Transition to Social Media Customer Service

I have been receiving many queries on my blog about WHAT NEXT for CUSTOMER SERVICE? My answer is simple SOCIAL LISTENING or SOCIAL CRM


Social media is rapidly maturing and has emerged as a major new customer care channel — one controlled by the customer, not your company. For some major brands, social
media now makes up 10% of all inbound volume, and its growing as most customers are moving to ‘social first’. The spontaneity of social media has many customers asking
themselves, why would I sit on hold, or email and risk waiting days for a response, when I can just Tweet from my mobile and get a fast response, sometimes within
Social media is not like email or chat; its public nature means that a mistake can have huge ramifications for your company. At the same time, its rules and
constraints can make mistakes very easy. If an agent is switching between traditional channels and social channels, they will slow down as they have to constantly re-
think workflows and processes.
Social media also has different consumer expectations from other channels. It combines real-time expectations with discoordinated workflow. Responding with the same
SLAs as email (often measured in days) would be disastrous — consumers expect a social media response in well under an hour. At the same time,assuming a social media
conversation to be like a chat session would be extremely inefficient; the customer may not respond for 30 minutes.

Staffing the social contact centre

All of these factors are driving fundamental changes in the operations of the contact centre. While some companies may attempt to have ‘blended agents’ who handle a

mix of traditional channels and social channels in the same shift or with the same tools, this will significantly worsen customer experience and agent efficiency.

That’s why social customer service requires a totally different approach, with new teams, training and new processes. As a result, we’ve seen the rise of completely
dedicated social customer support teams. Having a separate team is the best way to get started with social customer service. Training a small number of agents is
simpler; and it’s easier to reinforce the right behavior, with constant attention. New processes and response norms need to be created, often on the fly.

Social media managers must keep two main focus areas, when building a social contact team: sourcing and agent satisfaction. Sourcing for social customer service
requires different forecasting methods. If inbound volume in social media spikes and you have stable volume on other channels, you cannot move your other agents onto
social media. The risks are too high when any tweet or comment they send could be seen by millions. Unless you have a dedicated team, it can even be hard to match
normal shift patterns to varying volume needs; and offering 24 hour service can be a nightmare to implement. All in all, this can mean huge backlogs and wildly varying
SLA performance.

Agent satisfaction can be higher owing to social media customer service in general as it is more informal and more human than traditional channels. Social agents often
have more freedom, and enjoy their work far more than over traditional channels. The social media team is a highly coveted role for most agents. Widening the pool
increases agent satisfaction more widely — reducing staff attrition, which can have a huge impact on the bottom line.
Cohesive Unit

Blending sourcing and agent satisfaction can lead to a more structured customer data and reports. With training, processes and management clearly established in many
companies, it’s now time to help spread the workload and bring more social media savvy agents into the fold. Instead of a team of 10 dedicated social agents, you
should be looking to train a much wider base of your agents in social media, who can each take dedicated shifts in social media according to demand.
This approach allows you benefit from significantly more efficient staffing, the ability to hit consistently high SLA performance, and to have higher ESAT. It also
makes you much more ready to deal with sudden social media spikes or crises.

Social media has grown phenomenally over the past few years — but now it is time for us to be social media ready. The future is social media CRM deeply integrated
into the contact centre,its the best way of engaging with a mobile, social audience. It’s time to put social first, but not social alone.

This is the Age of Engagement

In today’s competitive world, where the customer has a plethora of options Customer loyalty is really difficult to sustain. Loyalty is typically gauged by estimates, such as via surveys that capture customer’s intention to recommend or to repurchase. But stated intent and actual behaviour can be very different.

Customer engagement, on the other hand, is an effective leading indicator of loyalty and profitability. Customer engagement is the extent of a customer’s willingness to invest his or her discretionary time with a company for mutual benefit. It is easier to measure, easier to influence, and more strongly correlated with revenue and profits than loyalty measures such as Net Promoter (NPS), Customer Loyalty Index (CLI).


Customer engagement is here to stay… There are two key components of customer engagement: advocacy and involvement. Engagement is measured by the sum of activities that build positive connections between a company and its customers, which result in greater involvement that positively impacts revenue.

