In the beginning…
Somewhere around late 2006, in the middle of the first phase of my doctorate study, I spent a couple of years looking at customer centricity. I’d just written an article on complaints management. Slowly but surely, I began to be convinced that complaints are actually specific and negative customer signals. At which point, it’s usually too late to react. And the numbers of complaints withhold many organizations from adapting their services simply on this basis. Hmm…. ideally you should be willing and able to learn from all customer signals. Questions, complaints, telephone calls, e-mails and customer satisfaction. So the question concerns how to manage all these customer signals…. Hey, customer signals management… Lets Google that… And to my surprise, the term did not yet exist. And such was the birth of a new concept with a catchy title… With hindsight, it would have been a brilliant Google strategy if I’d actually thought about that beforehand…;-)
I soon claimed the domain of customer signals management and started working it out in more detail, parallel to my doctoral research at the Radboud University. My aim has always been to translate it directly into concepts which are applicable in practice. So now we’re 7.5 years down that road! Many blogs and articles have been written; lectures given at all kinds organizations; the Ph.D. completed and concrete implementations achieved at various companies. It took a fair bit of missionary work, of which I enjoyed every minute (and still do). Over the past 2 to 3 years, I went “underground” in order to book practical results with all my themes (to be continued in subsequent blogs), and low and behold when I resurfaced: it all seems more relevant than ever before! In the past six months alone, I’ve been approached by three different organizations who are all implementing Customer signals management. How fantastic is that? However, it made me think, just what makes it so relevant?
Where do we stand in 2014?
I see many companies faced with a complex challenge: to reduce costs while at the same time boosting customer satisfaction or at least keeping it stable. The best thing about Customer signals management is that these two aspects go hand in hand. If I can identify an error in my customer process which results in a customer calling me despite him not wanting to, then removal of that error gives a win-win: I avoid unnecessary customer contact and the customer will be more satisfied next time around, because he no longer needs to seek contact due to an error in the organization. Closely interwoven in this is the challenge of increasingly offering customers digital services. The complexity lies not in the great expectations of the customer or the balancing act between reducing costs and increasing customer satisfaction. No, the complexity lies in the internal organization. How can you design it to work according to the customer journey? How do you ensure you have the correct MI in order to convince everyone of the importance of the required actions? How can you create a mutual interest in order to assign priorities effectively? These are universal themes which will always be encountered.
Has nothing changed then?
In my experience, there has indeed been only marginal change on the inside of the organizations over the past 7.5 years. The themes are still very comparable. On the outside however, there have been dramatic changes: the economic and social circumstances have taken a U-turn in those 7.5 years. Economic speaking, the credit crisis has had repercussions on cost pressures and on the “grabbing” and squandering of money by large organizations. Socially speaking, this (and other factors) has put increasing pressure on honesty, transparency and therefore good services, as assessed by the customers themselves. And that is what makes methods such as Customer signals management even more relevant than 7.5 years ago. And thereby also the chances of success, thanks to the interests served.
So I say: let’s take advantage of this opportunity to sustainably raise the quality of customer services to the next level.