Posted on 31st January, 2017

Opinion: We are unique

James Walker on, customer service is not one size fits all

We all individuals and yet the tradition for mainstream customer service has been one size fits all. A friend was recently looking at buying a car and with one model with one marque alone, there were over 4,000 potential options. Services are becoming personalised from the marketing we receive to personalised products and services we are being offered and  buy. Yet businesses are not personalizing issue resolution.

If you have an issue with an organisation, at best, there will be a standard formula for resolution. This approaches removes the variation and ensures businesses can manage liabilities (pay outs) and standardize training and skills. In theory, by this approach, businesses are able to optimise the efficiency of resolution. Which would you prefer a standard, one size fits all car or your, built to order, tailored for you, personalised car?

If personalisation is the future for products and services delivered to the consumer then personalisation must be the future for resolution. We have looked at customer satisfaction for two financial organisations and found even when customers are offered the same resolution for a common issue type, satisfaction would vary from 2 to 8 for the same outcome. How can there be such a difference in satisfaction and loyalty? It comes down to the fact that each of us puts a different value on the impact of a given issue, we don’t all react the same way to the same situation and we place different values on what constitutes a satisfactory resolution.

If this is the case then why do brands have a single approach to resolution? The simple answer is fairness and equality – placing a value on the size of a problem (and potentially on how vocal the customer is).  Taking this approach will result in some customers being unhappy and leaving, potentially even if you have compensated them. However, tailoring your approach to resolution is challenging, relying on highly skilled customer support staff to be able to make judgement based decisions that could potentially put the discretionary compensation fund top on the CFOs agenda while only increasing customer retention by a fraction.

Taking a personalized approach to resolution does not mean having to throw out the rule books and start re-training customer services again, but instead to take an approach that is focused on understanding your consumers and how to handle their issues based on previous experiences and the results of prior outcomes. Tailored, profiled, personalised resolution.

You need an approach that uses data to understand a consumer’s profile, their issue, their emotion and the severity of the incident and then to use the known result of previous outcomes to predict the best way to resolve any given situation. This means we are understanding how consumers complain in the same way as we understand how to profile and segment marketing communications to consumers.

This approach is not the quick and simple approach and takes time to get right and effort to fine tune. But it is the right approach. When the key loyalty touch point, when a customer actually communicates with an organisation, is when the customer has an issue, this is when you blow it and lose that hard fought for customer or when you shine and turn them into a lifelong advocate. If brands want consumers not to leave them then personalised resolution is required.