Why is a systems approach so important to improving customer service?

Any break in the chain that creates customer experience can destroy customer satisfaction, so you have to look at the entire customer chain

Why is a systems approach so important to improving customer service?

The first thing to understand is that the perceptions of excellent customer service on the part of your customers is determined by many many variables operating together. In other words whether you retain or lose a customer doesn’t just depend on what happens at the point of contact with a customer, but depends also on your overall system.

If you want to improve customer service, and increase customer retention, if you don’t lose a broad systems approach, you are almost certain to miss the true causes of customer loss, since they are buried within the entire system. The best way to explain this is to use an example.

A customer comes into your store looking for a product (let’s call it a widget). After looking all through the store, unable to find the widget, he asks one of the floor staff for help. The employee isn’t sure, and goes off to find the “right person” who can direct the customer. After circling the store a few more times, the employee and the customer realize that the widget is out of stock, and nobody knows when it will arrive. The customer becomes understandably angry, and starts directing his frustration at the employee, who becomes upset himself, and shouts back. The upshot is that the customer goes to a competitor, finds his widget, and vows never to return to the offending store.

If you look at the point of contact with the customer you might determine that the problem lies with the employee, who clearly didn’t handle the angry customer very well. It would be true that the employee messed up, but was that the real cause of the problem? Would firing that employee, or sending him to training help?

No. Not likely, because the real problem(s) — there are multiple problems in this example — have to do with other things in the system. For example, the product is out of stock indicating a problem with inventory control. Nobody knows when the widgets will arrive, and that’s a system problem. There could be numerous other causes of the loss of the customer and if you only looked at the point of contact (interactions between customer and employee) you’d never be able to improve service, and improve customer retention.

A systems approach involves tracking back to identify all possible contributors to the loss of the customer.

Author: Robert Bacal

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