Thursday, May 31, 2007

Improving Field Service performance

The Aberdeen Group recently published a report entitled "Service on Time: All the Time" that examines the impact of optimizing field service by scheduling field service calls, parts availability, technician skills, and service technician location in a real-time operation system. Making these variables available on a real-time basis yields the following improvements, according to the report:
1. Customer retention increases by 33%.
2. Service profitability increases by 21%.
3. 80% of the best-in-class companies have a senior executive overseeing the service operations.
4. 79% of the best-in-class companies have processes in place to update schedules in real time.
5. First call resolution increased by 18%.
6. Daily mileage per technician was reduces by 21%.
7. SLA commitments were improved by 25%.

The bottom line is that there is room for dramatic improvement in service operations if you can integrate technician skills, spare parts inventory and technician location into a real-time system. This is something we have always known but did not have the capability to do in the past because of software and computer power constraints. Thank goodness we finally got the computer power and software to make this a real possibility.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Online loyalty

A study was conducted during March and April of this year of online shoppers who spend more than $500 annually and make online purchases at least 4 times a year. The sample was 1,000 qualified consumers. The study was done by "the e-tailing group, inc." and "Doubleclick Performics." The results provide an interesting picture of the serious online shopper as noted by the statistics below:
1. 71% of shoppers browse multiple online stores prior to completing a purchase.
2. 42% price shop a product using comparison engines.
3. 70% belong to a frequent buyer/loyalty program.
4. 53% ranked "discounts or exclusive offers for members" as the most important feature of loyalty programs.
5. Men were less loyal than women.
6. "Poor service" ranked as most likely to deter shoppers from becoming loyal to a web site.
7. Rewards customers are less sensitive to price.
8. Free shipping is the most important enticement to drive customers back to sites.

The bottom line for the company who is selling on line is to create a loyalty program that offers discounts for their loyal customers, offer free shipping and keep the service level HIGH.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

consumer technology customers

A BPRI Group study on behalf on Accenture captured opinions of both technology company execs and consumers. The results are consistent with studies in the past and validate the need for constant attention to customer service. The findings of the study include:

1. When technology customers receive mediocre service 78% consider using different suppliers.

2. Although 75% of the technology company executives thought their service was above average, 58% of the consumers rated service as average or below.

3. Over 8 out of 10 customers who rated their supplier with below average service said they would switch suppliers the next time they made a purchase.

4. A rating of average service dropped the purchasing loyalty from 51% to 27%.

5. 61% of technology consumers believe that technology has not improved customer service.

6. More than 40% of the consumers said they had to access customer service channels more than once to get their problems resolved.

And following the old adage that bad news travels fast, nearly half of the consumers shared their negative experiences with friends and family.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Top five IVR challenges

The Ascent Group recently studied call centers and asked those who participated their history of implementation, deployment and design strategies, performance statistics, best practices and lessons learned. The top five challenges noted by the participants in the study are:
1. Increasing customer acceptance and usage was noted by about 25% of the participants.
2. Technology issues and limitations were mentioned about 23% of the time.
3. Good script and menu design was mentioned about 20% of the time.
4. Systems integration was mentioned about 15% of the time.
5. Customer education was mentioned about 12% of the time.

I think the most important aspect of their report is the lessons they learned from the participants. The eight lessons are:
1. The IVR implementation must be reflective of customers' values and expectations.
2. Speech recognition can dramatically improve IVR utilization.
3. Be willing to accept IVR payments in lieu of mail payments - if this is a component of your business.
4. Train agents to promote IVR services.
5. Measure and track IVR performance.
6. Monitor IVR call quality.
7. Target your research at call who either opt out.
8. Be careful about the information provided.

On a personal note, I had a client who installed an IVR system and found that it was a very bad decision. The client serviced patients on dialysis and hospitals; both of these categories of customers needed service immediately and did not want to spend the time going through an IVR system. A very high customer satisfaction rating dropped dramatically until the IVR system was removed an a real human voice answered the phone. Immediately following the removal of the IVR system the customer satisfaction numbers rebounded. There are some situations where you do not want to take the time to force customers to go through an IVR menu.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Academics - the new research tool in service

A conference between business leaders and faculty on service innovation at the W.P.Carey School of Business at the University of Arizona brought out some interesting points. One of the reasons for the conference is that businesses tend to use the same old tools to solve problems. Academia can offer unfettered thinking, fresh ideas and a new variable to solutions and innovations.

"We need you" Bernie Clark, Senior Vice President of Charles Schwab told a room full of leading professors and doctoral students. Academic expertise is like a new technology, he said, and like any new technology companies must figure out how it applies. "Most corporations want and need academic relationships and quite honestly they don't know how." Understanding how to use this new technology, called academics, can expose dust under the rug and dark alleys that the company may not have noticed.

