Consider the Porsche. Sleek and beautiful, you know it’s a great car the minute you see one. Yet the real beauty lies in what’s under the hood. That’s where the power comes from. That’s what makes it a performance vehicle.
For companies, customers engage because you bring them something wonderful, something they want. When you do, they expect a certain level of service behind it, an excellent end-to-end experience.
From streaming video of the latest movies to delivery of high fashion or gourmet meals to their doorstep, people have already been delighted by the ways they can order and manage services and products. In this new subscription economy, everything-as-a-service provides new options and greater flexibility for customers, but also presents more challenges for companies in delivering superior service from start to finish.
Changing expectations in a subscription economy
In the subscription economy, customers don’t see the engine that drives the service or product they grow to love, nor do they need to. People rightfully expect that service will be delivered seamlessly.
That expectation puts more pressure on companies than ever before. And because so much of the service is delivered automatically, companies need to have systems in place that will make sure everything happens as promised.
To do that, companies are establishing operational excellence as the rule in their customer service departments. These models help make sure that the entire customer journey, from start to finish, is connected and seamless. This approach addresses service operations and delivery issues before they surface.
Excellence beyond complaint reporting
It’s not just about tracking complaints, although that’s part of it. It’s about creating an end-to-end experience where requests and issues are prevented or resolved quickly. Here are a few examples of where operational excellence is challenging but needed in customer service:
- Onboarding a customer to a new service.
- Sending out a field service technician to fix something.
- Routing customer requests for review or approvals (to the legal department, for example).
- Assigning customer questions to teams outside of customer service for resolution (like a question related to a billing statement).
- Gathering teams to triage and maintain visibility into a resolution.
- Proactively notifying customers affected by a problem.
- Viewing trends in the types of customer issues to determine if you need to automate requests.
- Monitoring the health of customers’ products and services to identify issues before the customer does.
All of that and more is happening now at many of the companies of the subscription economy. Whether it’s a company that didn’t exist a decade ago, or one as established as the company providing your credit card, they’re all using new business models that require something deeper than just customer engagement as they focus on the delivery of services digitally.
There’s all sorts of magic happening behind the scenes. When you order a new credit card, what happens after you submit the application on the web? How do you select and receive your weekly meal packages from Blue Apron? How do those fabulous outfits from Stitch Fix arrive at your door? When you need a ride, how does Uber send someone to you so quickly? If you want to let your beard grow, how do you pause your delivery of Harry’s Razors? Shouldn’t my cable company contact me proactively when my software needs to be updated?
These companies have the right idea, that a seamless customer journey requires both an easy way to manage an ongoing engagement with customers as well as to deliver the service itself.
Yet too many companies, in trying to reach this promised land, are focused on the wrong thing. They work to improve various individual touchpoints, instead of looking at the end-to-end journey that matters the most. McKinsey found that even when customers find the touchpoints satisfactory, if these components haven’t been made part of a seamless whole, they find the overall experience lacking.
In a survey of senior executives, 90 percent confirmed that customer experience is one of the CEO’s top three priorities, and that good customer service directly affects revenue, McKinsey found.
So how do you modernize your technology to deliver excellent subscription-economy services?
Modernized approach to service delivery
The traditional company must make several changes. First, companies need to understanding that creating a smooth digital “customer journey” works. McKinsey studied banking and insurance customers in five countries including the US, and analyzed different types of customer journeys—from those that are entirely online, to those entirely in a branch, and those that start in one place and end in another. Digital-first journeys led to higher customer satisfaction scores and generated 10 to 20 percentage points more satisfaction than traditional journeys, according to McKinsey.
To create the ideal digital-first journeys, everything must be connected and work together. Automated workflows help to connect customer service to the rest of the organization by simplifying request routing, approvals, and issue resolution.
Companies also need to embrace the latest technologies: artificial intelligence and machine learning, virtual agents, the Internet of Things. These are not just gimmicks, buzzwords, or dreams of a Utopian future. They are available now, and they can help companies be more efficient and proactive.
By incorporating operational excellence concepts and cutting-edge technology, companies can ensure their customers receive excellent service—and stay customers.