Service Speaks: Service Can Take Success to the Next Level
Written By Andrew Carlton, Vice President, World Service, American Express Canada
If there was a silver bullet for success, the world would be a much wealthier place.
But the truth is that the Canadian business landscape is now more competitive than ever, and while standing out in the crowd is tough, it’s crucial to your success. Building your brand – and the customer base that comes with it – is very different today than it was even 10 years ago.
“Choose me” is the goal of any marketing message in practically any medium. But as companies go to greater lengths than ever before to capture customers’ attention, they may be missing one simple reality. One of the most powerful opportunities businesses have to engage is also the most overlooked: customer service.
Think about it. When else do you have a customer’s complete, undivided attention? When else do you have a chance to make an impression and deepen engagement that can win you brand loyalty for life? Service matters, especially when you consider our current consumer landscape.
First, the habits of the average Canadian customer have changed after years of economic uncertainty. We’re now also more aware of the value of every dollar we spend – and few of us would say we’d settle for a second-rate product or service if there was a reasonable alternative.
Then there’s the emergence of the “social revolution” online. As technology brings us all closer together, it creates a great space for companies to reach customers that might otherwise pass them by, whether via email, the internet or through social media channels.
But customers today also have unprecedented power to broadcast their experiences – good or bad – to a virtually unlimited audience. This raises the stakes for the reputation of your brand, elevating the importance of every single service interaction a company has with its customers. If a customer has a bad experience, that story can spread like wildfire. But on the other hand, a great experience can deepen customer engagement and lead to repeat business.
Consider this: When American Express commissioned its annual Global Service Barometer, we found that 89 per cent of Canadians say that a customer service experience has an impact on their impression of a company or its brand. But more telling, perhaps, is that almost seven in 10 are willing to spend more with a company – up to 12 per cent on average – they believe provides excellent service. Canadians are also willing to go out of their way to get better customer service, such as by driving a longer distance (25%) or sacrificing convenience (20%).
This means we, as companies, have a major challenge – and a massive opportunity – to transform service into a real game-changer. And it starts by looking at service not as a cost, but as a long-term investment in customer relationships.
But how do you achieve that? For American Express Canada, it comes down to commitment and our very mindset. We don’t consider ourselves a credit-card company; we’re a service company. And after 158 years in the industry, we’ve learned some lessons that can be applied to nearly any business, no matter the size.
Based on this experience, we can offer three basic principles on how companies can capitalize on the overlooked customer engagement opportunity:
- Put the customer first: Service success begins by focusing on what the customer thinks. It’s a tried-and-true lesson that sounds like a no-brainer, but can actually be quite difficult to pull off. It starts with consistently sending a message to the entire team: we need to see and understand our business through the eyes of our customers. At Amex, we empower front-line professionals to look at each customer, not as a transaction, but as a way to deepen the customer relationship with each interaction. That has meant allowing our customer care professionals to interact naturally with customers; they can be themselves and have ditched the robotic scripts. In short, even though we’re investing more time and money in service, we’ve also become more efficient since we’re now better at listening and are more in tune to our customers’ needs.
- Aim to engage: Amex has changed the way we define and measure success. The traditional measure is often customer satisfaction, which is certainly important. But it’s not our ultimate goal. Instead, we seek greater customer engagement. For instance, one of our most important service measurements is “Recommend a Friend,” which outlines how willing a customer would be to recommend our products and services to a friend. We look at this measure to understand how we stack up in delivering an experience that our customers are not only generally satisfied with, but would be willing to positively endorse to the people who matter most to them.
- Cultivate service as company culture: Even by focusing on the customer and allowing your team to engage on a deeper level, customer experience can still be impacted if it’s not embraced across the organization and particularly by your frontline professionals. A few years ago, we changed our approach at Amex; we now like to say we “hire the will and teach the skill.” In other words, we focus on selecting people who fundamentally “get” service and have experience building strong, lasting relationships and with a background in hospitality, not just call centre experience. Before our transformation, our training was split 70% technical and 30% on personal skill. We’ve since reversed those numbers, and every call that comes into our call centres is viewed as a way to deepen our relationships with our customers.
- Capitalizing oncustomer service isn’t an easy path and it isn’t something that happens over night, - it may not be as chic as the latest marketing trend – online or off. But our experience shows that customers do respond when companies invest in their people and focus on the voice of their customers.
After all, great service shows your customer why they should choose you – and that’s the best strategy of all.
Giving efficiency the full throttle at NASCAR
The NASCAR organization has long been synonymous with speed, agility and innovation. And so by extension, partnerships at NASCAR hold a similar reputation. One such partner for the organization has been CDW – a leading multi-brand provider of information technology solutions to businesses, government, education and healthcare customers in the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada. CDW provides a broad array of products and services ranging from hardware and software to integrated IT solutions such as security cloud hybrid infrastructure and digital experience. Customer need is the driving force at CDW, and the company helps clients by delivering integrated services solutions that maximize their technology investment. So how does CDW help their customers achieve their business goals? Troy Okerberg, Field Sales Manager - North Florida at CDW adds “We strive to provide our customers with full stack expertise, helping them design, orchestrate and manage technologies that drive their business outcomes.”
NASCAR acquired International Speedway Corporation (ISC) in 2019, merging its operations into one, new company moving forward. The merger represents an important step forward for NASCAR as the sport creates a unified vision to embrace its long history of exciting, family-oriented racing experiences while developing strategic growth initiatives that will drive the passion of core fans and attract the next generation of race fans. CDW has been instrumental in bringing the two technology environments together to enable collaboration and efficiency as one organization. Starting with a comprehensive analysis of all of NASCAR’s vendors, CDW created a uniform data platform for the data center environment across the NASCAR-ISC organization. The IT partner has also successfully merged the two native infrastructure systems together, while analyzing, consulting and providing an opportunity to merge Microsoft software licenses as well.
2020 turned into a tactical year for both organizations with the onset of the pandemic and CDW has had to react quickly to the changing scenario. Most of the initial change included building efficiencies around logistics, like equipment needing to be delivered into the hands of end users who switched to a virtual working environment almost overnight. CDW’s distribution team worked tirelessly to ensure that all customers could still access the products that they were purchasing and needed for their organizations throughout the COVID timeframe. Okerberg adds that today, CDW continues to optimize their offering by hyper-localizing resources as well as providing need-based support based on the size and complexity of their accounts. Although CDW still operates remotely, the company commits to adapting to the changing needs of their clients, NASCAR in particular. Apart from the challenges that COVID-19 brought to the organization, another task that CDW had been handed was to identify gaps and duplicates in vendor agreements that the two former single-entity organizations had in place and align them based on services offered. CDW further helps identify and provide the best solution from a consolidation standpoint of both hardware and software clients so that the new merged organization is equipped with the best of what the industry has to offer.