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Mar 4, 2021 7:48:00 AM

5 Reasons Why Customer Service is Not Considered Strategic - Still


Many companies today talk about the importance of the customer journey or customer experience (CX). The narrative is fairly well established. It started with the internet changing everything. The internet enabled people to buy from anyone, anywhere in the world, 24/7.

Service experiences are now shared globally via social media and review sites for everyone to see and absorb before making a purchase. Technology has enabled companies to do amazing things with targeting and personalization that have pushed customer expectations to an all time high.


Yet, despite the fact that it’s well understood that customer experience is important to drive loyalty and ultimately growth, many companies still fail to provide a good, nevermind great, experience for their customers. For their existing customers. Most companies are still more focused on new customer acquisition at ‘all costs’ - including sacrificing their own customers’ experience.


My personal career path has been via vendors that provide technology for marketers. As the customer journey begins in attracting prospects to become customers, I have to admit I’m guilty of being a part of the CX (a.k.a. companies must be customer-centric) hype. I’ve talked about funnels, infinity loops and the virtuous circle of CX (marketing, sales and service) but for the most part, I’ve noticed the real pursuit of happy customers for most companies has been focused on creating advocacy (to drive more acquisition).


I recently joined Solvemate, a customer experience automation platform, as CMO. As I now enter the customer service technology side of the CX loop, my perspective on what it means to be a customer-centric company and the importance of good customer experience is changing. It’s been eye opening to see how much customer service departments struggle to find the resources and cross-functional support they need to deliver great customer service. 


The need for great customer service seems to be obvious. Forrester has been talking about companies needing to be customer-obsessed for years. Some companies get it. You know the ones. Your friends are raving, they have good reviews, they sell more and people feel good about buying from them. Customers see the value in their purchase. Those companies have customer experience at the top of their radar and prioritize it. 

What intrigues me is why some companies still don’t focus on creating great customer experience and choose to pursue new business at the expense of their customers’ happiness (and potential advocacy). I’ve come up with five reasons (many of which reinforce each other), culminating from my experiences over the past years. After all, when it comes down to customer service B2B and B2C are not as different as you might think. Let me share my list of observations with you to give you some food for thought, I think one or more will resonate with you:


1. The Market Rewards Growth


The growth number seems to overshadow every other metric in most industries. There are lots of other metrics that take into account lost customers, churn or burn rate to give a net impact but it still seems to be an unspoken rule that if you are growing faster than losing customers you might be able to out pace the loss and succeed. Everybody loves a winner. Yet, are you winning in the long-run?


2. It's Hard to Measure


Aside from actually losing a customer, it’s hard to measure customer experience or customer satisfaction. There are numbers like Net Promoter Score (NPS) that try to quantify how customers feel but not everyone buys into the relevance of a number to measure customer happiness. There are a lot of numbers you could measure, but it’s all about figuring out which ones are leading indicators to give your company the heads up that customers are not happy - that’s hard to figure out.


3. We Take Customers for Granted


This seems to be human nature. Once we have the customer, we assume we’ve won them over, they get us, they like us (they gave us money, right?). They’re on our team now. All good! So, over time, if we drop the ball here or there and we leave them hanging on the phone for 20 minutes or don’t answer emails for days or weeks, we don’t think we’ll lose them. One small piece of evidence of this are the many offers and discounts that new customers get that existing customers aren’t eligible for. Do you think this is really the right way to go about it?


4. Organizations are Siloed


This is a biggie. There are those in organizations that find new business and those that take care of customers. And because growth and new acquisition seems so important, companies tend to reward those within the company that find new customers at a disproportionate rate compared to those that take care of them. 


Many companies pay lip service to being customer-centric but you only have to take a look at what they internally measure, pay against and celebrate openly. It’s mostly new business acquisition. Customer-centricity is really about measuring and celebrating the value your customers enjoy.


Chris Rauch, Chief Customer Officer, Spryker 

If you made more new business teams responsible for overall customer satisfaction and repeat business, you’d see a lot more focus on customer service and the customer experience.


5. It's About Culture


Have you ever worked at a company that was really customer-centric? I mean, really. There is a difference between being a company that talks about it versus really living it. The difference can be subtle but you can feel it in the culture. There is even a list on Forbes of the most customer-centric companies that are great places to work. These customer-centric companies still have aspirational growth goals but their ethos of customer-first permeates everything. From the people they hire, to their attitude towards prioritizing projects and ultimately to thinking of creative ways to create customer satisfaction (not just get them to buy more or renew). 


At Solvemate, we’ve definitely seen a difference between companies looking for customer service automation as a tick box versus those that see it as a strategic imperative to have meaningful conversations with their customers through both highly-scalable automation and routing requests to highly skilled agents. Our customers tend to be the companies that are willing to invest in ways to inspire and delight their customers with a great customer service experience and not leaving them waiting for a response to their most pressing needs.


Leaders Got to Lead


On a last note: As my career has grown and I’ve taken on more leadership roles and responsibilities, I’ve become more and more critical of leadership. Leaders within organizations head up specialized areas that touch individual parts of the customer journey. Only by having the customer at the center of a combined, overarching strategy, can a unified leadership or C-suite group see through the “growth at all costs” paradigm or siloed approach, focus on the customer first and then build a company with people, processes and technology that enable that ethos to live.


Never forget, customers have choices. And thanks to the internet, they can either be your greatest fans or your biggest detractors. You choose.


Sylvia is CMO at Solvemate. She is responsible for creating the marketing strategy and leading the team to accelerate Solvemate’s growth in key markets using data-driven insights. Sylvia thoroughly enjoys the art and science that technology plays in helping marketers develop, deliver and manage amazing digital customer experiences every day.