The most successful companies with engagement strategies materially involve customers in their growth efforts, especially in marketing efforts around acquisition and retention, operations, products, innovation, and overall business strategy.

Effective engagement activities create emotional attachments that draw customers closer to protect them from competitors; encourage repurchasing while lowering price sensitivity; gather insights to refine strategy; and ultimately promote advocacy. To succeed, customer engagement efforts must have a correlation to growth metrics, especially revenue and profits.

Engagement will become a key metric of business performance in the future. Following are three characteristics of customer engagement that will be critical.

Engagement is intuitive

If customers are providing referrals, serving as references, participating in product and strategy advisory boards, speaking at conferences on behalf of the company, and advocating company products on Facebook, they are clearly more likely to repurchase and increase company share of wallet, with reduced price sensitivity

Engagement is a more accurate measure of customer perception and is a leading indicator of loyalty

Loyalty is an emotional state, whereas engagement is actual behaviour. One of the greatest challenges to loyalty is consistently accurate measurement. It is typically measured once or twice annually via survey. But surveys merely capture a snapshot of the customer’s emotional well-being at the time they’re taken, and well-being is prone to adverse effects from factors outside the company’s control. And survey granularity is typically insufficient to discover crises-in-the-making. In addition, survey fatigue and falling response rates indicate that surveys aren’t working for customers either.By contrast, engagement is based on observable behaviour. Is a customer participating in relevant activities that lead to purchase or renewal?

By structuring metrics, a company can tell how often and to what degree a customer participates across a range of platforms and activities over time. Fading participation is a leading indicator that loyalty and future revenue may be at risk.

Engagement is highly correlated with revenue and profits

Engaged customers trust your brand, advocate for you, and buy a greater breadth and depth of your products without as much price-sensitivity. They recognize that their strategies and your strategies are aligned. The engaged customers of one large technology company I talked to generated 33 percent greater revenue. And they are 4 percent more loyal and represent 12 percent greater share of wallet than transactional customers.

In a report titled ”Enhancing the Customer Experience and Engagement in Retail,” PeopleMetrics writes that companies focusing on customer engagement realize a 13% revenue reward, compared to a 36% revenue penalty for those companies obstructing customer engagement.

This is the Age of Engagement. Customers are demanding to be heard and involved. The most successful companies will grow as they engage customers in customer acquisition, retention, operations, innovation, and even strategy.

Case Study I:- Cathay Pacific’s social campaign centered around the hashtag #lifewelltravelled.

“Our strategy for the launch was to ensure the hashtag had authenticity and momentum before we started to align it with the global advertising campaign.  We see #lifewelltravelled as a state of mind that resonates with many different types of travellers, so it was important that it was co-defined by the audience, and not just OUR brand idea,” says Brandon Cheung, a managing partner at McCann Hong Kong.

In the first phase of the rollout, Cathay Pacific selected social media influencers that had already spoken positively of the brand. Fashion blogger Jessica Stein and photographer Tyson Wheatley were two of the Instagrammers involved and were told to simply share their version of what #lifewelltravelled meant to them.

At first, they shared images of a trip, which Cathay Pacific made possible, with the hashtag but no mention of the brand. They then included branded posts that included the hashtag and mention of Cathay Pacific. Stein spoke about her start as a travel blogger and Wheatley thanked his followers.

“We wanted to be at the bookends of their trips and be associated with their moments of anticipation and reflection at the airport, lounges, and in-flight,” says Cheung.

The airline finally introduced a global ad campaign that pushes its definition of a “life well traveled.” The campaign hub includes user-generated content, information on Cathay Pacific’s people, products, and videos.

The airline is gauging the results of the campaign by measuring how many Instagram users adopt the hashtag #lifewelltraveled, by tracking the growth of Cathay Pacific’s Instagram following, and whether #lifewelltraveled posts from influencers outperform their standard engagement rates. It is also looking at whether this more a more cost-effective way to reach potential visitors versus other forms of paid media and whether it would generate sustainable brand advocacy.

Cathay Pacific wasn’t able to share all results as it is in the midst of the campaign however, its Instagram following has doubled in the past month and mentions of #lifewelltraveled is going up each day.

