Customer Service is at the Heart of Digitization
Can a company sell a bad product with an exceptionally good customer service? Or can a company sell an exceptionally good product with bad customer service? The answers to these questions may not be simply yes or no but lie somewhere in between. The answers to these depend on a lot of other factors and the jury is still out on this.
How about a good product and an equally good customer service? How do you reckon that will do? Probably, good?
This brings us to the question: Is product more important or customer service?
Okay, enough of throwing questions at you. Let’s get into finding answers now.
Customer Service as a Key Differentiator
There has been a lot of talk around customer service over the past few years. There’s a reason for that. Product definitely is a competitive differentiator but with the changes in the digital business landscape, customer service and customer experience are now key differentiators. Salesforce found, in a recent research study, that 85% executives believe customer experience is a key differentiator. The study further said 80% executives, an overwhelming majority of the first 85%, believe customer service is a “ is the primary vehicle for improving the customer experience. As such, service teams face an unprecedented chance to elevate their role in the business – but also unprecedented scrutiny on their ability to perform – in this Age of the Customer.” Not just that, Salesforce also found that over the past two years, 89% teams have increased their customer service budgets and 68% are expected to increase it further over the next couple of years.
The key question, however, is why. Why is customer service such a big differentiator? Customer experience is the differentiator and customer service is only a part of it. Customer service helps increase the customer experience along with other factors but is a core integral part of it. All the brilliant website and mobile app design and optimization can’t help if the customer service isn’t able to recognize a customer properly or get a hold of the customer’s full profile. Customer service is important because the customers of today like things to happen by themselves; they don’t have the time; they are impatient to chase companies for technical help and follow-ups.
Single Customer View as a catalyst for Customer Service
Adobe reportedly valued the total revenue in holiday sales during November and December at USD 91.7 billion. That’s supposed to be a phenomenal 11% year-on-year increase. Now that’s a lot of sales and lot of people making the purchases. Surely, most of them will need customer support with regard to the products they’ve bought. Let’s say a single customer bought multiple products from multiple arms of a single company or is interacting with multiple department in a single company. A single customer view helps different departments in the same company have the same, single 360 degrees view of each customer. If a customer support executive can’t view a consumer’s purchase history across channels, the executive can’t offer comprehensive and relevant solutions to the customer’s queries. If different departments have a different view or understanding of each customer, it could be frustrating for the customer and disastrous for the company. Imagine the reaction of a consumer if the customer service executive could just recognize the customer without asking for details and then get a 360 degrees view of him and its interactions at various user touchpoints. That is the pinnacle right now.
In the report cited above, Salesforce too found that the having a Single View empowers teams and agents to be proactive and personal. In the report, Salesforce said, “Eighty percent of service teams agree that a shared, single view of the customer empowers departments to provide a more consistent experience across every channel. Eighty-five percent of top service teams excel at having a shared, single view of the customer — 3.5x more so than underperformers (25%).” That’s like a game changing number and definitely an important ingredient for their success .
Customer Identity and Access Management for the Single View
How does one achieve the Single Customer View across channels and departments? Something like sports brand Under Armour is doing. We are not sure how ‘Under Armour’ is doing it, but the surest way to obtain a 360 degrees Single Customer View of each consumer is by employing a Customer Identity and Access Management (cIAM) platform that centralizes all the customer data and integrates it with applications used by different departments. The first part of the job is creating the Single View and the second part is about making it a shared Single Customer View. This is why the emphasis should not just be on the Single Customer View but on a shared Single View. How does it matter? Well, it’s like holding a lot of data and inferences but not being able to utilize them. It isn’t enough that you successfully create unified customer profiles but also that you must be able to break down the data silos barriers in order to propagate those unified profiles across departments such that all stakeholders can access them and utilize them. A lot of people might argue that employing a Customer Identity and Access Management platform isn’t the only way to build unified customer profiles. It sure isn’t. But it definitely is the fastest and simplest way.
Single Customer View is the Heart of Digitization
We, kind of, borrowed what ‘Under Armour’ was trying to convey with its Single Customer View push, but the company is damn right. No business can call itself fully digitized until they are able to harness customer data and build unified customer profiles. Some companies think mere usage of online channels for transactions makes them digital. No, that’s crude digitization. Digitization of a business truly begins with the Single Customer View. That’s because digitization of business is not about switching from physical to digital. It’s not about starting to sell online. It is about adding value to products and service. If you are selling the same product in a store and on an online platform, it isn’t something great, it isn’t innovation. That is just increasing the number of purchase channels. Innovation is in adding value to the purchase experience irrespective of the channels and the interaction points to give the customer more than just a product. And that innovation will lead to true digitization. That’s what ‘Under Armour’ is gunning for. And it’s achievable for smaller companies too. It’s not just the big guns’ game. If the Web can bring the small and big brands alike to the same level in competition, there’s no way smaller brands can’t get into the real digitization game.
Let’s get back to the questions we started this post with. Can a company sell a bad product with an exceptionally good customer service? Or can a company sell an exceptionally good product with bad customer service? We still don’t know answer to the first question because there are a lot of variables involved. What we do know is that companies, small or big, can’t survive and compete unless they turn on the Single Customer View game. And that makes it a ‘No’ to the second question.