Customer satisfaction comes before anything else - or at least it should. As a business leader, that's what you learn as soon as you get started, and it (hopefully) stays in your mind every day. For service providers, the need to maintain positive customer relations is especially important. So much of your work involves connecting and collaborating with users in a meaningful way.
But how do you make that connection? Perhaps the best way is to “walk a mile” in your customers’ shoes and get to know how they use your services. In short, dig deep into your customer experience and make some specific, and strategic, decisions about how to manage your work processes and support that interaction.
The phrase "customer experience" is tossed around so much these days that it's become a popular industry buzzword. It's great to see the topic gain that kind of traction, but it's also important to point out that strategizing ways to make customers more satisfied isn't a new phenomenon – it's something that people in the industry (myself included) have been refining for years. While thought leadership pieces about the customer experience are valuable and worth reading, the really important question is this: How can service providers take these insights and put them to actual use? Here are some of my tips:
Be there at every phase of the relationship.
One of the most important things for service providers to remember is that a relationship with a customer encompasses several key phases. The phase that many service providers hone in on is the pre-sales phase, since that's the moment when you need to work to earn new business. That’s just the tip of the iceberg from a customer’s viewpoint. Then there's the actual sales process, where customer relations begin their formative phase. What comes next is basically, well everything, until they are no longer a customer (which hopefully is a time in the far future). The time from the installation phase to the offboarding phase is where you really need to show your customers that you're still there for them – because there's a big bridge between buying your product and actually being able to use it.
Optimize the payment process – along with all the other ones.
A major difference between the customer experience of a goods provider and a service provider is that with service there is a consistent touchpoint in the ever-friendly reminder of “It’s time for you to give us your money.” Basically, a service provider has to earn your business every single day. In addition to the service working as promised, we have to be there when things don’t work – or when customers have questions or concerns or are expanding (and contracting). And no matter how many of these interactions you get right, if we don’t handle the billing in a simple and effective way, this wonderful customer experience can quickly turn sour. For example, is the bill simple to read or complex and hard-to-follow? Is it easy to pay, and are there sufficient options to meet customers’ requirements? Is there someone who can answer questions in a helpful, friendly way, and, if needed, provide adjustments and changes? These are the kinds of questions service providers need to ask before they bill customers, since a burdensome billing process is a quick way to make customers dissatisfied.
Get your employees up to speed and find engaging ways to keep them there.
Service providers rely on employees to provide customers with a quality experience. But if your staff isn’t equipped with the tools to communicate effectively with customers, or the ability to support their unique needs on a timely basis, this will negatively impact the experience of your users. Keeping all employees, including sales, service, marketing, billing, and technical teams, optimally prepared is a vital element of corporate culture. This preparedness starts with employee orientation, where you train workers on the best methods for accommodating clients. Beyond orientation, though, it's important that businesses maintain a culture of continual learning, communication and enterprise transparency, where employees know what's going on so they can be in the best possible position to handle customers.
Fonality keeps the bar high for customer experience.
As a service provider, Fonality prides itself on optimizing the customer experience in a way that sets us apart from similar companies in the communication tech field. During my time with the company, I've been particularly impressed with Fonality Academy, the educational resources service we offer to communications systems users, solutions integrators, and administrators. It's divided into several courses that target different customer groups. Fonality Academy 125, for instance, is geared toward admins and focuses on the admin control panel and day-to-day user maintenance functions of the Fonality platform. Meanwhile, Academy 101 is a basic user training course that educates participants in Fonality's fundamentals, like Heads Up Display.
But Fonality Academy isn't just a tool that orients clients to our services – it's also something we use ourselves. Regular training sessions, both instructor lead and self-paced, ensure our staff stays up to date on the latest products and tools. There’s also our approach to onboarding of new Fonality staffers. In our new employee course, we focus on providing them with an overview of the company and a clear idea of the resources that are available to them. Our goal is to create a space where new employees feel comfortable asking questions as they learn the ropes – and their role. Through this training format, our teams come away well-informed and therefore ideally suited to provide top-tier customer care. We also use our own technology to keep engaged and informed, allowing us to support a quick and efficient resolution to customer questions and concerns.
For service providers, it's important to find ways to create a great experience for your customers. That means being available at every phase of the relationship, from pre-sale through product maintenance.