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Solving the Customer Puzzle

Posted on  24 June 10  by 

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There is a simple governing fact that occurs during all service interactions: our companies are merely a means to an end for the customer. Customers don’t contact us to troubleshoot a television set – they call us so they can enjoy the latest sports event from home. They don’t log on to transfer funds, they log on to consolidate their down payment for their first home.

While this simple fact is often taken for granted during service interactions, acknowledging and understanding the customer’s situation and their end-goal presents a tremendous opportunity to improve the service experience.

For the past week, I’ve been working from our London office, and this morning I briefly visited with one of our European members. During that time, we discussed creative methods to make frontline reps’ jobs more fulfilling, engaging, and far less transactional. The conversation evolved into a discussion of the “customer puzzle” – the idea of determining the context, the situation, and the end-goal of the customer and tailoring the experience accordingly.

The end-goal of the customer lies at the heart of the customer puzzle. Understanding that outcome the customer is seeking allows alternatives to be better positioned, value-added cross-selling, and a truly appropriate service experience. Not to mention, it makes the CSR role far more engaging and far less transactional.

Positioning Alternatives with Benefits | Click Image to Enlarge

Some of the CCC’s latest work profiles a Canadian marketing and rewards redemption company named Loyalty One. Their business model is predicated on helping clients’ (i.e., credit card companies’) end-consumers use reward points for travel and leisure. As you can imagine, given blackout periods and limited seats reserved for reward travel, they often have to offer customers an alternative. (CCC members: register here for our upcoming webinar on this work).

 Given this position, they’ve taken the idea of solving the “customer puzzle” to the extreme. Instead of placing customers on hold while referencing systems, they ask a series of seemingly pointless small talk questions such as “have you ever been to Vancouver before? I’ve heard its really beautiful there…”

 As customers answer such questions, the rep gains valuable context that allows them to offer alternative travel arrangements or dates when the customer’s original request can’t be precisely fulfilled.

Perhaps the customer would like to explore Vancouver, but hadn’t considered it given a business meeting. This could result in a Sunday flight being positioned as a viable alternative to a Monday morning request.

 It’s a terrifically smart approach predicated on two ideas:

  1. Use typical on-hold time to learn more about the customer and their situation.
  2. Don’t immediately respond with “no” until you’ve attempted to gain greater context. This can help position an alternative with some benefit to the customer.

Naturally, Loyalty One also teaches reps when to avoid this small talk with customers, but in nearly 45% of their phone conversations, they find reps use this approach to solve the customer puzzle. The result has been a 7% reduction in repeat calls and a 7-11% lift in their various satisfaction metrics.

How would your reps respond to service approaches such as this? Do you think it would result in greater engagement or lead to confusion?

CCC members, many of you will remember the personality-based service approach, which is also a fantastic method for better understanding customers and tailoring the service experience closely. This method can be combined with an approach similar to Loyalty One, which treats the customer’s unique personality, as well as the outcome they’re attempting to achieve.

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