Posted on 12 Jan 2016 by Carl Lyon
Should we be educating our customers?
To what extent should a business attempt to educate its customers?
Historically, many businesses have taken it upon themselves to try and educate their customers about their products and services. From pensions to paracetamol, most products come with some form of impenetrable instruction manual that customers are expected to read in order to understand what they have purchased.
Attempts to educate customers often stem from a desire to minimise complaints and bad press by managing their expectations. Sometimes a business needs to educate customers about why their request might not be in their best interest – particularly in an increasingly high tech environment. Those 100-page policy documents might make sense to the underwriters, but they will mean very little to the customer who needs a 1-page summary in jargon-free language.
But do these attempts to educate customers work in an era where the customer resorts to an internet search as soon as they have a problem or query? Prior to the Internet (remember that?), the business was the trusted source of knowledge. But the speed at which knowledge is now created and shared makes it increasingly difficult for a business to manage its knowledge effectively.
The employee responsible for doing the educating may themselves never have experienced the problem that a customer is facing, leading to a perceived lack of authenticity. And, rightly or wrongly, the customer often believes that the best person to ask for advice is another customer rather than a representative of the company.
The problem of educating customers is just as difficult for B-2-B as for B-2-C. For example, business A may procure a new product from business B, but there is a significant danger that the former can overload the latter with too much training and documentation. However, if business A holds back on educating business B about the full range of options afforded by its new purchase, it may be accused of not delivering value for money.
Changes made by third-parties also cause a headache, as Facebook’s decision to start auto-playing videos demonstrated. When a large number of mobile customers found they were suddenly consuming more of their data allowance, they accused their mobile providers of over-charging them. And in some cases, it was the customers who first informed the mobile operators of the problem – the customers were ‘educating’ the business.
So do businesses have a responsibility to push information to customers to inform them of such changes? Should customers have to opt in to or opt out of these ‘helpful’, paternalistic communications?
Who should be educating whom? How? And for what purpose?
In a hyperconnected era, the flow of information between company and customer is dynamic. Knowledge is no longer the exclusive possession of the company: the customer can – and should - educate the company just as much as the company educates the customer.
How? This mutually beneficial relationship can be developed by making customer communities as integral to a business as the board, the finance department, and the sales team. Customer communities and forums are a largely untapped resource, and businesses should be employing more open business models to co-evolve with their customer communities - incorporating their feedback and insights into both problem-solving and product development.
For what purpose? The answer is: to build confidence. We attempt to educate customers to give them the confidence to make better decisions about our products and services. Our customers can do the same for us - their feedback gives the company the confidence that everything is aligned and working as it should be.
The networked era is changing the role of the organisation from an ‘all-knowing parent’ to a ‘trusted advisor’. Trust and confidence are increasingly integral to brand value, and there is great value for organisations in making this transition. But navigating this change requires businesses to treat customers as adults, and be prepared to demonstrate greater trust, openness and authenticity.
Our customers can help to educate us and are prepared to do so, but only if we are prepared to listen and respond with the same objective: to increase understanding and build confidence.
Source : The QoE discussions November 2016 Written by Tony Reeves UCA
Posted on 6 Jan 2016 by Carl Lyon
Wednesday 20th January Full day CX group Farnborough
Thursday 4th February Half day CX group London
Wednesday 10th February Full day Digital group Farnborough
Knowledge, Power and Influence
Our last discussions on educating customers highlighted the importance of providing service environments with accurate, timely and relevant information. This cannot be underestimated when delivering effective customer service and experiences. There are many cases where deficiencies in this area have been shown to be one of the biggest contributors to poor service and spiralling costs.
The background to this debate is dominated by the fact that technology has permanently changed the way people, customers and companies generate and share information, knowledge and opinion.
Related questions from previous sessions
• Should companies try to regain ownership of information and knowledge and, if so, how?
• Can we identify expected outcomes for companies, employees and customers?
• How does knowledge effect cost to serve, growth and profitability?
Posted on 2 Dec 2015 by Carl Lyon
Here's an interesting question for you: what does Customer Experience bring to a business if you remove the customer?
Tricky, isn't it?
When asked this question at recent meetings of the QoE, customer experience professionals generated a list of nouns that was overwhelmingly positive
- A focus on 'people', not 'customers'
- 'Us' not 'them'
- Improving processes and systems
- Clarifying core purpose
- Reducing wasted effort
But if Customer Experience activity brings such benefits, why is it that CX teams often struggle to justify their argument for budgets and resources?
Part of the problem is that it is often difficult to identify who 'owns' CX in an organisation. The work of CX teams is often funded from the budgets of other departments, and is therefore perceived as a cost to the business that needs to be minimised. But if CX work brings such benefits to an organisation, it should be possible to argue that CX teams are an asset and therefore worthy of investment.
Language and terminology often present a barrier to securing budgets. Asking a board to invest in 'improving the company culture' is unlikely to lead to an allocation of resources, but ask them to invest in 'improving today's sales' and 'tracking customer churn' will often cause them to loosen the purse strings.
For example, many businesses perceive their call centres to be a cost. The cost of setting up and running a call centre appears on a balance sheet as a drain on company resources. But if a call centre and the people who work in it are viewed as an asset, capable of driving sales and revenue growth through increased customer loyalty, the board are more likely to allocate budgets and resources to maintaining and improving it. Use a control group to demonstrate that the customer-focused activity of the call centre has reduced churn by 25% and increased revenue by £10 million, and suddenly the benefits of investing in CX are evident.
It doesn't help that CX teams are often seen as occupying a 'recovery' position, whose job it is to recover customers who have had a poor experience. But aligning CX more clearly with today's sales changes how it is perceived by the organisation. Using a CX perspective to make a business more customer-centric will drive new sales, increase recommendations, and improve efficiencies. And you're likely to get a more engaged and motivated workforce to boot.
Removing the focus on the customer makes it easier to identify the benefits that CX brings to an organisation. But changing the perception of CX activity from being a 'cost' to an 'asset' and aligning it more closely with today's sales and loyalty can make it easier for CX teams to argue for budgets and resources.
Posted on 16 Nov 2015 by Carl Lyon
The QoE Discussion Topic November 2015
Why, when information, advice and opinion is so readily available, should educating customers have become such an important issue.
Perhaps changes in the way people find, collect and retain information gives us a false impression of customers’ understanding of complex issues. It is also difficult, even impossible, for companies to understand the context or environment in which a product or service is being used. What we are seeing is a rise in, at best, customer queries and, at worst, customer frustration. In some cases complex technology is the root cause, in other circumstances it provides the answers.
Regulation, or indeed de-regulation, can also be a burden on companies providing the service/product when educating the customer.
As always how companies respond to the problem has a fundamental effect on customer relationships. Some choose to pass the problem on to other companies in the delivery chain, as is happening with telco and customer data use.
Others are tackling education through industry bodies or forums, or their own marketing functions, with an increasing use of digital and multimedia channels. What many are failing to see is the importance of aligning these efforts to customer service delivery. Self-service and assisted service are often seen as the natural starting point but can this really drive a full and contextualised - understanding?
Customer experience is uniquely placed to bring these elements together, especially when combined with employee experience. Understanding can, and will, win companies new and loyal customers. Cost to service will be reduced and employee engagement and advocacy will bring sustainability and consistency.
Key issues in educating customers
- What information do we provide to whom, and how?
- Understanding customer context and environment
- Combining fact and opinion to produce knowledge
- Working with regulators, partners, competitors and educators
- Turning knowledge into understanding