This case is broken into two parts a case about a company that I recently began co-operation with and a company that I have been co-operating with for several years already. Perhaps the clue lies in that sentence? In both cases I am the client.
Case Study 1
Medium-size organisation with approximately 400 employees. They specialise in telemarketing offering services in this sphere to large organisations who require ongoing telemarketing to support their services as well as for companies that are running one off campaigns, for example to launch a new product or carry out market research.
The reason why I eventually met with this particular company was because they demonstrated perfectly what they actually do. The meeting went well, giving me a deeper understanding of how a campaign might work. The initial suggestion of how to use the telemarketing service to generate leads, I was not overly keen on. However, I took the suggestion on board giving it the necessary further thought that inevitably led to many questions. This meeting led to an agreement to in general go ahead with the campaign, but not necessarily in the format suggested. I believe it was at this point that things started to run array.
The next step was to meet the team that would be working on my particular project. However, I was being encouraged more forcefully than I would have liked to make a decision on the format of the campaign before meeting the team. As the customer, I felt this was not logical as I wanted to gain a deeper understanding through asking my questions and gaining the opinion of those that would actually be involved and only after they have understood more about my goals and the actual product/service that they are promoting, to make that decision.
On meeting the telemarketing team chosen for this particular campaign, I was convinced that this company would do a good job for me. The meeting was productive and informative with all parties receiving the necessary information to build a good level of understanding and create a comfortable relationship. The decision was made on how to move forward, which turned out to be the opposite of the suggestion given in the first meeting.
I am not going to talk about the actual campaign, which at this point is in the preparation stage, with actual calling not yet started, but rather the conversations between myself and the project manager around paying the invoice. All aspects of the relationship had been and continued to be channelled through the initial project manager and primarily were conducted via email.
The last point of contact was over the invoice. The initial invoice received from the accounting function appeared incorrect. I asked for this to be updated via “reply”. However, the reply service was “undelivered”, leading me to contact the project manager and ask for the correction. The conversation went as follows. (All names and numbers have been changed or removed.)
Susan, the invoice received today is incorrect. I replied to the email, with words to that effect, however just got notification that it is undelivered.
Could you please help with this?
Can you forward me and Dan the email you sent to the invoices email?
Forwarded the mail undelivered message as sent version has been deleted.
Morning Rachel - can you tell me what is wrong with the invoice?
Hi Rachel, the invoice includes VAT, is this perhaps the confusion?
Hi Rachel – the contract value is £X as agreed. Therefore, including VAT is £Y.
I have just checked our previous history in agreeing the hours and when we were discussing the set-up of the activity you mentioned you wanted to minus the email campaign.
Let me know if you have any questions.
My reply – thank you. Kindly re-issue the invoice.
Hi Rachel - The invoice you have is correct. We don’t need to re-issue a new invoice.
This is not the end of the conversation. However, it is enough information, to ask - As the customer, would you want to be part of this conversation, over this issue? Perhaps there is a quicker, more customer-oriented approach over what is actually a very simple issue.
As the customer, have I understood the invoice from the beginning? The return of my question “undelivered” was the foundation to my lack of understanding. Was it important to know what I had written there? The fact that I indicated that it was incorrect, was already a hint to show that I did not understand something and could have been intercepted at that point with a full explanation of the invoice content and details.
Modes of communication have different functions, they all have the purpose of communicating, however they cannot all be used in the same way to achieve the same result. Written communication, in this case email, goes well until the point of a misunderstanding and then at that point changing the mode of communication to phone would have quickly solved the issue and taken much less time for both parties. Not to mention much less aggravation!
By the end of this conversation, if it wasn't for the fact that I had already had a very productive meeting with the telemarketing team, I would have cancelled the whole contract. Why?
The discussion over this simple issue lacked “feeling” and understanding of where the customer is at. The questions asked did not lead to a deeper understanding of the situation, they simply served to irritate. Instead of asking “can you send me a copy of the email about what is wrong with the invoice?” The statement could have been, “let me look into this and I will come back to you shortly.” This would then be followed up with an email or phone call explaining the invoice, illustrating where my misunderstanding appears to be, and attaching it again for my convenience.
As time is very precious to us all, utilising all modes of communication available is not only important, but enables full engagement with the customer, the opportunity to create a deeper relationship, increasing customer loyalty whilst also understanding and solving the issue quickly.
Case Study 2
This case concerns the service side of a large car manufacturer that is located fairly close to my home. I have been a client of this particular service centre for approximately six years. Since my return to the UK I have had many interactions, both in person and by phone with team members in this service centre over the purchase and servicing of cars, repairs, as well as MOT’s as and when needed.
On entering the showroom, the receptionist is quick to greet you, understand the reason why you are there and assign the relevant person to you, always offering a drink of tea or coffee. The team that work directly with the customer in booking the car in, communicating any relevant information and taking payment are all friendly, customer-oriented and professional. Taking this term and breaking it down, what do I mean by “customer-oriented”?
Firstly, you are greeted by name, which they remember from previous visits. Secondly whilst technically booking your car in they take the opportunity to socialise appropriately without giving the feeling that either they are speeding you along or that they are wasting your time, sensing where the customer is at and respecting time both for the business and the customer. Furthermore, they remember a little about you from previous conversations and generally follow up on an aspect of that information. They have the ability to sense if something is not “normal” for you as a customer, do not ignore that, but address it giving full attention to the answer, showing empathy, if needed, interest and the ability to interact openly.
It goes without saying that the service and repairs as well as spare parts, if needed are more expensive than in a local “unbranded” garage. However, the service given to you, in my opinion as the customer, compensates for this. Last year, when I was looking to change my car, I thought seriously about moving from this particular manufacturer, and looked around at what was in the market, eventually test driving two other models before making a decision. The cars were of equal performance, of course a different shape, colour and so on. Service centres were at approximately the same distance as this one.
What influenced my final decision?
If in both these cases they were car manufacturers and service centres and you are the customer, which one of these companies would you choose?
Professional service that builds loyalty in the customer base, is not just about answering the telephone quickly and being polite. It is about pre-empting customer needs through thinking and “feeling” what is going on with each customer, each time you meet them. In other words, sensing the person who you are interacting with as well as their current situation as you are communicating with them. It is about recognition, remembering small details about each and every customer, knowing how to respond with each customer – can you use humour? Is the customer in a hurry or do they have all day – a luxury I have not yet created in my life! How price sensitive are they? What are their needs each time they walk through the door, not assuming that the needs remain the same?
Very importantly, it is about knowing which mode of communication to use for each and every conversation. Clearly some conversations are better in person, either on the phone or face-to-face. Other conversations can be conducted by email or any other electronic platform. Choosing the right approach for each situation and each customer is vital to delivering a customer-oriented approach in a timely manner for all parties concerned.
I take my hat off to whoever does the training for this particular service centre. It is completely spot on.