Speak customer, not contact channel

I caught an interesting news story last week.

The chairman of John Lewis, Sir Charlie Mayfield, was speaking at the National Retail Federation in New York, explaining how he thought ‘the age of multi-channel is over’.  His argument:  Thinking in terms of online and offline channels is dangerous.  This whole concept of ‘the channel’ is retailer speak not customer speak… customers really just don’t care too much about the exact channel they use.  Even ‘omnichannel’ is a term to be avoided.

I agree with his thinking.  This is also true in the customer contact centre world.

Contact Centre Strategies

Channel performance, cost and effectiveness is of course important.  It is the lifeblood of running a successful and profitable business.  We have all have spent many hours talking contact channels, relative effectiveness vs costs, strategies and even launching new ones… video chat anyone… and yes there has been plenty of talk of omnichannel.

Whilst this is all great discussion, it is still internal contact centre speak and there is the danger this dialogue can seep through to impact the customer and change their view of your product.

Paper statement fees, premium rate call numbers, self serve websites, all spring to mind.  Financially sound decisions – for sure.  A difficult customer message to communicate – certainly.  However were each of these developments ones the customers appreciated, understood or just tolerated?  Which did you want and was this expected?

In the current, increasingly socially connected world, comparisons are ever more easily made and missteps quickly magnified.  The importance of ‘speaking customer’ at every point is growing.

Speaking Fluent Customer

So in the hubbub of daily activity it is important to make the time to step back and think about the larger picture.

  • Do we really think about the customer’s process or are we really focused on improving our own?
  • Do we speak the customers language or are we mainly focused on training them to understand ours?

At the end of the day customers really focus on getting their question or problem resolved.  They do not care how much it costs the company or whether it offers incremental cross sell opportunity.  It just needs to be easy, quick and as painless as possible… oh and by the way, everything needs to be seamless and link together..!

Easy to say, difficult to do

To Sir Charlie’s point, this transformation can be subtle and not is not necessarily easy.  Afterall investment in IT, process design and data analytics can all be required.

However of arguably greater importance is the change in mindset of the team itself.  The good news is this is something that can cost very little and something we can all start to change today.

Whilst I would be the first to argue all processes are linked, ‘speaking customer’ does enable default decisions to be based on a customer centric approach.  Any deviations are then conscious, quantified, deliberate decision, where the consequences are known and understood.

A First Step

It is said ‘every journey happens one step at a time’.  But it also doesn’t start until you recognize the need to move and decide to take the first step.

So although we may all say we run ‘customer centric’ and ‘customer experience focused’ teams today, it maybe a good day to step back and quietly ask do you really fluently ‘speak customer’?

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