Saturday, January 15, 2011

Understanding customer service experience

Myer and Schwager in their Harvard Business Review article on Understanding customer experience (2007) talk about customer interactions. When core offering is a service, interactions matter more. According to Myer and Schwager touchpoints that advance customer to a subsequent and more valuable interaction (example Amazon´s 1-click ordering) matter more. In each touchpoint the gap between customer expectations and experience spells the difference between customer satisfaction and what is less.

And what makes service experience matter more? In a service experience, as a customer, you are greatly involved in the transaction. Due to the nature of your purchase (non physical good) your expectations may vary a great deal. Imagine a travel experience as an example.

I´ve earlier described my experiences in online shopping. Ordering goods was a positive and pleasant experience but returning and exchanging the same goods resulted in a huge disappointment. Same company was managing various customer processes. Some worked while others not. Result was my dissatisfaction and their loss.

In service environments, fundamental is service design - how you plan customer experience from first contact point to the last.

Planning service experience can be done understanding the customer opinion of the company throughout various touchpoints, rather just having customer data on the purchase history (mostly available through CRM approaches). Therefore planning a full scale customer experience is an extended step to managing customer relationship. In practice this could mean focus on customer needs and not fearing to analyze customer opinions; what it reveals and what are the actions to be developed.

In order to implement customer experience management process, companies could extend their evaluation of past patterns (eg surveys) to observation and face to face interviews in order to understand also present or potential future patterns.