It can take years to build your firm’s reputation and one bad review to destroy it. Oliver King, co-founder and director of Engine Service Design, explains how to tailor your customer service to cut out negative feedback
Last year, a poll of 1,000 British firms revealed that one in five spent up to £30,000 per annum dealing with online comments and that arch enemy of business – the bad review of a product or service. This ranged from negative and, in some cases, unsubstantiated reviews on sites such as Google, Yelp and TripAdvisor, to malicious and personal attacks on social media.
“Whether it’s buying a book on Amazon or looking for a builder to work on your house, we increasingly make choices based on recommendations. So it’s absolutely vital that a business provides a good customer service,” says Oliver King, co-founder and director of Engine Service Design.
Engine has worked with organisations ranging from multinationals such as Virgin and Mercedes-Benz to local councils. “Customer service nowadays is something that is live and happening in real time,” says King. “You can’t fob off a difficult customer.” Here, he outlines four key areas any business should consider when trying to design a good customer experience that will elicit positive feedback and help avoid a bad review
1 Think holistically
“Service design helps organisations figure out where, when and how they can improve their customers’ experience. To deliver a great service you have to think about your people, your product, your culture, the way you do things, and your business model. It’s about weaving together all these elements across all the different channels you provide your service through, and figuring out how you can consistently choreograph something that is complicated. We’re currently working with Dubai Airport to deliver a great experience across every aspect as they strive to build the world’s biggest airport. Delivering a great experience is as much about real interactions with people as it is about the things you do online.”
2 Don’t assume you know your customer
“Two obvious mistakes a business makes is assuming that everybody is the same, and that they know what their customers want. Take these three sectors, for example – air travel, automotive and hospitality. The executives travel first class, drive a top-of-the-range vehicle or stay in a five-star hotel. And if they work in tech or mobile communications, they don’t pay for their phone bill. So the executives are removed from the day-to-day reality of what it’s like to use those services. That puts them at a distance from their customer. They don’t fly in economy, or worry about travel insurance or need to find a mechanic for their car so they don’t know what it’s like and struggle to understand why customers are dissatisfied with their service.”
3 Ask the right questions
“A service does not exist until a customer has interacted with it – you have to involve the customers in the design. What is interesting is that customers often say what they think they should tell you. And what you have to work out is either what they’re not telling you or observe their behaviour. Kent County Council wanted to get more dads involved in a children and family centre. So we got a group of dads together to talk about their lives, how they interact with their children, where they went and why they went there. You couldn’t have designed a questionnaire to elicit that sort of information.”
4 Provide a personalised service, avoid a bad review
“People want more control over their user experience. One size no longer fits all. What customers want is to speak to one person who can deal with all of their issues there and then. The seams are created when you are passed on from one team to another. How often do you hear friends talking about how difficult it was to get something done and the hoops they had to jump through? Small businesses are much better at this. If you go into your favourite local restaurant they know you and they know what you like. The challenge is to retain as much information about a customer based on the last conversation and build on the previous experience rather than start from scratch.”