Thursday, 22 September 2011

How a Service Catalog can improve Customer Loyalty

It is widely believed that going above and beyond customer expectation is the key to creating customer loyalty.  However, recent research from the Corporate Executive Board's Customer Contact Council has shown that customer satisfaction does not correlate with customer loyalty in the way that we might expect.  The research shows that loyalty is impacted more by the ease with which clients can interact with your organisation to address their service requests, not mechanism or level of personal contact.

The key point is that often customer's service requests require multiple interactions before the customer receives the required service.  The expectation is that a single request should be enough to trigger delivery of the appropriate service.  In reality, the customer must often make several contact attempts through different channels to get the service they require.

Gratuitous use of stock photography to somehow denote customer loyalty

Many organisations perceive that good customer satisfaction is based on personal contact, and that self-service websites harm loyalty by presenting a faceless interface.  The reality is that as self-service website are becoming more readily accepted by clients as a point of interaction, the expectation of single-contact resolution of their request is simply transferred to this environment.  It is critical that the customer gets what they want the first time. If you can achieve this simple objective, customers will identify your organisation as people who can make their life easier, ensuring repeat custom is more likely.

The key problems with self-service catalogs are that customers often find it difficult to find the information that they need, and this information is presented in a way that makes sense to the service vendor, not the customer.  It is critical that the usability of your self-service catalog is designed from a user perspective - it must be easy to navigate and easy to understand in business terms.  Service vendors should avoid unnecessary technical jargon and industry acronyms.

Continual improvement of a service catalog should be driven by analysis of customer interactions, primarily to eliminate the need for multiple contact attempts.  If your service desk is receiving calls from customers who have already attempted to request a service through your service catalog these cases should be flagged and passed on to the manager responsible for your service catalog for detailed analysis of usability.  Common problems are that the self-service website is too difficult to navigate or understand, or that the service request form itself is not capturing the complete set of information required to deliver the service.

As in every other area of service management, continual improvement efforts must be focused.  Metrics for first contact resolution via your self-service channel should be analysed by service, based on impact to the bottom line, taking into account the number of requests, follow-up interactions and the value of the service and the customer. Improvement efforts can then be focused on services that are weakest, taking into consideration which services are used most and which contribute most to your organisation's bottom-line profit so that time is not wasted on improving under-utilised low-value services. This has a three-fold advantage of improving customer loyalty and reducing strain on the service desk, whilst driving highest possible impact on profitability that will be noticed by the business.

There are three takeaways from this:
  • Customers like the idea of being able to make personal contact with a human being, but it's not the easiest way to request services.  A speedy result is always the client's priority.  Plus, when you add a service desk operative to the interaction and you double the risk of human error.
  • As service catalogs are becoming increasingly commoditised, the business differentiator is not just whether you have one, but how well it works for the client on their first attempt.
  • Focused continual improvement is the key to customer loyalty.  Keep your best customers happiest for maximum bottom-line impact.
 These people need some more chairs

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