Digital technologies can be used to improve the Customer Experience. For example, by:
-Enabling the customer to do more more for him/herself e.g. check/update account information, find relevant information, set-up alerts, set-up event triggered transactions, make purchases online, get chat based help with queries or problems….
-Provision of data/information based services e.g. alerts that notify the customer that price of the ticket has fallen.
Digital technologies can also be harnessed to reduce operational costs in the domains of marketing, sales, and service. This is where it becomes interesting. Why? Because one can reduce operational costs at the price of the Customer Experience, or not. Allow me to illustrate through my recent experiences.
SwissCom: Using Digital Technologies To Improve The Customer Experience
I took out a pre-paid SIM with SwissCom when I arrived in Switzerland. And, a little while back I lost my phone and the SIM. So, I go to the SwissCom website and type in “block / replace SIM”. And, immediately I make my way to a page that give me two options: block SIM online, or block SIM by telephone.
I go for the online option. No luck, it doesn’t work for pre-pay customers. So I click on the phone option and in a few minutes I am talking with a helpful human being. She does what is necessary, and tells me how to go about getting a replacement SIM. Mission accomplished – start to finish- in less than 10 minutes.
Sky.com: Using Digital Technologies To Reduce Operational Costs and Degrade the Customer Experience
My wife has been encountering issues with the broadband. She has tried everything on the Sky.com website to troubleshoot. Nothing works. She needs to contact Sky technical help. She does, but they won’t take her call as she does not know the “telephone password”. Neither do I. So I need to talk with a human being in Sky who can tell me what that password is. Why? Because I cannot see or change this password online at Sky.com.
Does Sky make it easy for me to contact their Customer Services team? No. Sky does everything on its website to hide the Customer Services contact number. Don’t believe me, try it. After a number of dead ends I find the phone number and call it. What happens?
The automated voice recognition system is not intelligent enough to deal with my query. So I have to be creative work around the limitations of this unintelligent automation. What happens? Once it categories my question, it tells me that it will send me a link to the relevant section of the Sky.com website, and cuts the call. How do I feel? Like smashing something. Why? Because, I have to get this fixed and each time I call that number I get the same response.
After wasting some 30 minutes, I get creative as I know something about these companies: they care about revenue. So I say “I wish to close my account”. Within five minutes I am through to a helpful human being. I ask him to change the account so that it is in the name of both me and my wife. No can do – system does not allow it. So I ask him to reset my telephone password. He does so.
It is not lost on me that I have only got this done because I figured out a way around the system Sky put in to defeat me: prevent me from talking to Customer Services. If I could stop doing business with Sky I would do so there and then. But I cannot because I am locked into a contract.
Concluding Thoughts On Customer Centricity And Digital Technologies
If I were to simplify customer centricity as perceived by a customer like me, I would say customer-centric companies:
-Make products that create value in the lives of Customers;
-Make sure their products work so that Customers do not need to contact Customer Services;
-Make it easy for the Customer to contact Customer Services through the customer’s preferred channel including telephone; and
-Use digital technologies to empower Customers to do more for themselves whilst always making it easy for these Customers to get through to a human being easily / quickly and that necessarily includes making the telephone number easily findable on the website.
If I apply the above criteria, I find Swiss companies that I have deal withs much superior in the Customer Experience they deliver compared to the UK companies across the telecommunications, insurance, and banking categories.
Final thought, it occurs to me that companies that excel at Customer Experience (eg. GiffGaff) have no need to lock customers into contracts. Whereas those who suck at the Customer Experience insist on long term contracts. If you cannot engender genuine loyalty then best to lock those customers in!