Case Study II:- Zovi’s upcoming online fashion giant

I am a fan of ZOVI, their customer service is exceptional, delivery and reverse pickup is lightning fast and refunds are hassle free. They sent a link to all their frequent customers requesting them to select from styles ones that these customers would want to be listed on ZOVI for sale. This is an example of customer engagement, the styles that were liked already have prospective buyers and since they are liked by participants, chances are they will be liked by others as well. Also it makes sense to avoid wasting online space of listing styles that were not liked by participants so time and money is saved.

(The main article is by Executive Director Curtis Bingham (Chief Customer Officer Council… Case Study I is shared by Sahil Puthran from Cathay Pacific)


Leaders should drive Customer Delight culture

Your Culture is Your Brand”. This statement embraces what is becoming increasingly important in defining a brand’s DNA, where the leadership vision and behaviours of the organisation are dedicated to delivering customer value. This is a critical success factor to sustained growth. Customer culture is where the organisation is focused and aligned on delivering the brand promise for the customer.

Leaders need to get the whole value chain to be focused on strategic priorities that are linked to customer delight, to be motivated and agile enough to deliver great customer experiences every day.

These leaders who are accessible to their employees and articulate a compelling brand vision, create an effective platform from which to drive strategy and deliver great customer outcomes.


Organisational barriers that successful leaders must overcome

Day to day commercial reality can block what might be seen as the ‘softer side’ of doing business. Many large organisations are dealing with short term pressures; changing culture can feel too big, particularly when it needs to be effective across geographies.

At the same time, many employees feel they don’t have anything to do with the customer. The greater the distance from the customer, the bigger the challenge in getting flexible for the customer.

For CEOs, personal connection with employees and customers becomes bigger and more complex as the organization grows. Change is always constant, but many CEOs are in the position of saying give me the voice of this organization and tell me what to do.

Organisation size can hinder the achievement of the right culture. There has been a trend where great talent is actively seeking roles in to smaller organisations. There are a number of reasons; greater access to leadership and decision makers, ability to make a greater impact on the business, strategy, increased agility and flexibility to implement ideas and often a more defined company culture especially when the founder is still actively involved in the business”

How leaders can create a culture for customer


A priority is that a customer philosophy has to be owned and initiated by the leaders. Leaders as well as teams have to spend time in front of the customer. The brand promise must be demonstrated and articulated by leaders. They must deliver on the brand values through appropriate and visible behaviours.

Things like creating opportunities for staff to book time slots to communicate directly with the CEO. It’s so effective and symbolic when CEO’s make themselves available to the entire organization in a one on one setting.

Leaders can facilitate staff discussions on a range of topics – these can be set up and supported by blogs and webcasts. This creates an avenue for staff to have input on new ideas, develop existing ones, with leaders measured on the outcomes. Being part of these internal forums gives ideas internal credibility. Staff engagement happens when employees can engage each other and with their leaders.

Organisations need to be agile for customer. By being clear on the brand vision and effectively engaging all staff to be passionate customer champions, the organisation is much more likely to deliver sustained and positive customer experiences. The following model illustrates the flow of the brand and customer promise through clarity of vision, focus for customer, and engaged staff.

Six key principles for leaders:

  • Be clear on the brand vision and brand promise
  • Don’t be shy, be visible and accessible to both customer and staff
  • Empower your people to deliver the brand promise to the customer
  • Determine gaps in the customer experience delivery and improve
  • Celebrate the importance of customer and tell the stories
  • Create visible crusades for customer



Although the barriers to achieving a lasting customer culture are not easily or quickly overcome, many companies are reaping the benefit of creating the customer culture for their brand. The principles around visible leadership, staff empowerment and clarity of brand are key to delivering lasting customer focus in the organization.

Mahatma’s lessons in Customer Service

On a day when we enjoy a national holiday, not many of us actually remember the man behind this holiday. Our honourable PM Narendra Modi does make it a point to talk about the lessons learnt from The Mahatma in most of his visits aboard however not many of us know that the Great Man even had something for us Customer Service Professional to learn and inculcate.


