Executive Interview : 2014 Customer Engagement Feature - Exclusive Interview With Larry Hefling From Sitel US
In your opinion, do you believe the customer service you get today from other companies is better or worse than it was say 5 years ago?
It greatly depends on the company's approach to customer experience and also the capability of the contact center, whether internal or externally outsourced, that provides the end product to the client's customer. Should a company truly embrace a customer effort/experience model where the customer experience is paramount - in essence making the decree that if we take care of their experience many of the things we want - such as lower costs, opportunities for additional revenues, customer loyalty, etc. are a natural byproduct then it's much better today than 5 years ago as technologies today allow companies to align their service to customer expectations when it comes to channel of preference and managing available information in such a way as to leave the customer feeling like they have been respected in the support processes.
Do you believe there is a correlation between the service you receive as a consumer and your loyalty to the supplier? Please explain your answer
Generally speaking yes, but it's generally not awesome service will keep me as a customer - it's great to have but must accompany a solid product. On the other hand - a solid product with poor customer service is a fast way to lose my loyalty as a customer. It only takes 1 really bad experience to wipe out a lot of good.
In your opinion, which industry sectors provide great service and which ones are poor? Please do not name individual companies just sectors.
I really don't think it's as much an industry thing as it used to be. I truly believe it's about a company's ability to truly understand their customer and find creative ways to optimize their enterprise, spend in such a way that they can invest in simple, knowledgeable, and efficient solutions that respect the end consumer. I've seen great and terrible examples of each in all industries.
Can you recall a really good experience recently - where you were WOW'd by the service you received? Please explain in as much details as you would like.
I recently ordered a product through an online retailer - not one of the large global players. Before the product arrived at my home I received an email stating that they had determined a problem with the way the products had been packed that could result in damage. Ahead of determining if the product was damaged the company took the proactive measure to notify me. My product was not damaged but had it been I was prepared to call a special number to receive an overnighted replacement at their cost. I will now focus more attention on this company when purchasing like products in the future.
Talking about bad experiences, where do companies go wrong with the service they provide? Give examples to illustrate your response
Companies who assume the customer is wrong and force them to prove their issue rather than assuming responsibility for their product/service first make fatal errors. In today's world where people rely on customer reviews and bad news travels at the speed of light (literally), companies really need to look at themselves through the eyes of their customers and think about what a happy customer willing to promote their company looks like versus one who is not only upset but has access to millions of opinions via social channels.
Have you noticed any differences in service from people from different cultures? Please explain.
This all depends on whether the service fits the environment in which it's being provided. Not all service types fit into all cultures. It is hard as an example for people in many offshore markets to understand and appreciate luxury products such as health club memberships and high end purchases. Sometime it's just not a fit. Also there are markets better suited to complex technical support versus empathetic customer care. At the end of the day though most of these elements can be overcome through cultural alignment, communications training, and friendships/human networks.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding the use of technology in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
There is an entire generation of people out there who do not want to talk on the phone - they want interactive/mobile applications, 2-Way SMS, etc. Don't try to solve all their service needs without knowing 'them'.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding staff in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
Retain them - it costs a lot of time and money on everyone's part to get staff properly trained and confident in responding to customer queries. To lose them due to mismanagement is truly a crime.
If you had to give just 1 tip regarding business processes in relation to improving customer service, what would your tip be?
Don't assume you are right - constantly challenge the status quo - also look at other industries and companies to see if you can learn. When you stop learning you're toast.
In your opinion, how should contact centers measure the level of service they give? Please explain in detail.
Measure the percentage of dissatisfied customers - it's a much more clean measure of their experience. You can measure many other elements and you should but this one will drive most of the value for actionable change.
Lastly, can you share with us one of the worst customer service experiences you have experienced recently (do not mention company names just industry type).
I was hung up on 3 different times and transferred 5 times by a travel company - it was extremely frustrating - I will NEVER use them again.
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About Sitel US:
As caring for customers becomes the differentiator that drives consumer spend, Sitel is advancing its position as a world wide provider of outsourced customer care innovation. With 30 years of industry experience, Sitel’s 61,000 employees support clients with CRM contact center services that provide predictable and measurable Return on their Customer Investment by building customer loyalty, increasing sales and improving efficiency. Sitel’s global solutions include customer acquisition, customer care, technical support and social media programs. Support operations span from home based agents to 110+ domestic, near shore and offshore centers in 23 countries across North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Asia Pacific. Sitel manages client programs on behalf of some of the best known brands in the world in 40 languages.
Published: Wednesday, September 24, 2014