Managing customer expectations with technology and common sense

A better experience means better retention of customers and staff

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A surprisingly short time ago, a query, complaint or even order was sent by post and you sat back and waited for a reply perhaps a week or two later. Now a call is made, or perhaps an email sent, and an answer is expected immediately, or is it?

Does everybody need or even want an instant answer? Does industry or the customer drive expectations up and are the expectations realistic or desirable?

Many businesses believe they are customer driven but few are. Call centres, the source of much controversy in sectors as diverse as insurance and banking to mobile phones and white goods are a case in point.

If you know what your customer wants and manage their expectations, both customer and staff have a better experience and are likely to be more loyal and, above all, more profitable.

A poor experience leads to higher (and more expensive) levels of contact, more costly resolution, less staff satisfaction, higher staff turnover, more training costs and less experienced staff giving poorer customer experiences in a downward spiral.

Technology now offers a wide choice of communications options between an organisation and its customers – letters by post, fax, email, hosted response on website, SMS text, landline call or call to mobile.

Within some of these there is the further option of timing, when would a contact be convenient or even practical, to meet the customer’s needs of work, leisure or discretion?

Putting the organisation and the customer on the spot in head-to-head confrontation, with lots of hanging on and no time to consider responses, often leads to frustration, frayed tempers on both sides and an overall lack of satisfaction for both parties. An element of managing the customer’s expectations might produce substantial direct and indirect savings.

So, let’s look at the direct savings first. The first question a customer could, and arguably should, be asked when they make contact, usually to a call centre, is how they would like this matter dealt with in terms of communication – hold while an attempt is made to sort the matter on the telephone through to a text to their mobile phone with the answer.

The next question might be, if relevant, when would it be convenient to make contact. Some will choose to hold but a good many will choose another response method. Emails and text messages will always be cheaper than the other options and are by happy coincidence the most favoured routes for many customers.

Even if they choose a call back in the evening or weekend, the matter is likely to be resolved quicker and more amicably when the response has been worked out in advance of the call.

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