Not that customers were undemanding before the digitalization of the business world. But I find the letter that I received from one of my credit institutes last year outrageous. Let me briefly explain: My credit institute sent me a notice, stating that my checking account was overdrawn. They threatened to lock my credit card and the deposits on my account, if I don’t balance my overdraft immediately. However, in my case this letter was clearly inappropriate because my account was covered. Even if the letter would have been sent to me 15 years ago, I’d still think my credit institute failed with digital customer relationship. Nevertheless, it wouldn’t have had the same scope, resulting into the decision that I did change my credit institute. In the context of our eight dimensions of the digital transformation I want to talk about the background of this story and what customer relationship means for companies.
Indispensable: a central CRM-System
In the old days there were mainly three ways to get in touch with a company: personally by visiting a shop, over the phone or by mail. Nowadays customers can use the internet and reach out to companies in many different ways. This doesn’t only include e-mails but also search engines, adverts, recommendations, pop-ups, ad links and so on. And also personal communication still exists. Therefore, one thing is of mayor importance regarding contemporary digital customer relationship management: As a provider I have to manage my customers’ data centrally. Otherwise I have no chance to meet my clients with the necessary customer friendliness. This way my former credit institute for instance actually might have known that I already owned various covered accounts so that they hopefully wouldn’t have sent this letter to me in the first place.
Minimum requirements: fast and friendly
This leads us to the next point: customer friendliness. The internet demands a highly customer-centric communication approach since it’s characterized by transparency and public feedback. At this point I recall a very entertaining and absurd twitter conversation between Daniel Kempkens and the Telecom. Actually, it’s not about this extreme example, in which a client had to wait eight months for a promised service, it’s rather about the new attitude. The customer expects that his requests is being handled fast and friendly. Fast means no later than tomorrow. And friendly means, well, friendly. This is exactly the opposite of the letter from my credit institute. While customers of the Generation X and the Baby Boomers might be still aware of this, it’s not even a request of customers from the Generation Y that needs to be mentioned. It’s just a matter of course.
Freedom for the customer advisor!
The crucial question for companies in this case is how they can adjust their customer service to the new requirements. The mentioned central CRM system won’t suffice, after all, it must also be used. Namely, by the staff. We have met clients at doubleYUU that are technically well equipped or at least very open to new technologies. But it took some time until their employees were able to keep up with the pace. In the last ten years it was fine to take care of customers’ requests within four weeks. And for the really difficult cases the hands were tied anyway because internal policy restricted unilateral action from the beginning. From these established processes a concrete task results: Customer service employees need to be guided in a way so that they can act on their own. Consequently, digital customer relationship isn’t only a technological and process-related challenge, it’s also a management task.
I always like to tell an example of an online retailer for shoes in this context: A woman called and asked if she could return shoes that she has currently purchased. Everybody who has ever asked such a question knows how people in Germany would have reacted, such like: “According to our policy you can return ordered goods only for a shopping voucher. Please download our form…“ – if you are lucky. But in this case the Sales Rep asked: “Why do you want to return the shoes?“ The woman answered: “My husband who ordered them unfortunately died.“ Then, the client advisor decided to refund the money, he took the shoes back and sent her a bouquet of flowers.
I’d say: Most German customer services departments would not have sent flower bouquets in this case. You can only talk about digital customer service, if employees are managed in a way that enables adequate and spontaneous reactions.
And dear, former credit institute: Your way might be long, but doubleYUU would love to help you!
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