Does more data imply better customer service?

//Does more data imply better customer service?

Not necessarily, if the data collected is not fed back into the feedback loop

You may be spending a fortune in opening up new markets, designing and selling personalized products, thinking of newer ways to enhance a customer’s ‘experience’ of your brand, but if your service desk is not making use of the data insights that your CRM software is generating, you may well forget about having any data strategy in place. You are not making proper use of the customer response to your new product/service and any other changes you are making to your business model.

CRM is more than a piece of coded software

In The Experience Economy, author James H. Gilmore recalls his experience with a major hotel chain that requests guests to fill-out a multiple-choice satisfaction survey before they check out. Once when a guest checked the box, “extremely dissatisfied” on all questions, he did not receive any special treatment or a note of apology in his mail. Indeed, no one called to inquire what exactly went wrong.

The reason for such an apathetic attitude is not difficult to guess. The disgruntled guest’s survey form must have been fed straight into the hotel’s CRM system, clubbed with other customers’ responses and turned into an average customer’s statistic — not reflective of ONE customer’s acute dissatisfaction with the brand!

That’s the problem with data – it reduces real customers to numbers and statistics. And even that would not be so bad, if there was someone responsive and intelligent enough to connect all the dots and read the writing on the wall, but then, what the heck! Who has the time, when there is so much data-processing to be done!

The truth is getting buried under a heap of data…

….and this is a worrisome trend. In the example cited above, a more effective approach to taking customers’ feedback would have been to first have someone glance through the forms – individually – to spot the big variances – take appropriate action; and then send it for processing with the Big Data analytics company to produce their ‘actionable insights’ for the Group. Meanwhile, someone at the front desk would have addressed the disgruntled customer’s demands and set things right for him. Elementary, isn’t it?

Why make customer service more complex than it actually is?

Perhaps because most CRM data analysis and training focuses on processes and not on changing staff behavior, the job is targeted on speed, preciseness, political correctness etc. and not on gaining real customer satisfaction.

Worse, most customer service staff is relatively low paid in the hierarchy, inexperienced, and is given very little leeway to use their own initiative, when confronted with a tricky situation. As such, they take refuge behind policy and procedure, and of course data – “60% guests are extremely satisfied with the catering,” “70% with room service” and so on.

Surprisingly, many customer service initiatives call for very little cost

You need to only look at the Starbucks example. They made their barristas as knowledgeable about their products as a wine expert generally is. The outcome – they serve customers with expertise.

However product knowledge without feeling would also be hallow and would not gain any respect from the customer. Two years ago, eMarketer came out with a startling report. After forecasting that the US online travel sales will keep on growing at an average 10%, they also noted that fewer travelers are booking their trips online. Pray why?

Because customers’ experience with online travel agents was not so positive, with the result that these travel sites were steering customers back to the offline travel agents. In most cases, online travel agents were not able to offer the same level of flexibility in their service offering as offline agents often do.

What does it mean? That technology is a barrier to good service? So should we go back to the old ways of doing business?

No, that would be equivalent to throwing out the good with the bad. The answer does not lie in deploying less technology, but more. The answer lies in deploying responsible technology that makes the process more customer-friendly because CRM is more than data.

(From MLI, Social Marketing Division. As an integral part of our broader services, we provide clients with complete data management solutions including: Data Cleaning, Mailing Campaign Management, De-duplication and In house Database Management)

About MLI

MLI is the leading Direct Marketing company in India, offering integrated multichannel marketing strategies in the B2B and B2C space. The company provides access to all types of mailing lists in India and the rest of the world direct mailing lists, telemarketing lists and email marketing lists and support services for cross-channel marketing.

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