13th Jan 2016
In the age of social media, where customers have the power to publicly voice their feelings about products and services whenever they choose, organisations have arguably never been more accountable when things go wrong.
But there is also a phenomenal opportunity to get service right, says Kate Bamford, a partner at EY.
A collaborative business model, which includes working in partnership with customers, can help organisations to create a bespoke, highly personalised service ¬– while winning a greater share of the customers’ wallet, Bamford explains.
“Customer service today means being open to suggestions for product improvement, requests for help, information requests and even customers assisting their counterparts directly,” she says. “These customer conversations are driving the need for the business to respond in a timely fashion and to also convince potential customers of the business’s ability to adequately take care of their needs.”
“We have a whole new generation of customers, Generation X and Y, who were born into the digital age and who know nothing else – they present a common challenge across all sectors,” Bamford adds.
She believes a continued focus on customer interaction through social networks and online communities will help companies respond to the needs of an increasingly tech-savvy customer base, while producing the unique, personalised customer experience that is so in demand.
In fact, research from the Institute of Customer Service shows that 39% of customers use social channels to provide feedback. The findings, published in the Institute’s Service goes social report, reinforce Bamford’s claims and suggest many customers look to actively help companies improve their products and services.
There are many businesses that have invited customers to be part of the thinking behind their products. Bamford cites Ford’s focus on innovative, sustainable solutions for future global mobility as a key example. The motor company involved customers in an ongoing dialogue about mobility, in a bid to learn more about the issues affecting some 35 cities around the world.
Co-creative companies like Ford not only save on market-research costs, but also gain invaluable insight into the needs of their target market – and build trust in the process.
Ford merely invited customers to become a partner in a collaborative conversation – but that partnership had the power to drive customer loyalty and retention, increase operational efficiency and enhance performance. It would be unwise for any customer-facing organisation to pass up the same opportunity.