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Customer experience is key to future sustainability

08 June 2016

Janet Noble, national service centre manager at Briggs Equipment outlines how organisations need to adopt a relentless customer centric focus.

A lot has already been done by businesses to tackle costs since the recession, but margins can only be cut so far, and for businesses to remain sustainable, they need to look at their entire business model.

Instead of competing on price – or even the products or services they offer – they need to look at the wider customer experience and do everything they can to maximise customer satisfaction and loyalty.

However, to achieve this requires much more than a crash course in customer service for selected front-line staff, rather a comprehensive change of culture across the entire business – from boardroom to factory floor.

This involves a thorough examination of all activities across the business, and listening to what the customer wants rather than acting on what businesses think they want. It demands a bold new approach in terms of Customer Relationship Management (CRM).

Kick-starting the process with an in-depth survey carried out on a face-to-face basis with customers is a sensible way to start, as it helps clarify current expectations and whether customers are happy, but such an approach isn’t the best way to gain feedback. At Briggs we reviewed a few survey options before determining that Customer Gauge’s NPS measurement would deliver a more realistic response.

As the survey was carried out online, customers felt they could be more open and so the feedback was really constructive. The process also allowed us to pick up on niggles that could potentially escalate into a real problem and contact individual customers and talk things through, if this is what they wanted. 

Adopting this kind of approach gives a business insight and can also feed into staff training.

Getting to know our customers better has enabled us to create BE Portal, an interactive, web-based reporting system that enables customers to review their fleet/contract management data and assists with cost reduction. Developed in-house and designed in response to changing customer needs and a desire for more comprehensive, dynamic, query-based reporting by group, site and even machine level, BE Portal gives 24/7 access to traditionally spreadsheet-based key data, including engineer support, customer support and account management.

Customers have had direct input into the development of the system, which provides accurate and reliable data which empowers them to take important fleet management decisions. At the same time, the system helps to keep Briggs contract managers better informed, so they are able to work more proactively with customers to identify potential issues and propose solutions. In fact, the whole team benefits, because improved dialogue also means that Briggs engineers are better briefed and can take corrective measures quickly to ensure maximum equipment up-time.

However, taking advantage of the latest technologies should not be viewed as a solution in itself, because at the heart of any successful CRM system are people, the most important resource for any business regardless of its size or the sector in which it operates. With this in mind, we believe there is huge benefit to be gained from appointing a dedicated project team of customer relations specialists recruited from all areas and at all levels with the business.

These individuals should include directors, operational managers and departmental representatives who share one common aim: to improve the customer experience. Our own Customer Voice Champions are passionate about delivering a world class customer experience and committing to putting the customer at the heart of everything we do. At the same time they are spreading the same message to colleagues throughout the business.

Of course, those taking on the Customer Champions mantle will require bespoke training to understand how behaviour can be influenced and the importance of communication. To ensure that everyone is ‘on the same page’, it makes sense for all staff in the organisation to undergo more general customer service training and this is exactly what we’ve done here at Briggs. 

A key theme of our training is the handling of what we call 'Customer Concerns' - effectively redefining the customer complaint process so that every time a customer is unhappy everything is logged, even if the issue has been resolved.

This process includes timelines that can be audited and full analysis of the root causes of the problem, so fixes can then be put in place to stop any reoccurrence of the same issue. Any follow up will divert it to the right person and there is an end to end audit trail.

This positive approach to feedback where, thanks to a universal commitment across the business, customer concerns are treated as an opportunity for improvement, is perhaps the most important element of customer relationship management . It’s about changing mind-sets business-wide and appreciating that the secret to success lies within – with employees treated more like customers who will then, in turn, see customers in a new light.

Adopting this type of approach also has a vital part to play in enabling businesses to develop a competitive edge that will, at the same time, see them better prepared for the challenges ahead.

It may be an old saying but, by reminding ourselves that ‘The Customer is King’ the logistics sector can look forward to a more secure future.