In today’s competitive business world, consumers have more choices than ever. And customer satisfaction is a responsibility most businesses take very seriously—especially so in the global supply chain as businesses require software that delivers optimal supply chain performance.
What’s more, whenever any company undergoes a merger, acquisition, change of leadership, significant new product launch or other transformative event, customer service must always be at the forefront.
However, one foundational question typically remains in addressing how to serve a combined customer base: What are the key components of an outstanding support experience for customers?
This article outlines the five foundational principles that can help any business offer a truly outstanding support experience and increase overall customer satisfaction.
1. Deliver a Consistent Experience
No matter the size of your support staff, a key to meeting customer expectations is providing the training and other resources these associates need to deliver a consistently excellent support experience. Whether customers contact your organization by phone, email or a customized Web portal, they need to rely on your associates for a consistent level of knowledge and advice. Customers also need to know exactly what to expect when they contact your support team, which means developing standardized practices and procedures that are championed by every associate.
An uncompromising level of consistency can be difficult to achieve if you’ve recently added new products, significantly increased the size of your support team, undergone a merger or experienced other business changes.
But while every company can expect a transition phase following a big change, your support team must always be held accountable to deliver exceptional service for every single customer contact.
2. Create a Culture of Ownership
All of us have had a negative customer service experience. As a consumer, how many times have you called a company with a complaint only to end up repeating your story to an endless line of customer service employees as you get transferred from one person to another?
When customers rely on JDA to power their most critical supply chain systems, that approach is unacceptable. Instead, we aim to create a culture in which our support associates are truly empowered to “own” a specific customer issue at the moment they discover it and see it through until the customer is fully satisfied.
As a result, JDA achieved a 40 to 50 percent reduction in the time needed to resolve a customer issue and a 20 percent reduction in the number of cases awaiting resolution at any given time.
3. Uncover Root Causes
Within many organizations, there is significant pressure placed on the support team to close all customer cases quickly. Speed is certainly important, but it’s equally critical to recognize and address the underlying causes of customer issues.
Instead of merely treating the current “symptoms” of one customer, your support team must be qualified and knowledgeable enough to identify and address foundational issues that may affect other customers. While quick resolutions may make your short-term customer satisfaction numbers look great, it’s a closer look at the root causes of customer issues that creates long-term loyalty and lasting customer value. Empower your customer support staff to access cross-functional experts to identify the root cause of a customer’s problem to deliver better long-term results.
4. Encourage Continuous Feedback
Anyone who works in the supply chain industry recognizes the importance of continuous improvement, which is achieved by closely monitoring current performance and setting the bar ever higher. When you’re providing support services, there’s really only one measure of how well you’re doing—and that’s the opinion of your customer community.
By creating a continuous feedback loop with every customer, JDA creates a Six-Sigma quality process that enhances support capabilities on a continual basis.
For example, in addition to monitoring third-party ratings, JDA constantly focuses on gathering its own user feedback with a number of internal vehicles for assessing how well we resolve customer issues. We feed this information back into our processes in an effort to deliver the best possible experience every time a customer reaches out to JDA Support Services.
5. Build a Dynamic User Community
The performance results delivered by supply chain software—as well as the financial return on investment—can improve dramatically when customers come together as a community. While collaboration with other users can never replace a formal support function, a business’ growing user community can serve as a valuable complement to its support team.
For example, JDA actively sponsors more than 50 special interest groups (SIGs) that allow software users to identify best practices, trade real-world experiences and offer advice.
SIGs can provide critical feedback on products and service areas to strengthen Six-Sigma quality improvement efforts. In addition to maintaining online forums at the JDA support website, JDA’s SIGs schedule conference calls and in-person meetings to share ideas and tips on a regular basis.
Make the Commitment to Superior Support
The world’s best software is optimized only when customers have a dedicated, expert resource available to help them when inevitable questions arise.
Whether your support team has 10 members or 100—and wherever you are in your journey toward building an outstanding support function—every company has the power to deliver an excellent customer experience. The first step is making the commitment to truly value each customer contact—treating it not as an obligation but as an opportunity to build a long-term, value-added relationship in which each partner benefits.
Ken Williams is senior vice president of Global Integrated Services for JDA Software Group, Inc., Scottsdale, Ariz.