In 1890, much before Bapu himself thought of joining the Indian Freedom struggle (He returned to India in 1914 and was elected President of Indian National Congress in 1921), In a speech in South Africa, Gandhiji said, “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”

This quote is well worth absorbing and putting at the heart of all customer interactions. If we think of the idea of extending warm, welcoming hospitality to the customer with courtesy and attentiveness, rather than offering cool technical efficiency on a transactional basis, expecting the customer to be polite to us rather than the other way round, then we will get closer to the truth of what customer-satisfying service really is.

Temperamental customer behaviour is is not to be seen as the fault in the customer, it should be viewed as a sign that something is wrong with us and our product/service offering. It almost always has a reason behind it. One has to accept the customer on his or her terms, not ours. Getting customers to be more polite is not the right idea. Asking what we or our organisation is bringing to the relationship that is not meeting the customer’s needs IS.

Secondly it is important to realise that anger is an emotion that arises due to a person’s needs not being met, and that satisfying those needs is the way to eliminate the anger. Courtesy and attentiveness, listening without interruption until their frustration has been expressed may be all that is needed.

Thirdly people, by and large, do not get angry for no reason. Nobody likes being angry. It upsets our day. It upsets people around us, and it is a generally unpleasant state to be in. No rational person goes there without having what is for them a very good reason for doing so. Psychologists know this only too well and, to a large extent, so too should customer-facing employees.It is a serious mistake to think that customers are just nasty, unreasonable, demanding etc. Indeed listening to the message behind customer frustrations reveals the most valuable information as to where our service is not class apart or where we are going wrong.

Again on 19th December 1894, in letter to the Europeans (Natal Colony), The Mahatma writes: “If you are a merchant or lawyer, you have then too, a duty to discharge towards your customers and clients from whom you derive a considerable pecuniary advantage…”

So for all customer service professionals like me, if The Mahatma could think about this more than a 100 years ago, why aren’t we still inculcating these values when we or our teams deal with customers… Ponder on

Customer Feedback!!! What is the best way to gather it???

Recently, someone was asking about the complex process of gathering customer feedback. The questioner wanted to know the best way to collect customer feedback.

My response was pretty straightforward “Ask your customers.”



Thanks Mandar Malekar for the snaps

I know that sounds pretty plain, but it doesn’t have to be complex to work. If you want to ask your customers something, simply do it in a straightforward fashion and you will be a long way ahead of most organizations.

You can use lots of different mediums to communicate with them: email, face-to-face, telephone, whatever works in your industry. But the starting point is to go out and ask customers what they think about your business.

Keep the Process Simple and Straightforward

For example, don’t introduce a bunch of other questions into your survey. I call it “Christmas treeing the customer feedback survey”.

When you are creating your surveys, marketing will pipe up and want to add one question after another. Customer service will also want to know something and so they will add a question or two, as well. On and on it goes…

Pretty soon you end up with a really long questionnaire that customers will hate.

So, just keep it simple and set yourself a maximum number of questions before you commence. I’d suggest you start with no more than 10 questions.

Make sure you include a qualitative feedback or open-text questions. You need this to provide details about your business that customers like or dislike.

Don’t worry too much about having everything worded correctly. Don’t’ worry too much about the exact scale you should use. The methodology is less important than just doing it.

Over time, you can improve on the wording and details of the process but you can’t improve if you don’t start.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A good place to start is with an approach called Net Promoter Score. This has gained a lot of influence over the last few years and is very useful for small and large businesses alike.

Now you might have a question what is Net Promoter Score? It is a management tool that can be used to gauge the loyalty of a firm’s customer relationships. It serves as an alternative to traditional customer satisfaction research and claims to be correlated with revenue growth NPS can be as low as −100 (everybody is a detractor) or as high as +100 (everybody is a promoter). An NPS that is positive (i.e., higher than zero) is felt to be good, and an NPS of +50 is excellent.

