Customer signals management: an introduction

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In my previous column I described the need for a quantum leap in customer service. The next important question for organizations ready to take this step is then: how do I achieve this quantum leap? In this column, I’ll be describing a concept that helps organizations implement this change in practice: customer signals management.
Let’s go back to square one. So what was the starting point for my research? The objective of my research was to prove that organizations wishing to create value and to be truly customer centric, must focus on 3 spearheads:

1. Continuous improvement. Continuously learning and improving throughout the organization, based on the signals provided by your customers and employees.

2. Committed employees
. Asking your employees – especially those who have frequent customer contact – what they believe can be improved; taking their suggestions seriously; providing them with feedback on actions taken and subsequently actively involving them in implementing changes.

3. Committed customers. When customers realize that you take the signals seriously and actually take action accordingly, they are willing to think along and to inform you about those service aspects which they believe can be improved. Involve your customers by simply asking them!

While organizations often agree with this vision, they struggle to design the three spearheads effectively and especially structurally. Customer signals management helps organizations to implement these three spearheads clearly and pragmatically (download a PDF article with a detailed explanation of the concept here). I have consciously chosen not to explain the content of the concept here – the most important points can be found in the article – because I believe it more important to explain how this concept can help customer service take the quantum leap.
A number of stepping stones are required on the road to continuous value creation.

Step 1

Step one is to establish customer service to be a value-adding department. Customer service needs to be extracted from the eternal costing discussion. And who should do that? Customer service itself! There is an important role for Customer signals management here, as it provides quantitative and reliable evidence of the value which customer service can add. Think in terms of the impact of customer service on total customer satisfaction (which my research has shown to be some 50-60%!). Think in terms of avoiding unnecessary customer contact moments (from both the customer and organization point of view!). Which 20% of my customers are responsible for 80% of the contact moments? And which 20% of my products or services are responsible for 80% of the contact moments? Etc.). This quantitative, and particularly integrated approach allows us to measure the effect of each point of improvement throughout the organization, in concrete terms.

Step 2

The second important step is to take a proactive role when involving the rest of the organization. As already mentioned, most organizations have nobody who is responsible for the end-to-end customer experience journey. There is not even a clear view of this journey. Ideally, this is a role for customer service. They should feel responsible for embodying the voice of the customer, and should stand up and represent it within the organization. What other employees have an average of 15,000 customer contact moments per annum?!? Stimulate the other departments to listen to customer experience. Encourage each other. Mobilize your colleagues. Once again, Customer signals management helps you by providing very concrete, objective (!) insights which you can share with the rest of the organization. Other departments may try to ignore customer satisfaction, by claiming ineffective measurement and subjective answers (“a 7 is very high for some people and low for others, so yeah…. there’s not a lot we can do with that”). However, when faced with the facts of x number of questions asked about subject y, so many complaints and specifically from that particular customer group, there is little room for ostrich politics.

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