This fantastic HBR Article Unlock the Mysteries of Your Customer Relationships talks about how consumers relate with the brands and organizations they use, and based on how they relate – they have some expectations – that if not met leads to alienation in their attitude – that would eventually lead to customer churn. While I leave it to you to read the article for various types of relationships, there is one I want to focus on consumer based companies.
Your customer facing employees need to listen. They need to understand what the customer is looking for, what is it that he is unable to get and hence has reached out to the company. Some loyal customers may in fact be trying to help you with a feedback that you otherwise spend millions of dollars to get. Imagine the opportunity loss just because your customer facing employee is too focussed on the immediate sale or is too tied by the company’s rules, regulations and policies to record the feedback.
In my personal experience the banks, at least in India are missing out big time on this. The call center employees are like extensions of the machines and for everything their answer is – they are not authorized to do this. The other day I was telling the cluster manager of a leading Indian bank to have a single form to update address for various products in a bank – after all whenever my address changes – it changes for all purposes. He did not even acknowledge the suggestion and when I asked him what does he think of this suggestion – and explained that it would save his team more time than it would save my time & energy. He kept quite and finally when coaxed said’ This is not my job’. I can’t do anything. In all probability, the guy whose job it probably is, will never get to meet me and the feedback / suggestion is lost in the process and I would not be surprised if they are paying some market researcher to figure out the same suggestions.
Crux of my intention is that the front line employees – anyone who has a interface with the customer must have the nature of a sponge – to be able to sense the customer needs, to tap into their experience and mind and to be able to creatively think of solutions that would help the customers and in turn the company.
I hope someone does a study of what the companies are loosing by not listening to the customers who are dealing with them on a daily basis.