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Customer Care. It’s a phrase which has been used and abused for years and in the process has passed from differentiator to slogan to weary cliché. In fact so many businesses claim to care about their customers that it is the ones who don’t that we tend to notice. Sadly for many organisations customer care is at best a dumping ground for complaints and at worst an idea which gets in the way of profits.
But the tide is turning. In our article “who do you work for” we highlighted the way in which the customer should be the reason for the business not an afterthought. We summarised this concept by concluding that “When the answer to “who do you work for” is myself, or my boss, or the team within a team; in fact when the answer is anything other than for the customer then a cultural change is the only solution.”
Now a report from PWC has come up with some interesting comments along the same lines. Entitled “Insurance 2020: Turning change into opportunity” the report is aimed at the insurance industry but would make thought provoking reading for all organisations. Among five key mega trends which have been identified as potentially affecting the insurance industry in the next decade, the first listed by PWC was social trends. This was summarised as “The balance of power is shifting towards customers”.
Among the PWC conclusions are the ideas that shifting patterns of behaviour will result in products being ““bought” by customers as opposed to being “sold” by agents” and that “customer expectations of simplicity and transparency will foster innovation in product/service design and delivery.” We have already seen this trend in action across business with consumers surfing the web for purchases, comparing deals and reporting back on their experiences. The PWC report envisages this trend continuing with a further step being taken as consumers band together via social media to bulk purchase.
With consumers increasingly in the driving seat, businesses will no longer be able to get away with poor levels of customer care. In the past a bad experience may have been shared among the few, now it is broadcast to the world and the world is listening. Increasingly the drivers are moving towards a customer-centred methodology and those which don’t switch will be left behind.
Inevitably for many organisations the move towards genuine customer care will require a shift in the culture of the organisation. It will no longer be acceptable for customer care departments to be simply a repository for dealing with after-sales complaints. True customer care means striving never to have a complaint. Customer care involves everyone, not just sales and marketing, but accounts and IT, design and development, ordering and administration.
To instil a customer-centred culture means looking at every process, every product and every decision with the customer in mind. It means departments working together with a single goal and it means reaching out to the wider supply chain to ensure that suppliers also embrace the customer-centric culture.
To be successful the leadership team may need to re-examine the aims and goals of the business and restate the vision. This will need to be communicated and steps taken to foster employee engagement and understanding of the importance of the customer. In the process the organisation may look to transform into one which embraces innovation, which continually seeks to improve and to create exceptional experiences for its customers.
In fact the need for innovation looms large within the PWC report. It does acknowledge that the actions which businesses will take will vary and may “depend not only on their national or regional markets, but also on their strategic intent, core capabilities, availability of talent, capital and organisational culture.” However, the report does make a strong case for innovation and innovative thinking. But whether innovation or not, whatever strategic decisions are made have to put the customer first. Anything else is just not customer care.