If Only Things Had Been Different
A few seconds. Just a few seconds was all it would have taken. If only she had had the patience to wait those few seconds, she would have clearly realised that the customer’s problem was something she could have actually done something about.
As the first port of call, she had so much pressure on her, especially during the peak of the day, that her first reaction was always to transfer aggrieved customers to the appropriate quarters. Most of the time, it solved the problem. However, this particular day, it did not.
The colleague she had transferred the call to had not been helpful and the customer, not being satisfied with the response, had cancelled his order and sent a report to her boss. The boss had called her and she was to produce a report of what had transpired between her and the customer.
She knew that the chances of her being given a query were quite high. If it did happen, as she feared, it was going to be her very first query on the job and that thought was killing her. If only things had been different.
A few hours was all it would have taken. He had planned to place that call to the customer after he was done with the stack of paperwork he had been putting off since the beginning of the week. Unfortunately, he had forgotten to place the call for a whole week and that mistake had come back to bite him.
Everyone in that company was really pleased about Mr. X signing up to their service. As the star marketing personnel, Joe had been given the direct responsibility for managing the relationship with Mr X. He was to manage and grow Mr. X’s business. Evidently, he had failed at that assignment because he was actually reading an email from his boss asking him to explain why Mr. X was taking his business away from the company.
What was really killing him was the reason given by Mr. X for wanting to take his business away. According to Mr. X, the company had failed to “proactively contact him to let him know about ways to enhance his experience with them.” There was so much they had to offer Mr. X. All he had to do was to have contacted the man. If only he had done things differently.
Kofi could just sense that there was something amiss. He just could not place a finger on what it was. He decided to pay Miss K a visit to find out what was happening. As he sat in front of the customer and heard her explain why she had not been bringing her business to them, Kofi knew he was right to have paid the customer a visit. He felt he should have even done that a week earlier. Miss K explained that she had stopped doing business with Kofi and his team because she felt the company was not offering her the kind of service and support she wanted via her phone.
She did not understand why, in this day and age of technological advancement, she could not access her account via her tablet. She hated having to call the company every time she wanted some information. She wanted to find out the information with just a tap of a key or the click of an icon. Since they had not yet started offering their service via mobile, Kofi realised it was going to take nothing short of a miracle to retain Miss K’s business. If only things could be different.
From the onset it was clear that Mr. Johnson was going to be a totally different customer from those Baaba and her colleagues were used to. He was loud. He was brash. He was unusual. He shook hands as if he intended on breaking the bones. He even hugged with such a squeeze as if it was meant to strangle the life out of the one being hugged. But in spite of all his unusual ways, Baaba and her colleague workers at the hotel loved Big J, as they had come to fondly call him. He tipped well. He was actually not a local but did a lot of business in the country. Mr. Johnson was the kind of customer every hotel would want to have as a guest.
However, for some reasons, Big J had not been to the hotel for close to three months, which was quite unusual. At first, Management assumed he might not have been coming into the country but someone had sighted him in the country just that week. That news had forced Management to place a call to the cherished customer. The outcome of that phone call had necessitated a meeting of Baaba and her colleagues on the marketing team.
Like every good customer, Big J had some special requests. The failure to meet one of such requests was what had caused him to stay away from the hotel for some months. There was only one room Big J stayed in whenever he lodged at the hotel. He wanted no other room. Anytime, he was to come to town, he would inform the hotel ahead of time for that room to be kept for him.
However, the last time he had visited, that room had been booked because he did not get into town on the day he promised he would. That particular room had therefore been given to another guest. Although Big J stayed in another room, he did so for only a night and was gone the very next day. Since then, he had not visited them again. According to those who spoke to him over the phone, it seemed they had lost his business for good. If only things had gone differently the last time he came to visit.
Life can be sometimes very interesting. One little mistake and a whole chain of unfortunate events would follow suit. One mishap would open the floodgates to a whole truckload of other unfortunate events. As evident from the above vignettes, business life is not too different from life in general.
A study that brings this particular point home was the 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey from Dublin-based global management consulting and professional services firm, Accenture. The study measured the experiences of 13,168 customers in 33 countries including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, Norway, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, UAE, United Kingdom and USA.
The first finding of the study that hits one is that more than half of customers switch from one business to another every year. In this particular study as much as 66% of customers had switched in the previous year. It is also equally interesting to note that more customers switched for customer service reasons (61%) than for price reasons (59%).
But the good news is that customers are not some irrational beings who just switch from one business to another without any sensible reason. The study found out that 82% of customers who switched were of the opinion that there was something the company could have done to prevent them from switching. As far as I am concerned, this should be good news for businesses. All is not lost. If customers get what they want, they are likely to stay put. The researchers therefore went ahead to ask customers what companies could have done differently to have ensured that they did not lose their customers to their competitors.
One of the most important reasons according to the study was the failure on the part of businesses to resolve customer issues on the first contact. As high as 68% of customers who switched said this could have prevented them from doing so. Customers do not want to call multiple people and explain themselves multiple times just to get an issue resolved. Customers do not want to keep going back and forth to get an issue resolved.
For businesses, this might mean putting a lot of resources into ensuring that the first line of contact of the organisation. Front line employees, like Maame from the first story, who are the first to receive any calls from customers must be so well-trained, well-resourced and so well-versed about the business that they are able to, for the most part, provide solutions at the first contact.
Also, more than half of those who switched (55%) said they would have stayed put if the businesses had first contacted them and offered more ways of enhancing their experience. Just like Mr. X, customers easily get used to the same level of service quality. Every time a customer comes into contact with the business, he or she expects something new. The advice is therefore for businesses to always be finding new ways to get their customers excited and businesses must go out of their way to contact their customers about the new things on offer.
45% of those who switched, according to the Accenture study, sighted a lack of better service and support via mobile devices such as cited by Miss K from one of the stories above. Of those who switched, 44% also said they would not have switched if they had been offered preferential treatment. Much like our good friend, Big J. Customers do not want to be just any other name or number on a screen. They want to be treated with some preference. Customers are even willing to pay more for these kinds of upgrades and preferential treatments.
According to the Accenture survey, in 2013 as much as US$5.9 trillion in revenue is always up for the grabs globally because customers keep switching from one company to another. Businesses that are able to cut out the little issues that result in customers switching are those that would be able to benefit immensely. For those businesses that are not up for this, they can only watch on as they keep losing customers to their better prepared competitors and they can only wish for things to have been different.