Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Customer SPOC

Companies today profess their love for customer service with gusto unlike anything before. They stand under the metaphorical balconies of customers proclaiming their devotion to them and how they would always stand by them in their times of trouble. The U-turn after that though, is again something customers like many broken lovers have come to expect. Customers and companies enter a marriage the moment a customer decides to pick your product off the shelf instead of another. So why don’t companies really get serious about this? Why don’t they show some unwavering commitment? Why don’t they just get themselves a Chief Customer Officer?

The role exists in B2B and B2C firms as diverse as Allstate, Dunkin' Brands, USAA, Philips Electronics, FedEx, the Cleveland Clinic, and SAP. All companies greatly committed to delivering good service. So why hasn't this concept found its way into more management teams across companies? The reasons are many and diverse. Ranging from not finding the right people to not enabling them with adequate power to affect change to not being easily accessible to customers.  Companies serious about customer service can use such a person in management to help outline a strategy right from the top which will in turn tie in with the company objectives. Commitment to customer service needs to start from the top, quite literally. The top management must be ready to be decisive when it comes to executing their customer service strategy and adding a CCO to that mix and at that level of decision making can be the greatest show of faith.

CCOs can be the next coup de grace in a market dominated by lofty promises and earth shattering failures in service. A CCO should ensure accessibility and accountability for customers. She should be the point of escalation when things go out of hand. Communication lines to her should be available to every customer and her openness and accessibility in time will define the commitment the company has towards customer service. The knowledge that she belongs to the management will further help in instilling faith in customers that they truly have access to the decision makers. This is the kind of faith that makes a brand, the kind that promises to stand by their customer in sickness and health.

1 comment:

  1. The idea of a CCO or any other such designation is no doubt a good one. The larger problem however is to address the issue raised in the first paragraph. Why is it that companies woo prospects to become customers and once they have become customers they tend to ignore or take them for granted and start wooing other prospects.

    It is really like a relationship between a couple that goes from dating to marriage and post marriage. In the dating phase there is an effort to please and make a good impression , an effort to make the relationship work so that it would end in a marriage ( customer ). There is then a honeymoon period when life is rosy and the dating scene is extended for some more time. This is a period of excitement, enjoyment , exploration of dreams expectations for the future and many other largely positive emotions between the couple. Then things settle into a routine and partners take each other for granted, make little effort to keep the excitement of the relationship going and at times even start becoming promiscuous.

    An obvious but sadly much neglected aspect of successful strategy is to get the whole organisation to sing in tune / row in harmony on the matter of the customer. Companies have to create a culture - not just a post of a Chief Customer Officer - wherein the company - customer relationship is one that results in a HONEYMOON FOR LIFE !!!

    Ramesh Venkateswaran
    Chairman , CUSTOMMERCE