Business, Marketing, & Print

Maintaining the Customer Experience

Published on May 28, 2009

customer-careThe challenging economy is putting consumer companies such as airlines, banks, and retailers in the difficult position of cutting back the service levels that customers have come to expect in recent years. These companies are closing retail locations, reducing hours of operation, and making do with less staff in stores and call centers. Meanwhile, faced with rising costs, they are also increasing prices, either overtly or through fees. As a result, our customer experience research shows that satisfaction scores are reversing the upward trend of the past few years and actually dropping in a number of industries.

So it’s not surprising that most executives think compromising service levels is a mistake. When senior executives from 11 leading service delivery companies were interviewed, all but one agreed that improving the customer experience is growing in importance to their companies, customers, and competitors.
How can consumer businesses make necessary investments in service while facing the pressure on revenues and costs? Our review of the companies with the best customer service records in ten industries suggests that one key is to minimize wasteful spending while learning to invest in the drivers of satisfaction. Specifically, companies should challenge their beliefs about service and test those beliefs analytically. Many will discover that long-held but seldom-reviewed assertions about what customers really want are wrong.
Consider service levels, specifically average time-to-answer, which is one of the most common metrics used in call centers. Service levels—often based on regulation or historical precedent—are set by call-center managers and then used to calculate staffing requirements. But service levels are challenging to maintain and costly to improve: raising them by 10 percent requires much more than a 10 percent increase in staff.
Companies that closely manage the customer experience have taken a rigorous approach to resetting service levels and, in some cases, are saving money without degrading them or customer satisfaction. In short, these companies have carefully measured the “breakpoints” to find their customers’ true sensitivity to service level changes. One company, a wireless telecommunications services provider, found that its customers had two breakpoints at X and Y seconds on a call; answering the phone immediately (less than X seconds) produced delight, while leaving customers on hold for longer (more than Y seconds) produced strong dissatisfaction (exhibit). Although customers were fairly indifferent to service levels between X and Y, the company’s average time to answer was only loosely managed between these two points.
The company considered raising service levels to the “delight breakpoint” or reducing them to just above the “patience threshold.” Customer-lifetime-value economics pointed to the second option: relaxing service levels but guarding against crossing the patience threshold. The drop in customer satisfaction was negligible, but the savings in staffing were significant, and the company ended up saving more than $7 million annually—much of which was reinvested in improvements to its problem-resolution process.
This scenario isn’t an isolated example. The same principles apply to setting up a new account, scheduling an appointment, answering a nonurgent e-mail, or having customers wait in line. In our experience, most companies that analyze their service levels carefully find that some wait times have become more important to customers than others and that overstaffing to hit service targets that customers don’t care about is costing them money.

At the UPC, we strive to improve our customer experience. We know the value of time and strive to get you your product in the fastest possible time. Our business cards are turned over in just 2-3 business days and 3-4 days for our 4×6 and 5×7 postcards. We recently completed a major booklet order of 6 booklets with 2100 copies each within just 1 week. So for your next major or minor order, get the satisfaction you deserve with the UPC








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