Five things the public sector can learn from the retail industry about service
31 August 2012
Sue Hedaux of Empathica, sponsor of Public Service Events' forthcoming 'Excellence in Customer Service' event, shares her top five tips for the public sector to help exceed service users' growing expectations
The economic downturn has created fresh challenges for public sector organisations looking to deliver superior customer service on limited budgets. Today's savvy consumers are familiar with a wide variety of experiences from a variety of sources and their expectations are high – a challenge for many organisations as they struggle to maintain service levels with shrinking budgets and smaller workforces.
Doing more with less is the new mantra in the current economic environment. First impressions count, and staff have only a 30 to 60 second window to make a positive impact, requiring them to serve smarter and build a memorable, positive experience. Public sector organisations can learn a lot from savvy retailers who are using technology to exploit further the talents of their workforce and build an emotional connection to customers.
Here are my top five tips that can be leveraged by the public sector to help exceed consumers' growing expectations for what the ideal experience looks and feels like.Using social media to drive advocacy
The old adage is "Do a good job, and a consumer tells three friends. Do something wrong and they tell 10." Word-of-mouth is now even more important thanks to social media. People now have the means to tell everyone in their social circle about their experience in one communication at a moment's notice. Savvy retailers are capitalising on the technology to build emotional connections with shoppers. Social media is no longer a separate function from the bricks-and-mortar customer experience. Retailers are connecting with shoppers on a more personal level, encouraging them to interact and give feedback which can be used to guide future activities. Delivering better customer services with mobile tools
There is no denying that "mobile" is the latest buzzword. Retailers are experimenting with how to engage shoppers through self-service solutions that support in-store operations. These include product searches, self-initiated checkout and post-experience communications. Mobile technology can also be used to keep employees better informed and is particularly effective for field-based workers.Collecting customer feedback and data
More and more retailers are coming to realise that customer experience has become the battlefield in the industry. Capturing honest feedback that represents a broad spectrum of customers is essential to an effective customer experience management programme - but challenges abound. When not equipped with the right tools, some retailers may struggle to get the perfect sample, while customers complain they don't have enough choices or flexibility to share their opinions.
Retailers provide a variety of flexible survey methods, from traditional point-of-sale invitations to SMS and interactive voice recognition options, all of which integrate seamlessly within their brand experiences. New technologies, including the use of QR codes and SMS messaging, can facilitate improved two-way communication between an organisation and its full customer base. As costs drop and interfaces become more user-friendly and accessible, technology can be used effectively to help improve the consumer experience.Employee engagement
Everyone knows that engaged employees deliver exceptional customer experiences. But reduced workforces and staff members taking on additional responsibilities mean it is becoming more difficult for managers to motivate employees to deliver a quality customer experience.
Executives need insight into the 'pulse' of employees in order to assess their level of engagement and motivation. Technology can be used to gather employee feedback, enabling managers to measure employee engagement and loyalty and act on those findings. This includes collecting feedback from staff about not just their goals and successes, but their concerns as well.
Mobile reporting services provide a vehicle for employees to respond to mobile surveys, which can then be sent to managers through a smartphone or tablet. With access to customer comments as well, managers have a complete view of employee performance. By emailing or texting positive comments to a team member, managers can reinforce their company values and motivate them to be brand advocates.Cross-channel opportunities
Shoppers are increasingly researching online and then walking into stores ready to buy, making it vital for organisations to promote synergies between the online and offline customer experiences. Now is the time to ensure that all channels and customer touch points are connected in order to maintain top-notch customer service.
Savvy retailers are adding all-encompassing key performance indicators (KPIs) or goals that measure the entire shopping experience from a customer's multi-channel perspective. By developing an all encompassing picture, organisations are in a better position to uncover their weak links and make improvements.Sue Hedaux will be running a masterclass session at the 'Excellence in Customer Service' event at 12.30 on 26 September where she will be sharing best practices learned from the 10 years of Empathica's work with such organisations as Waitrose, Boots and Halfords on developing, executing and honing their customer experience strategiesExcellence in Customer Service: Supporting Quality Public Services