A content customer can soon be disappointed or, worse still, lost if we fail at customer services and wreck your best comms efforts.
by Andrew Walker
Given this site is called comms2point0, there’s a fair chance if you are reading this, you’re a professional communicator.
But for a few moments, forget about your day job and think instead like a customer. Think about a recent experience as a customer - of a train company, a car recovery firm, a public sector organisation like a council or your phone provider or bank.
Your real-life hands-on actual experience of these organisations is as likely to influence the perception and attitudes you hold towards them as the way they communicate with you.
We’re all customers. I recently spoke by phone to a customer advisor to query a detail on my account. My interaction? I found them professional, knowledgeable, personable. This was directly aligned to the way that organisation presents itself in its outward facing brand communications.
The same company helped me during a tyre blow-out on the side of a busy motorway – you’ll be narrowing down the company now - the representative who came to my rescue was reassuring, dependable and a ‘very nice man’. Not only did they arrive ahead of their own ETA, they had me on the road ahead and moving quickly.
It got me thinking. Are the dots always as joined up as they should be between corporate communications and customer service and experience?
The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) recently published analysis which said customer experience generally is stuck in second gear. A factor being that organisations don’t follow through and deliver what they said they would. Brand perception meets product reality.
The ICS also notes that customers were generally less satisfied with their experience whether that was interacting with employees over the phone or in person or when engaging with an organisation’s website. In many organisations that includes corporate communications – and I include internal communications in that too, vital in having a fully-engaged workforce - and customer engagement, as well as possibly IT or digital departments.
I spoke earlier this month at a future customer experience event in Leeds and outlined the work we’re doing at Scottish Water to encourage people to drink more tap water whether at home or on the go. Topping up from the tap is good for you, your pockets - as it saves you money - and helps reduce waste in the environment.
We want peoples’ experience of us to be as shaped by that activity as we do when they contact us when something goes wrong like a burst water main or an internal property flood. Our aim is to evoke a sense of Scottish Water ‘doing its bit’, our customers trust us and like the fact we’re doing something to tackle waste – and so are predisposed to expect a positive interaction with our customer contact team. I’m biased, but I think they get exactly that.
Our customer engagement centre teams are now shaped to deal with contact via social media as well as by phone.
The fusion between communications activity and customer experience for us is tangible. Social media channels double-up as ways of reporting service issues or telling the Scottish Water story. Not always an easy content blend, but one that requires constant monitoring and co-ordination.
A key component of our organisational success is based on measuring our customer experience as part of an independent survey. We are held to account on how well we listen to our customers and make improvements based on their views. It can be as influenced by people contacting us to make us aware of having no water supply or their reaction to content on our social media channels.
When you’re planning communications activity ask yourself whether you always remember to give customer contact teams a heads-up? They’re the ones who’ll be receiving phone calls or dealing with in-coming on social so it makes perfect sense to work more closely than ever to deliver a joined-up service.
Speaking to a room full of customer experience specialists in Leeds was, well, an experience. A really positive one. Spend time if you can in the customer contact centre listening to how the teams their engage with real people. Talk to them about how we do comms. We’re going to be doing more of this if we’re going to deliver effective comms and brilliant customer service in the future.
Andrew Walker is head of communications at Scottish Water. You can say hello on Twitter at @AJWalker73
Image via the Smithsonian Institute