Net Promoter Score (NPS) measures the loyalty that exists between a provider and a consumer. The provider can be a company, employer or any other entity. The provider is the entity that is asking the questions on the NPS survey. The consumer is the customer, employee, or respondent to an NPS survey. NPS is based on a direct question: “How likely is it that you would recommend our company/product/service to a friend or colleague?” The scoring for this answer is most often based on a 0 to 10 scale. Promoters are those who respond with a score of 9 or 10 and are considered loyal enthusiasts. Detractors are those who respond with a score of 0 to 6 – unhappy customers. Scores of 7 and 8 are ignored. NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of customers who are Detractors from the percentage of customers who are Promoters

This is generally  followed by an open-ended request for elaboration, soliciting the reasons for a customer’s rating of that company or product. These reasons can then be provided to front-line employees and management teams for follow-up action. Some call back customers to engage them in a discussion about the feedback they provided through the NPS survey process, solve problems, and learn more so they can coach their teams.

So, it can be as simple as a two-question survey and you will get great feedback from customers, you will understand whether they are loyal, whether they like you or don’t like you, and then you’ll get a really good understanding of what needs to be amended to improve customer stickiness.

Then, of course, you can add other attribute questions to your survey.

Attribute questions are questions about the attributes of your business that you think customers may care about. These questions will give you valuable insight on how well your customer perceives the services you deliver and how well your product works.

Additional questions can be included to assist in understanding  customer’s perception of various products, services, and lines of business. These additional questions help a company relate the importance of these other parts of the business in the overall score. This is especially helpful in targeting resources to address issues that most impact the NPS.

For instance, you can ask:

“How was our response to your complaint?”

“How good was our delivery experience?”

Who Should Send the Survey?

When you send survey invites, you can do so from two places: your organisation or another company that can send them on your behalf. The difference is the ability for the respondent to be anonymous. If they are sent by another company, the respondent can remain anonymous.


What difference does that make?

The difference matters when there is a high-value relationship in play. So, if you’re a B2B organization and you’ve got a high-value relationship with your customer, you will see that they can sometimes be a bit cagey in the responses they provide, mainly because they don’t want to upset you or change the status quo.

It may be surprising but they don’t want to cause a problem in the relationship because, just as they are important customers for you and your business, you are an important supplier to them.

In that case, using a third party can be a good way of getting anonymity into that survey response, and making the client feel comfortable to be much more open and honest. Above all, that’s what you want: open and honest feedback.

But in general, you can send it directly from the organization. There’s no issue with that at all. In fact, if you send it from the organization, you can do some really good work in area of service recovery.

Service recovery is responding to the customer when they give you feedback, e.g. calling them and saying: “We really appreciate your feedback,” and “We see you had a problem here, how can we solve that for you?”

If you do that:

  1. The customer will be surprised that anybody actually read their feedback; and
  2. You can turn that customer around. A customer turned around can become a very loyal customer.

Asking Personal and Demographic Questions?

You can ask customers anything that you do not already know about them and that helps you to serve them more effectively.

For instance, unless it’s directly helping you to deliver better service, asking a customer “what band does your salary lie in?” is not customer feedback. At best it’s market research, and market research is not customer feedback.

Customers see that and think:

“Why are you asking me this? It has nothing to do with the product you’re delivering. You’re just trying to improve your marketing to me.”

These days, customers see through those types of questions and react by ignoring your customer feedback survey entirely.

Also, if you know the piece of information, then you should not be asking for it. I’ll give you an example. If you are an online retailer that tracks purchases, you should never send a customer feedback survey that asks:

“Please tell us what your last purchase from us was,”

You have no right to ask the customer to provide information that you already know. You should be mining your backend and only asking the customer things that you don’t know i.e.  what they feel, how they feel, what worked, what didn’t work in the customer service process.

Every time you ask a customer a question to which they would expect you to know the answer, you are eating away at some of the trust they have for you.

Leveraging Customer Feedback For Testimonials

I think that one of the big challenges small businesses face when competing with larger businesses is getting good testimonials and reviews.

We’ve all seen the data on getting testimonials and reviews, and how they influence other customers to buy, so use your customer feedback process to gather them.

You can gather testimonials through the customer feedback process in a couple of ways.

When customers will say terrific things about the business, right there you have your testimonial.

However, before you simply use that as a customer testimonial you really should go back to the customer and say, “Hey, do you mind if we use this as a testimonial for our business?” Most customers will say yeah, that’s fine. If they say no, that’s life.

The other one you can use is a little bit cheeky.

You can look at the score they’ve provided in something like the Net Provider Score or customer satisfaction response. If they give you a good score, a 9 or 10, you can go back to them and say, “Would you mind giving us a testimonial?”

