Canon CEO Joe Adachi on the Customer Connection
July 29 2011 by Joe Adachi
During the past few years of industry-wide cutbacks and cost containment, customers have become accustomed to subpar purchasing experiences that often begin and end at the checkout line. Any company can sell its product once, but the real opportunities to stand above the competition arise when the consumer requires post-sales support. That customer contact is where a company wins its reputation as a quality brand that provides reliable products, service and support. Additionally, with the emergence of social media, customers—satisfied or dissatisfied—are able to voice their opinions to hundreds, even thousands of other users.
Service quality also has a direct impact on the bottom line. Eighty-two percent of U.S. customers who participated in a recent customer experience survey by Harris Interactive reported having “stopped doing business with a company” due to a negative experience. And 85 percent said they would be “willing to pay more over the standard price in order to ensure a superior customer experience.”
For seven straight years, PC Magazine and PCMag.com have awarded Canon one of their coveted “Readers’ Choice” awards for “Service and Reliability for Digital Cameras and Printers.” Based entirely on reader’s comments, the award reflects our continued commitment to striking the right balance of efficiency, quality and satisfaction when providing customer service. To achieve it a CEO and his company must consider three key areas:
Human Connection: While efficient, and even beneficial, in some cases of customer service, voice automation and virtual agents minimize human interaction and result in a clinical and even intimidating process. It’s critical to enable customer-friendly, human interaction so as not to overwhelm the customer with electronic hurdles. U.S. companies should consider establishing major U.S.-based call centers, particularly in areas with high customer concentrations.
Service quality also has a direct impact on the bottom line.
Happy Reps: Many call centers experience attrition rates that exceed 50 percent. Often, this is due to agents whose training didn’t adequately prepare them to deal with customers and their issues. Prior to taking their first call, representatives should be appropriately trained in a specific area of expertise. This enables companies to segment incoming calls based on the customer’s need, product and level of expertise—giving the customer the personalized and expert service they deserve. Additionally, it is crucial to remind employees that you both appreciate
and value their hard work and dedication to success. Creating a pleasant work environment and establishing employee recognition programs such as “Winner Circle” or “Representative of the Year” can help you retain the happy and loyal employees who represent the best of your company.
Data Deep Dive: Customer feedback across different channels should be methodically tracked, analyzed and used to benchmark your company’s market position and to implement change. Most companies take the step of soliciting responses through FAQs and satisfaction surveys, but woefully underutilize the results. Analysis of all customer feedback, including detailed reports outlining strengths and weaknesses, is essential in understanding customer needs, developing better products and creating deeper customer relationships.
The customer support industry is fiercely competitive and the stakes are great for companies who understand that success or failure in this critical area impacts both customer loyalty and future sales. By creating a customer service organization that balances effectiveness and efficiency and tailoring the customer experience to each user and understanding customer sentiment, any company can foster a sense of loyalty that carries its brand through good times and bad.