Engaging Customers – Seek First to Understand, then to be Understood

In a recent posting I looked at how Life Cycle Customer Support evolved through a partnership approach across all the stakeholders from the looming disaster at the outset of digital broadcasting here in the UK. Nowadays the tools of Life Cycle Customer Support include Call Centres, Customer Relations Management (CRM) software and Customer Engagement Strategies. How effective are these in your business? Would you consider they are adding value and delivering positive impact to the bottom line? Do you have a mechanism for using customer comments and feedback to improve your processes? Does your CRM system use constantly refined and updated information about current and potential customers to anticipate and respond to their needs? Are you managing your customers to both their and your advantage?

We will have some very public, large scale attempts to engage with Customers as the coalition Government has to determine the best way forward to make savings anticipated to be in the region of £60billion. Looking at other examples on the international stage, the 1993-1996 then prime minister Jean Chretien’s Canadian administration turned a 9.1% deficit to a small budget surplus. Canadian economists say the first success of Mr Chretien’s government was to secure widespread public support for the necessary draconian spending cuts. In contrast, the strikes this week by civil servants in Spain show that they are not on board with wage cuts aimed at reducing the Spanish deficit.

What signs are there that Public Sector customers – the patients, the adults receiving social care, the school age children, the elderly, the tax payers – are going to be engaged with the tough process of cuts and efficiency savings that the Public Sector bodies will be compelled to make. Many councils’ websites, including Manchester, Gateshead, Surrey, Exeter and Oxford Councils point to their adherence with policy and guidance documents such as Customer Service Excellence – The Government Standard and Duty to Involve. They have their own Community or Customer Engagement Strategies and Service User Involvement Strategies. The methods that the councils are using to reach out to their customers include the internet, and specifically social media sites such as Facebook. Seeing this as a two way street though, what is local government doing to listen to their citizens through such user generated content websites? The opinion on, and importance of, issues has already been created and it makes sense for the Public Sector to tap in to this source of knowledge and information.

There have already been severe cuts in the Private Sector, with job losses above the half a million mark. If you work in this sector, you’ll be no doubt looking at more cuts and efficiency savings. Life Cycle Customer Support includes mechanisms for capturing and incorporating customer feedback to make processes more efficient. However, in my recent experience I have observed that this part of the process has been lacking and I have few examples of customers being contacted to find ways of improving efficiency.

MA Consulting International has a wealth of experience in using traditional as well as social media tools to link to customers. These methods apply to both Public and Private sectors; to small and large organisations, and have been used with significant success on an international basis. Please contact us for further information.

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