 2013,” BT Global Services and Avaya, February 2013.

Customers won’t spend their time (or money) with you if you are slow and/or unable to engage them with the information they need when they want it.

The results from a recent study of US and UK consumers are not encouraging:

  • 70% say they often know more about the problem than the agent does;
  • 69% complain they are often asked to repeat their account details on the same call;
  • Upping the ante, 60% of respondents said that the more information a business asks of them, the better they expect the level of service to be in return.

More troubling, 3 in 4 already regularly ask to speak to a manager when phoning an agent. You can imagine what this adds to the costs of customer service.

So, put yourself in the shoes of your customer service rep. You’ve just been lobbed a question from a customer or prospect that’s not familiar. It may be over the phone, a social media channel, text chat or video telepresence, even face-to-face—perhaps over several channels at once (like phone and website chat).

Meeting their expectations is a race against time to find accurate information of real value to the customer. This information could be in paper documents, digital, structured or unstructured.

Great Expectations graphic

Your success depends on how well you have optimized and streamlined your supporting document and information processes so that you:

  • Don’t have to search multiple databases (departmental silo’s) to get what you need;
  • Aren’t frantically searching your own website to see what the customer has already found;
  • Aren’t flipping through paper files and at the same time looking through screens of information (good luck with that!);
  • Are able to get the information you need to see the full scope and history of the customer’s problem;
  • Don’t keep the customer waiting while you convert the useful information into the required format (could be paper, email, SMS text, links to a website, digital image, video).

At the heart of these problems is the challenge of transforming information for better business outcomes – how information is captured, made accessible, the right information found and shared across the enterprise.

I would suggest your next process review include how well you are currently meeting or exceeding customer expectations for information on their terms:  the right information at the right time in the right format.

And stay tuned.  In the next few weeks, we will be releasing the results of a Ricoh-commissioned study that helps identify solutions to close the gap between customers’ service expectations and the experience many customer-facing employees can actually deliver.

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