Live Long and Prosper: Creating Lifelong Customer Relationships
“Live long and prosper.” First Officer Spock, USS Enterprise, circa 1967.
Rest assured; this excerpt from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience is not about the television character Leonard Nimoy made famous in the 1960s. As only casual viewers of the multiple Star Trek series and movies, we’re not sure if Spock would make a good frontline employee or customer service representative.
However, there is much we can learn from companies who provide a SPOC (single point of contact) to their customers. For example, business-to-business (B2B) companies providing their regular clients a single point of contact score much higher in customer satisfaction surveys and see lower client churn when compared to their more siloed peers.
Certainly, B2B companies have the most obvious opportunity for providing clients “one throat to choke,” while those selling at retail may not easily see the opportunity to employ a SPOC approach to assist in providing a great customer experience. Specifically, the possible application of single points of contact for your business might not seem apparent on the surface.
Regardless of how easy a SPOC approach is to imagine for your business, it’s worth exploring because of the positive impact it can have on the customer experience. Customers don’t want to navigate through your organizational chart when they need help. Therefore, finding a method and structure that keeps their interactions to just a single person will pay dividends.
If you’re having trouble fitting a SPOC approach into your business, here are a few examples where we’ve seen this deployed successfully:
- Account management. B2B companies with steady client bases usually employ account managers to ensure their current customers are satisfied, are kept in the loop, and are properly and actively utilizing their products/services. Without account management, their customer churn would increase.
- Commissioned sales. Highly successful Realtors, automotive sales professionals, and even fine jewelry salespeople employ their own SPOC approach with their customer base. They’re known for providing great customer service before, during, and (especially) after the sale by making sure that the customer knows if they ever need any assistance with their purchase (whether that’s a home, a car, or a Rolex watch), they just need to call one number.
- Customer service. Some companies that operate customer service departments (think bank call centers, cable companies, etc.) ensure their customer service representatives have everything they need to resolve the most common customer issues – providing nearly every caller with a single point of contact.
However, even if your business doesn’t formally utilize any of these roles, it does not mean you can’t employ a SPOC approach. Simply empowering your frontline employees to solve customer issues (within reason) will reduce the number of touchpoints a customer is required to make.
Of course, not all companies or commissioned salespeople seize the obvious opportunities to provide their customers with a single point of contact, for example:
- Account management. Highly siloed B2B companies employing account managers may have multiple departments tasked to directly handle specific aspects of a customer’s lifecycle. Instead of entrusting their account managers to manage all incoming customer inquiries from start to finish as the single point of contact, the account managers are required to forward the billing inquiries to accounting, the technical support requests to their IT support team, and so on. Forcing the customer to deal directly with the appropriate silo. This leads to a frustrated customer base and a “not my job” mentality among the account management team.
- Commissioned sales. Oblivious (or perhaps uncaring or lazy) Realtors, automotive sales professionals, and fine jewelry salespeople enjoy fewer repeat and referral customers because they believe (incorrectly) that their job ends when the sale closes. Got an issue with the title company? Here’s their number; call them yourself. Your vehicle is leaking oil? Let me transfer you to someone in service; because it’s not my job. Scratched the bezel on your watch? Here’s the manufacturer’s customer support number; good luck dealing with them. If these commissioned salespeople were considering the long term, they would insist on becoming their customers’ single point of contact and completing as much of the legwork as possible.
- Customer service. As is the case with some companies utilizing an account management team, there are companies employing customer service agents burdened with so many layers and silos, that the initial customer service representative you speak with (and to whom you’ve just explained everything about the issue) is required to transfer your call to someone in a different department (where you must explain your issue a second time).
As we wrote earlier, your customers don’t want to navigate through your organizational chart when they need help. Most often, they expect the first person they reach will be able to solve their issues. Employing and/or encouraging some version of a SPOC approach will help you mitigate many customer concerns before they become major issues.
Some of this can be alleviated, of course, by using a proper phone tree or by giving customers the ability to select the appropriate department in your online chat. However, if the customer lands in the wrong place, your team should be ready to help first and transfer second. This means taking the initiative and having a customer-first focus.
Reviewing your procedures – especially if you employ account managers or a customer service/support team – will help you find the (always) unnecessary tiny hurdles and miniature hassles your systems create.
For example, we’re familiar with a large automotive website vendor that employs account managers assigned to specific clients; however, they require their dealer-customers to submit a formal support ticket via their support portal for even minor issues. While this certainly streamlines things for the website company, it makes more work for their customer by creating unnecessary tiny hurdles and miniature hassles.
Conversely, most of their competitors correctly leverage account managers to resolve issues without a support ticket or to escalate issues they cannot resolve via a support ticket (completed by the account manager). This ensures the clients have a true single point of contact.
This post is part of a series of excerpts from Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience, a book written for everyone in any organization that has customers. That is, it was written for those in both the public and private sector; and for everyone in these organizations. From the frontline, customer-facing employees to the CEO and board of directors.
Each chapter in Ridiculously Simple Customer Experience concludes with Key Learnings and Chapter Exercises to make certain you and your team take the efficient path to becoming Customer-First. As you’ll learn in this ridiculously short book, building and maintaining a CX juggernaut isn’t hard… in fact, it’s ridiculously simple. Buy it now on Amazon!