Customer Experience Management: It’s all about Bedside Manner

October 29th, 2012
Joe McGarvey, Director of Analysts Relations at GENBAND

I stumbled into a humbling revelation the other day: In the realm of customer care, the future health of my 8-year-old car is of much greater importance to the professional services community than the future of me.

On consecutive days in October  I brought my car, purchased second-hand a year or two ago primarily for my daughter’s use, to the service facility operated by the dealership where I bought it, and myself to my primary care physician – healthcare speak for my family doctor. Neither object was running at peak-performance. The car suffered from an anemic air conditioner and I had a persistent sore throat and cough.

Though the both of us were successfully “repaired,” I discovered a significant gulf between the amount of information my mechanic knew about my car and what my physician knew about me. Working through a data store of proportions I could only imagine from my perch on the customer side of the service desk, the mechanic mumbled through a seemingly endless recitation of tire rotations, oil changes and fender benders that went back years before I even owned the car. Meanwhile, my doctor, in between pokes and prods, turned to me for information about medications, past surgeries and family history -- information that I had supplied several times before.

The greater revelation, though, occurred when the auto mechanic provided me with a bill and a list of about a dozen recommendations for future maintenance, based on observations made during the repair and on prescribed service schedules. My body mechanic, in comparison, didn’t even bring up the topic of preventative care, despite the fact that my last check-up was more than two years ago and since that time I had reached an age milestone that commonly triggers several expensive and uncomfortable procedures.

Obviously, the above preamble is a set-up for a homily on the benefits of big data and how the correlation of customer-related information from multiple sources is a critical lever in the customer experience management process. The simple equation: the more information and the more accurate the context in which it is provided, the better a services-oriented business can meet the unique needs of its customers.

So, then why am I now looking for a new mechanic instead of a doctor?

The simple answer is that all of the data that the car dealership collected was ill-applied to customer experience management. What engenders customer loyalty more than anything else is the perceived notion that the service provider is on your side, that special offers and customized services are designed to improve the consumer’s productivity or value – not simply increase the supplier’s revenue. It might have been that I was already in a negative state-of-mind, having been handed a bill for a repair that I felt fell under an extended service warranty, but when the mechanic started blathering on about all the future work that my car required, my perception was that his chief concern was extracting money from my wallet rather than supplying me with a properly maintained car.

Putting profits ahead of customer value is certainly not the exclusive domain of my car dealership. In the past year alone there have been several well documented examples of how large, well-known companies have been accused by former employees of losing their moral compasses, rewarding managers based on how much money they liberated from clients, even if it meant selling those clients services they did not require or were even fiscally detrimental.

The moral for communications companies, is that assembling relevant customer information is the easy part. What they do with that information, how it is applied and how customers perceive its application are the crucial elements of customer experience management.

I believe that operators should strive to fall somewhere in between my doctor and my mechanic in terms of customer service. It’s as much about moderation and restraint, as anything. Operators should be selective in their services recommendations, making sure the recommendation will provide value and give the customer reasons to remain loyal.

What’s important to remember is that providing the customer with a great experience is not counter to increasing revenue. In fact, there’s a strong correlation between the two. It’s a matter of sequence, though. It’s when operators place revenue generation in front of customer affinity that subscribers will look for a new mechanic.

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