Be proactive. It’s a little bit cheeky in that you’re probably not going to ask the people that give you a low score to give you a testimonial but it’s a fair thing to do.

If You Do Just One Thing, Do This.

Do Something With the Feedback.

Getting the feedback is not the hard part. Doing something with the feedback is the hard part, and so the thing you should do much more of is just to take action on the feedback you receive.

It doesn’t have to be PhD level statistical analysis of the feedback.

Simply get a piece of feedback on your business and make a change.

If you do that, the customers will love you for:

  1. Making a change; and
  2. Using the feedback they’ve provided.

It’s a win-win outcome.

Onboarding Call Center Agents: 4 Mantras to improved Engagement & Productivity

When it comes to customer service, the best response to fear is confrontation.

Instead of worrying about agents acting against corporate interests on the phone, successful organizations view agent empowerment as their best means of developing trust, increasing engagement and aligning activity with key business objectives.

Therefore, when businesses hold back on training, coaching and onboarding activities due to fear of agent turnover its unimpressive.

Instead of worrying that such practices will be wasted on individuals who intend to swiftly exit the business, organizations must appreciate agent engagement investments as a means of combating attrition.  When a business demonstrates its investment in its talent, its talent will reciprocate with investment in the business.  Agent productivity will improve, satisfaction will grow and loyalty will prevail.

I am a firm believer of the notion that agent satisfaction leads to agent longevity and, more importantly, customer satisfaction, Organisations should takes its onboarding program very seriously.  An opportunity not only to build agent skill but cultivate passion in the business, its objectives and its commitment to the customer.

Following are the four mantra to a successful onboarding program.

Blending Learning

While developing basic skills in the physical classroom, the same should be  supplemented with  interactive, online modules.  The strategy, which fosters independent and collaborative learning, incorporates agents into the team without sacrificing attention on their personal passions and bottlenecks.

By easing formality in the classroom environment and providing online guides and facilitators in the independent, digital environment (which receives ample, dedicated resources).

Formalized Training & Support Team

If training is a focus rather than a necessary evil, it requires a dedicated team that sees it as a pivotal objective rather than a nuisance.

A feature of onboarding process, should that team offers agents a dedicated resource for gaining knowledge, cultivating skills and improving performance. This could be a senior agent who is seasoned in handled customer service scenarios.

It signals that the business wants agents to be as strong as possible rather than merely good enough.  It emphasizes the extent to which they are valued as integral parts of the business rather than as faceless numbers responsible for competently performing tasks.

Guest Speakers

Agent pool is diverse, naturally we need to work to incorporate diverse messaging into its training.

Guest speakers help spotlight that diversity.

Thanks to their diverse messaging, diverse skillsets, diverse experiences and diverse successes, the speakers prove that the organisation is not looking to reduce its agents to a single, neutered prototype.

In the short term, it wants to work with agents to amplify their strengths and silence their weaknesses.  In the long term, it wants to establish a career trajectory that fits who the agent is instead of one that tells him who he has to be.

Selling Fun

Effective customer management leaders do not simply train agents on culture.  They also train agents in the culture.

Certain its agents will be “selling fun” to customers, trainers must do the same during the onboarding process. As coaches they must embody the culture they are attempting to create.  They must not only sell agents on the value of selling fun but represent the fun that is evidently central to the business.

If agents experience a great corporate culture, they will successfully convey that culture to existing and potential customers.

Volkswagen’s Journey to Best Customer Focused Strategy Award

‘Good’ often just isn’t good enough for today’s empowered consumers. Disloyal and demanding, many customers won’t think twice about leaving you as soon as they get wind of a better deal elsewhere.

Volkswagen Group UK, is all too aware of the demands of the modern consumer and, as a result, is taking their Customer Service department on a journey to develop the ultimate customer service strategy. It seems to be going pretty well too; as it recently secured the company the Institute of Customer Service award for ‘Best Customer Focused Strategy’. Below are some simple yet efficient steps Volkswagen took to elevate their customer service to this level, and how other brands could follow in these footsteps.

