It doesn't need to be pointed out that customer service is a fundamental part of any business, but how many organisations are actually getting it right?
In the internet age, where consumer experiences are shared and exposed every minute, developing a formal customer management programme right across an organisation is becoming crucial to give brands the best chance of meeting all their clients' needs.
We sat down with Natalie Keightly, Senior Manager of Solutions Marketing at Avaya, to find out how and why companies need to be rolling out thorough customer management programmes.
TechRadar Pro: Why are customer experience programmes so important?
Natalie Keightley: Technology has wrought extraordinary changes in our lives, in the past two decades. Consumers have a new kind of power and influence, unimaginable in 1994 but now completely routine – power that can make or break businesses almost overnight.
At the same time, businesses have power of their own, to win over their customers in new and highly creative ways. This shift has put the customer experience at the heart of today's business strategy.
Global research recently conducted by Avaya shows one third of consumers have become less tolerant of poor customer service over the last 12 months. 92% of UK consumers would rather spend money with organisations that are easy to buy from.
The survey also provides further evidence of the importance of customer experience programmes, revealing a strong correlation between Customer Experience Management (CEM) activity and business success, with organisations that have a comprehensive CEM programme seeing improvements in their profits.
Interestingly, the research also shows that most organisations concur on the importance of customer management with 95% of business managers of the opinion that CEM will be important to their organisation in 2014.
TRP: The research shows 81% of organisations have seen their customer initiatives fail in the last three years – what are the common mistakes businesses are making?
NK: According to the survey results, the most commonly cited reason for the failure of customer programmes in organisations is poor supporting business processes.
With different departments owning different parts of the customer experience, there is a sense that customer initiatives are often not harmonised across the business.
There is also a striking difference in how people in different parts of an organisation view the failure of CEM programmes. Marketing and IT professionals most commonly lay the blame for failed programmes at a lack of senior management support.
Meanwhile, MDs, CEOs and owners are more likely to blame projects being misaligned with customer preferences as the main reason for failed CEM programmes. Employees working in customer services most commonly point to a lack of employee buy-in to new procedures and policies as the primary reason for failed programmes.
All this points to a general lack of a cohesive company-wide customer experience strategy that is clearly communicated to all employees. However, if departments collaborate closely they can deliver a customer experience that drives both customer satisfaction and business growth.
TRP: What is the business impact of failing to introduce or improve customer programmes?
NK: The research revealed that organisations have lost as much as £750,000 from failed customer programmes, excluding intangible items, such as loss of customer good will and loyalty.
Additionally, 81% of companies with solid customer initiatives in place have seen significant profit increases in the last 12 months. Organisations without customer programmes are missing out on these increased profits.
TRP: What specific services do customers expect from businesses?
NK: Essentially, customers want what all people want – to be treated as individuals and for everything to be as effortless as possible. They want to be contacted in the way they want and offered products and services tailored to their preferences. The research shows that 66% of consumers would rather spend money with organisations that treat them in this way.