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Mind the Gap

How changing consumer behaviour impacts software demands

The rise of the digital economy has without a doubt led to a staggering rise in customer expectations. Consumers across all sectors are now expecting more, faster and for less, a shift in expectation that has certainly not gone unnoticed by those front-line staff whose job it is to communicate with customers on a daily basis. Where this expectation becomes even more of a challenge is when we consider customer complaints, a time when it’s all too easy for already unhappy customers to slip further down the slope of disappointment. With this in mind, the issue of customer complaint management is proving to be a key focus for businesses wishing to better align their service delivery with the heightened expectations of consumers in this digital age.

New research by regulatory and complaints experts, Huntswood, provides a comprehensive picture of UK complaints handling performance, having surveyed 31 financial service and utilities businesses and collated 5,500 consumer responses to pull together a real ‘state of the nation’ overview for customer complaints handling. One of the most interesting findings in the report was the glaring perception gap between what businesses believed and how customers actually felt. So, for example, 69% of businesses questioned believed their customers to be satisfied with complaints handling, a figure that shrinks dramatically to just 26% of customers who reported being satisfied with the service they experienced. Similarly, 49% of businesses state that they’re resolving complaints at First-Point-of-Contact whereas in reality, only 18% of customers felt the same way.

Fact or fiction?

So, why such a huge gap between business perception and the reality from a customer point of view? Ultimately, there are two major causes of such a gap: denial, or information error, whereby key data is missing or incomplete or simply wrong.

When it comes to denial, this is more common that you’d think. Asking someone to admit that their results aren’t perhaps as positive as they claim is a difficult conversation to have. It’s human nature to put on a positive show, particularly if you’re looking to protect your job role or position, with bravado often masking a whole host of issues that are perfectly solvable if only the truth were acknowledged. In fact, if you’re starting at the bottom, you actually have more to gain and it’s often those with the biggest perception gap who have the most to lose. If only more businesses would realise that it doesn’t matter where you are now, even if that position is languishing at the bottom of the customer service league, as long as you make it a top priority to move on from here, following a continuous improvement trajectory for the good of the entire business.

A critical eye

However, before any continuous improvement plans can be put in place, it’s vital to fully understand the reality of the situation. Businesses are never going to improve unless they take a critical view of the organisation, something that’s impossible to do when working with incorrect or incomplete data, the very issue that’s the second cause of this huge perception gap that the research has uncovered.

What many businesses are dealing with are silos of information resulting from disconnected systems and processes, combined with an inability to effectively solicit customer feedback. For the business as a whole, this means it’s nigh on impossible to build a comprehensive picture of the customer experience. With no timely snapshot of what the customer wants or expects, and without a complete history of the customer’s experience up until a particular moment in time, not to mention the lack of feedback about the service the customer has experienced, no wonder there’s such a massive gap in how customers and businesses perceive their ability to successfully resolve complaints.

Software implications

So, what does all this mean for software? Firstly, it’s vital that software is capable of providing this all-important single view of the customer, capturing every interaction across multiple channels and making this information available to the entire business. Silos of information no longer cut the mustard when it comes to customer experience management or customer service excellence. Dedicated complaints management systems and case management platforms provide the functionality needed to achieve the best possible outcomes for the customer, which fundamentally is what effective complaints resolution is all about.

Similarly, the focus needs to shift from compliance, which has been the major concern for the financial services industry in particular over the last few years, to prioritising the creation of an effective complaints handling operation. Meeting regulations is of course still necessary, something that the majority of businesses are doing as par for the course by now, but it doesn’t deliver customer service excellence.

Aside from this need for efficient systems to manage the entire customer experience, the capability to capture customer feedback and push this directly back into the business is paramount. Generic customer feedback questionnaires are all well and good but are they put into context and what happens to the results? With the help of technology, it’s possible to carry out contextualised, relevant customer surveys and questionnaires within a case management or complaint management system, directly tying the results back in to a specific part of the customer journey. This means that case handlers can analyse the information alongside other case data, providing new depths of actionable customer insight for the business. Adding even further value is the ability to use this feedback to inform the necessary changes that underpin a successful continuous improvement journey, providing the context needed to best utilise the results.

If businesses are to close this perception gap, they need to make full use of the available technology to improve the overall customer experience, particularly when it comes to complaint resolution. As much as businesses should be looking to solutions to speed up and increase the accuracy of all customer interactions, furnishing them with the right tools and the right information to secure the right outcomes for that customers, the ability to garner valuable feedback should not be underestimated. Complaint resolution is not and should not be an end-to-end process, but an ever-evolving, cyclical journey, where customer feedback is used to develop best practice within the business. It’s only by collating contextualised, insightful feedback and plugging this directly back into the organisation to inform real change that the disconnect between business perception and customer reality will ever be resolved.





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