Why an average / poor services to customers/citizens is more the norm than it should be?

Having spent over 34 years as a Service Head in leading organizations and watching the challenges that are faced by CX practitioners , it comes as a no surprise that customers  suffer  suboptimal /shoddy service from many companies that they buy their goods/services or from a government’s citizen services delivery point.

It is also true that almost all companies talk about importance of customer in their mission/vision and every Indian government office piously displays Gandhiji’s quote ‘ Customer is a God in our premise’.  So why does the Customer Experience fall short at various delivery points.?

1. Importance of Customer Experience Investment

Customers importance to organizations are paramount for bringing in revenue from buying. So, every effort /incentive is directed to the Sales/Marketing effort – since correlations to success are easy to establish for the top line growth. Investments in Customer Experience for post sales interactions at various touchpoints/ relationship building to help build loyalty, get repeat sales and have customers strongly refer the brand to other buyers are not easy to correlate to immediate top line growth ( specially  in annual operating year in which investments have been made. ). Payback in CX programmes may come over longer period of time beyond the AOP (Annual operating plan) cycle. So it needs someone taking a strategic call and have a firm conviction for making CX investments that will have longer payback period. (eg Jeff Bezoz – Amazon, Gopal Vittal – Airtel ,etc) to back CX programmes.

2. Challenges in Rolling Out Comprehensive CX Programmes

Rolling out a comprehensive CX programme – companywide is a large change management exercise involving many functions and it can call for changes in existing processes, organization structures , technology adoption ,etc. Such large change management programmes cannot run successfully without alignment ,support and continuous visible sponsorship of top leadership right through till changes have been made and stabilized.

Treating it as only functional responsibility to get CX change management affected across functions can delay/derail the effectiveness and thereby the Customer Experience at the touchpoint. Eg if empowerment policy is required for frontline customer dealing staff – policy and processes need to be agreed and signed off between Finance/Accounts /CX and all functions where empowerments need to be given. There will be turf issues and debates between control v/s empowerment risks that will need a business risk assessment call to be taken by leadership. Else – the customers will either get a standard reply even in obvious failure cases or small amount disputes –‘Sir, we will get back to you’ or ‘ I agree with you Sir but I am sorry sir … our company policy does not allow us to reverse/reduce  the charges levied’

3. Misconceptions About Customer Service Function

Often in organizations the Customer Service function is being taken as a backend function to handle post sales issues, requests and queries received from customers. Such a mindset leads to treating the function as a cost center and thereby efforts are constantly made in every AOP to reduce the cost to serve. This leads to mismatch between resources and number of agents required to serve the callers in call centers and frontline desks, reduction in capex spends needed to improve the touchpoint experience ( eg technology needed at frontend for monitoring/measuring effectiveness,etc). Skills of Customer Service Leadership then gets geared only to run an efficient CS operations that can improve process efficiency or reduce costs. Expectations from them to help create a strategic differentiator for the brand through strong CX programme are not placed for setting up a robust customer listening systems across different channels for the organisation, working across functions to improve Customer Touch point experiences , setting up robust Customer Relationship programmes based on different Customer segments and measuring CX impact on the brand loyalty.  Knowledge and skill gaps in these areas of CX leadership exist – where a majority of CX leaders are either unaware of a lot of tools and techniques of CX enhancement or not using the same for a comprehensive CX enhancement programme for the brand.

4. Issues in Government Public Delivery Services

While huge investments and progress through e- governance has been made and the levels of public delivery services has substantially improved, there are still glaring gaps in execution of the processes on these platforms – eg OTP notifications will not come inspite of repeated tries, unstable input forms ( where if even if 1 input is wrong , the whole form will have to be refilled again, etc ) . Intitutive ease is missing and even someone with decent digital literacy can struggle and finally end up relying on Seva Kendra’s or Touts offering services outside government offices to ease out and guide in the form filling.

Simple FAQ’s on points where customers may get stuck in the form filling can be provided. A feedback mechanism to get citizens feedback on difficulties they may be facing or suggestions they have can bring in rich insights to constantly upgrade the platforms. After all there are a lot of citizens will be IT savvy professionals who can help co-create a much more efficient system, if a channel is created to obtain citizen feedbacks.

Moral of the story is : Customer Experience enhancement is a journey to be performed everyday ….’inch by inch’ and if you have professional CX skills deployed the journey can be taken with giant strides.

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