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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

The challenges that face most businesses are significant and range in nature, magnitude and impact. Scarcity of resources, ever-increasing costs, local and international competition and the need to always be at the cutting edge of information and latest developments are just some of the issues that affect businesses of different types, sizes and purposes.

Despite the challenges, opportunities and threats facing a business, almost all enterprises are primarily concerned with enhancing business performance and achieving greater profitability. Essentially, businesses want to see the impact of their activities and it is through optimised performance, customer experience and increased profits that many measure improvement.

What do great organisations do?

IBM conducted a piece of research that surveyed global business and IT executives to find that the organisations that are achieving the best results in their industries are considerably more focused on growth than their contemporaries. It was identified that these organisations ‘worked smarter’ than the competition and prioritised dynamism, connection and collaboration as pivotal work processes. So how does an organisation work smarter?

Key results:

This survey showed that the highest performing organisations are:

  • 2 times more likely to use automation and modelling to appraise and enhance business processes.
  • 3 times more likely to encourage higher levels of productivity through collaborative workspaces.
  • 9 times more likely to concentrate on the integration of people, processes and information across the organisation through an approach to their IT infrastructure that is service oriented. Unsurprisingly, this offers valuable information to inform customer service strategy.

The IBM survey found that in order for a business to be best placed for success, it needs to be responsive to changing needs, particularly those related to customer service. The business must optimise, streamline and align business processes to create a customer impact, determine performance, advantages over competition and solid business growth.

A service oriented approach:

The results of this survey showed that a service oriented approach was valued by and central to the approach of the highest performing businesses. In these businesses, processes, people and information were effectively coordinated across the organisation and service auditing tools were utilised to make the customer service experience a tangible concept for the organisation to work with.

Service auditing, including but not limited to Net Promoter Scores (NPS), tell a business whether customers would recommend the organisation to friends and colleagues. This information is infinitely useful in confirming the responsibility of staff to build quality relationships with customers and predicting revenue, customer loyalty and the likelihood of business being referred. Accurately predicting customer behaviour enables information to be appropriately acted upon – managers can work with this information to increase the number of ‘promoters’ of the business while simultaneously reducing the number of ‘detractors’. Identifying and working with these elements of the customer experience makes a lot more sense than asking managers to ‘increase customer satisfaction by one standard deviation’!

Commonly used strategies to improve the experience of customers:

With sufficiently collected data decisions on how to work with your staff to improve customer experience can be made. Technological, procedural and structural changes, as well as enhancing awareness and visibility of service expectations and behaviours are strategies that can result from customer experience intel. Training directed at leaders and frontline teams can have a powerful impact. Quality sales training can help every business to enhance its conversion of interest to sales and offer a superior level of service, together with customer and staff satisfaction. Similarly, high quality customer service training has consistently had a positive impact on customers and the business’ bottom line. When customers feel valued and that they have received responsive and attentive treatment, they are more likely to return and share their positive experiences with others, thereby bringing new business to an enterprise.

A coordinated approach:

The IBM survey revealed that in the highest performing organisations, collaboration and integration are key features. Many enterprises invest in their people through quality training and, if you are serious about having your staff work in a coordinated and connected way, there is great benefit in having teams of employees undertake training together (or at least undertaking the same course).

When personnel share the experience of customer service training, performance training, management training or training for team building, they are best positioned to support each other in applying the skills and knowledge they have learned to practical situations. Having staff undertake training together offers best value for your investment as new approaches will be mutually reinforced and implemented.

Carefully and thoughtfully considering the approach and priorities of industry leaders and the highest achieving businesses is very useful for businesses that are committed to enhancing performance and the experience of customers while driving up profit margins. Quality service auditing tools yield data showing the reality of customer experiences with a business; when this data is analysed and used to guide customer service strategy and develop customer service capabilities, the profitability, performance and rates of customer retention and referred business will improve.

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