Terry Cain, VP of Avnet, said "I am not sure that you as students or professors actually 'get' the real world challenge, or the corollary, I'm not sure in the business, as business leaders, that we always understand how to apply your research." Cain adds that the greatest thing an academic can do is define a series of questions that will help uncover a problem that managers did not know they had. "And when that happens you've got our attention."

Dan Wiersma, Senior VP for Sony, explains that his company had to incorporate and engage customer service due to the growing demand of the service component. "Although Sony continues to invent, service and services have become a much stronger part of our overall business proposition, not only in the U.S. but from a global perspective."

The bottom line is:
1. A company's value is no longer defined by its products, but rather how well it serves the customer.
2. Successful companies have learned to differentiate themselves through their services.
3. Establishing relationships with academia can set companies apart from their competitors because academia can offer that unfettered thinking, fresh ideas and a new variable to solutions and innovation that is often overlooked in the day-to-day business operation.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

consumer loyalty - nothing new

IBM commissioned a study of 1000 US consumers regarding their insurance providers. The results are not surprising. For example, note the following statistics that came from the study:

1. more than 75% were very satisfied with the service provided by their insurance agent and remain committed to working with the agent in the future.

2. only 15% would change agents for an annual savings of $150.00

3. 54% said that no savings amount would make them switch.

4. 44% said their insurance provider was innovative compared with other industries.

5. 53% cite personalized service as what they like best about their insurance agent.

6. quality of service was the most important factor in choosing an agent.

7. 37% said they liked to visit their agent.

The bottom like for this study is that the results are predictable. People do not want to be a number - they want to feel important and respected. The insurance agent that understands that it is a relationship-based business wins.

The take-away from this survey is that these results are typical for virtually all businesses since the customer is always a person (it may be an individual buying for himself or an employee or group of employees in a large organization buying for the company).

Monday, May 21, 2007

Impact of Engaging Employees

Employees with the highest level of commitment perform 20% better and are 87% less likely to leave the organization which indicates that engagement is linked to organizational performance. In addition, engaged employees have an average cost per safety incident of only $63 compared with an average of $392 for a non-engaged employee. Finally, 62% of engaged employees feel their work positively affects their physical health. This number drops to 39% for the nonengaged employees and only 22% for employees who are disengaged. Finally, 54% of disengaged employees say their work has a negative effect on their health.

These statistics came from a report titled "Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR's Strategic Role" by Nancy R. Lockwood published in March 2007.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Industry stats

The following industry statistics seem to make sense:
1. Loyalty Leaders three-year average operating margin is 22% higher than Loyalty Laggards - so says the 2005 Walker Loyalty Report for Communication Services.
2. Nearly 25% of consumers are dissatisfied with their call center interactions - so says the Aspect Contact Center Satisfaction Index Europe.
3. 74% of customers surveyed said it was "critical" or "very important" to improve customer experience - so says Forrester Research

Friday, May 18, 2007

Affluent are more loyal

A survey by Parago, a Dallas, Texas marketing company survey published in their 2004/2005 Customer Loyalty Research Report that the more affluent households are more loyal. They cite 94% of high income households indicated that their membership in a loyalty rewards program had a strong to moderate influence on their purchasing decision versus 78% for all consumers. One of the observations was that the high income households were less interested in price discounts and more interested in receiving both rewards and recognition for their loyalty.

For airline loyalty programs, 92% of high income households enrolled compared to 51% for all respondents. With respect to hotel loyalty programs, 78% of high income households enrolled compared to 35% of the general population.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Customer defections

A survey of over 500 sales and marketing executives during the month of April 2007 provided feedback about customer defections to Jill Griffin and Customer Sat ( market research company). They found the following:
1. 71% of the executives have no process for indentigying customers sho have defected.
2. 46% of the executives do not know how many customers they lose each year.
3. 68% of the executives have no process for idnetifying customers at high risk of defection.
4. 62% of the executives have no process for determining which competitor got the lost customer.
5. 60% of the executives do no conduct interviews with lost customers.
6. 77% of the executives do not know how many lost customers they successfully win back each year.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Building Loyalty

To build customer loyalty, there are six universal points.
1. Create a demanding customer
2. Find out if you are doing a good job and if there are problems, react quickly.
3. Make sure your customers know they made the right decision to do business with you.
4. Guarantee your products and/or services.
5. Recognize there may be others in the buying process that should be made to feel appreciated.
6. Do not EVER forget to say thanks!

These comments were made by Shep Hyken in an article in Business World.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Whose concerned about the customer?

A major annual study by The Conference Board in the US in 2006 revealed that Customer Loyalty/Retention is now the fifth highest ranked CEO challenge.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Shopping (or not) on the web

A survey of 2873 on-line shoppers found that 44 percent abandoned their virtual shopping cart because they could not get a question answered during the online purchase process. The survey was performed by RightNow Technologies and Harris Interactive between March 26-28, 2007.

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