Business leaders recognize that customer service and its robust iteration, the customer experience, is important to business success. According to Gartner Research customer experience itself is proving to be the only truly durable competitive advantage with 89 percent of companies surveyed expecting to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience.
In these highly competitive times, companies must focus on developing the internal systems to deliver a better customer experience. To do that requires understanding the state of the experience they are delivering today. So many organizations utilize “Voice-of-the-Customer” programs to systematically listen, learn and improve their services by incorporating feedback directly from their customers.
You know the organizations that do it well.
- Zappos say that the number one tool a company can use is listening. And many of the improvements they have made are based on direct customer feedback.
- With an intense focus on the customer experience, called “Customer Obsession,” Amazon consistently outperforms other retailers.
- Every company should obsess about the customer experience the way Apple does, where customer comments and feedback are passed along to retail employees as coaching opportunities.
You don’t have to be a mega-brand to implement a program to capture the voice of your customers and improve their experience with your company. However, it does require a commitment to not only ask for feedback, but also to take action. The information you gather should be used to incorporate insights about customer needs into internal improvements and enhancements to service delivery.
There are sophisticated tools that can be used to capture the voice of your customer, but I like to think it is as easy as using your A, B, C’s. At Merkle RMG, we utilize the following formula to listen and learn from our clients. This easy to remember A-B-C-D method is outlined by Ford, McNair and Perry in their book, Exceptional Customer Service:
- Ask for feedback
- Believe what they are telling you
- Communicate results
- Do something with what you have learned
Our Client Services team is the focal point for listening and responding to our partners at Merkle RMG. To ask for feedback, we use a variety of tools including regular status meetings with clients, quarterly client satisfaction surveys (CSAT) and an annual Net Promotor Score* (NPS) to measure loyalty. These tools allow us to hear directly from our clients.
BELIEVE & COMMUNICATE
As Lee Atwater said, “Perception is reality.”We believe what our clients are telling us – no matter how difficult that reality is to hear. When we have feedback from clients that there is a problem, we start from the position of believing they have a genuine concern, and do our best to learn more about it, regardless of first impressions.We share the client’s concern, discussing it at all levels within our organization to get a better idea of the root cause, and what we might be able to do about it. We communicate client feedback and survey results to Account Managers, so they can act to address immediate concerns and share at the Executive Level for possible strategic opportunities.
The first step in doing something is to close the loop with our clients who provide comments and suggestions. This step is just as important as asking for feedback. Phone calls, emails, face to face meetings – all allow us to let our clients know that we are listening. Survey results are analyzed for trends to identify gaps that need to be addressed, as there is always room for process and procedure improvements in our work to improve the client experience.
The Client Services team enjoys the opportunity to brainstorm solutions to suggestions made by our clients. In our most recent survey, one of our partners recommended the development of a knowledge base system. The team took this idea and developed the framework for an online RMG Client Services “Hub,” determined the online tool they will use and identified staff members who will lead the project. When completed, all our partners will benefit from this excellent suggestion.
HOW DO WE MEASURE UP?
According to SurveyMonkey, 83% of businesses who describe themselves as “successful” measure customer satisfaction. And when you send the NPS survey to your clients, you’re turning the concept of brand loyalty into a solid number you can measure and track over time. In our Spring 2018 Client Satisfaction Survey over 98% are satisfied with their Merkle RMG Account Manager and rate the quality of Client Services as 4.12 out of 5 stars.
Are you familiar with how a Net Promotor Score works? Your customers give you a rating from 0 (very unlikely to recommend) to 10 (very likely to recommend. The final score is expressed as a whole number from -100 to +100 and indicates how well your organization is doing when it comes to loyalty and overall satisfaction.
Merkle RMG conducts an annual NPS survey and benchmarks the results against SurveyMonkey’s Global Benchmark. Our 2017 NPS score of 51 puts RMG in the top 50-75% of all organizations in the Professional Services Benchmark.
Although Merkle RMG scored “above average,” we know there is still plenty of work to be done. As part of our broader effort to deliver best-in-class service, our voice-of-the-customer efforts will continue. As the childhood riddle says, “What’s the biggest room in the house? Room for improvement!” Merkle RMG Client Services is listening to feedback, identifying solutions, empowering account managers and responding so that we continuously improve our client’s experience.
* NPS, Net Promoter & Net Promoter Score are registered trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company and Fred Reichheld.