Trophy Image 3

1. Think carefully about how you collect feedback – and how you use it

Volkswagen uses customer verbatim comments, taken through the call centre, as well as feedback from surveys. They take insight from customer feedback and translate that directly into policy changes. So Volkswagen uses that then to inform business, brand, networks, on the things they need to do to change different process and things that they have in place in order to better serve customers.

They get this feedback from a variety of sources. They have a customer satisfaction programme, which is a monthly programme run by a third party. So, on a monthly basis, this agency interviews customers who have had a case opened and closed at the customer service centre. They choose voice interviews rather than just an email survey because that gives a level of depth and richness in the insight. Also it differentiates Volkswagen from other players as this denotes serious interest in gauging customer experience and feedback.

The service agents could also prove to be a fountain of customer knowledge hence they engage with the front-line teams as those people understand customers better than anyone else in the organisation. They are talking to customers every day and they are the people who have on-going relationships with customers.

2. Don’t leave any exits in the customer lifecycle

Volkswagen recognises that the landscape is increasingly becoming more competitive and customers have a choice; they’ve got more information at their fingertips than they ever have previously. So the need is to provide great levels of customer service to build more loyalty and sustainability for business. Acquiring customers is a challenge, it’s expensive, so by retaining customers and promoting that loyalty and repeat purchase, that’s the crux of any good business case.

As such, Volkswagen is working on delivering a complete and consistent experience that spans across every customer touchpoint throughout the lifecycle – from the moment a customer picks up a brochure to when they deal with CSC. They make sure that the experience is consistent and of a high quality. it’s a long term investment, a long-term relationship that makes the customer keep coming back to Volkswagen

3. Collaborate

A successful customer service department is not left out; it must have its fingers in many of the company’s plates. Long gone are the days where customer service was just a department which was at one end of the process and just had to clean up when something had gone wrong. It is now the centre of the organisation; the customer service is certainly core, it touches the entire organisational structure from marketing to sales to after-sales. They also extend out to the franchises in the network working in a cohesive and collaborative way to make sure all have the same priorities when it comes to customer service

4. Measure yourself

If you don’t measure your outcomes, or don’t measure them often enough, it’s difficult to determine what is working and what isn’t. Having to repeatedly go back and undo what you’ve implemented because you’ve realised it’s not working is only going to drag the whole process out and make it unnecessarily expensive.

Volkswagen carefully measures itself against a variety of benchmarks to see how it’s doing. They we have lots of surveys and measures in place. There are industry-wide benchmarks that they actively measure themselves against, like the New Car Buyer Service, (NCBS), and the Industry Aftersales Customer Satisfaction survey (IACS). That’s an industry-wide measure so all automotive companies are measured by that standard. We also have our own internal customer service measure – our own internal survey. So we’re really keeping an eye on how our customers are feeling in the CSC processes as well.

5. Recruit a star service team – and keep them motivated

When hunting for customer service stars, it’s more about the individual than their current skill set. Volkswagen looks for people who are dynamic, engaging and people, who enjoy working as part of a team, enjoy working with people. Most of all they want them to be passionate, energetic and enthusiastic with a desire to learn.

Then there’s training and development. Its six weeks robust training and induction process then they have a two-week buddy system where they come onto the floor and they are looked after by a fellow colleague for the first two weeks. So they have foundation to start with.

But it doesn’t stop there – the training continues throughout agents’ careers. “From factory visits in Germany, to be going to the head office in Milton Keynes, or working with the network and attending the same types of training. This helps in keeping attrition levels are very low and the sickness and absence records are setting new benchmarks for this kind of industry.

6. Have a clear vision of your desired outcome

Volkswagen group has a vision to become top three for our customer satisfaction, and we want to reach the top quarter by 2018. To do this, they have put in place a very detailed strategy for the customer service department, which is made up of three strands: achieving “right first time”, becoming the employer of choice, and aligning the entire network by building relationships between the retailers and CSC.

The implementation strategy spans over three years. Year One, was about being operationally robust i.e. having the right foundations in place and a level of resilience.

Year two, which is where they are now, is about working smarter to do even more. It’s about looking at the infrastructure in the CSC. Making sure that service capabilities evolve to engage the niche channels, improvement of customer management processes and start to focus on increasing profits, lowering costs.