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5 Tips to Create Customer Value

Customer Value Foundation

By Gautam Mahajan, President Customer Value Foundation and Founder-Editor of the Journal of Creating Value
When Don Hale of World of Customer Service, asked me to state 5 tips for creating Customer Value, my first reaction was that everyone wants to focus on the things one should do. Working on Customer delight is easier than to focusing on Customer disgust.

Much of the work that is done in Customer service is to give the Customer a good experience. Avoiding bad experiences are not given that much of a priority. There are processes and systems put into place to give a good experience, and to make the Customer journey more comfortable.
Despite this effort, all of us who are Customers (and that means every single one of us), still have persistent problems and heartaches in dealing with companies and service providers. Why is this the case?
Rather than answer the question, I suggest we look at typical problems and why they happen, and what might have prevented them from happening. We can then end this article with suggestions on the 5 tips.
Have you ever gone onto a website and found you cannot get adequate or updated information?  Take me, I have often found that the addresses/phone numbers for offices are wrong and have landed up at a wrong office. Or there is no way to get updated information. Let’s say, I deal with Joe Blow and I have his email, and Joe Blow leaves the company. I get an undelivered mail, and have no way of knowing who his replacement is.

Try finding this information from the website (or at least to find the right person to get the information from). Often you are asked to fill in a form and submit it with your query but you get no response. Or you call the switch board (if any an d provided you are not as ked to punch an extension number or provided you don’t have to wait an eternity), the person will ask who you are, why do you want to know etc. etc.  As if you are trying to steal the company’s family jewels.
Or try using an internet site for making a booking. Try making a hotel booking for two different type of rooms, an ordinary and a deluxe. You are not allowed to do so, and have to run the transaction twice. In India, the airlines offer you a minor discount (let’s say Rs 200 off on a Rs 10000 round trip ticket) when you are booking on line. Often the fine print does not show up. If it did show up, and you could read it you would find that if you had clicked this option you would lose cancellation rights. Or try filling out forms for overseas travel insurance where their form does not allow you to punch in your entire passport number (and the fine print there says wrong information will make the policy void).
I have told several senior executives of the insurance company about this and they all understand the problem but no one will react ….It ain’t my job syndrome at work. The problems related above have to do with lack of teamwork and poor communications. They also have to do with departmental silos.
Have you ever tried to make a change in an insurance policy on line after you have paid for it? Let’s say you want to extend the number of days on an overseas insurance policy, before the policy has come into effect. All the insurance company has to do is to collect the excess amount. For the company I deal with, this is not allowed. So I have to cancel the policy I had just bought and buy a new policy. No, I have paid twice, but my refund will come in 30 days. (We want your money right away. Your money or refund will take a lot longer). The rules of the company look at the convenience of the company and not the convenience of the Customer.
Another example of the ‘not my job syndrome’, or the ‘I do not care syndrome’ happened to me close to midnight at Marseilles airport. My flight was 3 hours late, and I went to pick up a Hertz car. Amex refused my payment. The Hertz lady was most helpful. She called Amex in Paris and asked for the card to be validated. The Paris lady could not, as this was a US card and could only be validated in the US. Could she connect me? No, she could not. Could she give me the US number? Don’t have it, she says. So I call Amex in India, get the US number and call the US and my card is Okayed.
Here is an example of an unnecessary Customer journey. Amex France could have seamlessly patched me to the US instead of extending my Customer journey unnecessarily. This is also an example of un-helpfulness. Or of poor design of processes and systems.
I recently tried to book a hotel with a large group. They make you ‘chat’ online with a rep. He then takes your information and sends it to sales, who come back to you at a snail’s pace, causing you to become anxious, or wondering; Worse still, the payment I made through their gateway was for Rs  20,999 but it showed on the Welcome Hotel site as Rs 2,099,900! When I finally got through to them they said, oh that is a decimal point error. Do not worry (poor sap, me worrying about going broke, and it was only a decimal point error!) Who is going to ensure future Customers do not have this problem? Heaven knows!
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So what do we do? Here are my tips:
Tip 1. Form Customer Circles of cross functional front line people, along with staff people who can make things happen. These people will tell you about the problems that I have related above. This will also improve teamwork and help break silos. It will make front line people more aware and proactive.
Tip 2. Have a communication system that allows you to update changes right away, and ensure the Customer has to make no unnecessary journey to get a new contact name or number or information.

Tip 3. Build in a Customers DNA (Do Not Annoy) in the minds of your executives, not just the front line people. Enable them (not empower them…empowerment without enabling information and tools is worthless) to put in processes and systems to prevent Customers from getting annoyed.
Tip 4. Give the convenience of the Customer the same if not higher priority than the convenience of the company, whether it is in refunds, cancellations, time and energy. Reduce the Customer journey and avoid policies and actions (or inactions) that increase the Customer’s journey
Tip 5. Do not make the Customer anxious or keep him waiting, as I was made to do in Marseilles or on the on line chat to make a reservation or when I made my hotel payment.
These tips will help you change mind-sets and improve Customer service and create more value for your Customer, which will improve your market share and profitability.

Your comments are welcome!

Gautam Mahajan, President - Customer Value Foundation
M: +91 9810060368

Tel: 11-26831226, Fax: 11-26929055

Customer Value Foundation (CVF) helps companies to Create Value and profit by Creating Value for the Customers, employee and for each person working with the companies.

Total Customer Value Management (Total CVM) transform the entire company to focus on Creating Value for the Customer by aligning each person's role in Creating Customer Value and getting shareholder wealth and Value.

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