Over the past couple of weeks we have looked at how financial businesses have become more customer focused, but what is the cost internally? Control has been handed over to the customer, many businesses putting most of their energy into attracting customers, providing outstanding service to the person on the street and working hard to retain them.
This intense focus has left some gaps in other areas of the business; we have been working with insurers, credit hire organisations and legal representatives. We have found resource has been reduced in building business to business relations and in some instances companies are being up front in relaying the message from above that business to business communication is a low priority for them. This not only causes tension between businesses but also puts a strain on the little resource allocated to this vital area causing disputes, disagreements and backlogs.
Comparing the communication at the front end, business to client communications are rapidly dealt with, normally a customer email receiving a response within days, if not hours and telephone calls being managed immediately with outstanding competence. However we noted that business to business, written communications take as little as seven days up to two or three months. On occasion there was no response at all and when following up the communication by telephone, a barrier put up immediately suggesting a back log was preventing a conversation from happening, this surprisingly was with some of the biggest names in the industry.
Last week we talked about customer expectations and buying trends, so what have businesses and brands done to adapt to maintain presence and retain a customer base?
The financial sectors have been the centre of many news stories and as a result, lost a lot of consumer trust. Customers are being told they have had services mis-sold; new businesses cropping up to encourage people to fight banks, insurers and financial advisors for money back which they are owed. Customer have become extremely cautious and all industries have had to adapt to ensure they are transparent, understand their customers exact needs and provide solutions which the customer has a genuine need.
At one point we were being offered insurance for our cars, homes and pets at the supermarket checkout, we were being incentivised to take out store cards which gave an opportunity to up sell PPI giving customers piece of mind that they have no worries if they ever find themselves in a situation where they are unable to pay all the credit agreements they were signing. Businesses and their team members were benefitting from commission and financial providers enjoying a whole new income stream.
Over the past ten years customer expectations have evolved, technology has been enhanced and businesses have had to quickly adopt and embrace change to have a chance of survival and remain strong in their industry.
It’s not just an industry specific issue, for example the UK’s biggest music giant HMV shockingly fell into administration in 2013 due to failing to keep up with competitors working in the digital market, over 300 stores and 4,300 jobs were put at risk. In insurance Swinton brokers closed 130 branches in 2016 followed by a further 95 closures in 2017, this was because only 10% off their customers were using them. Many banks have seen a similar trend with customers needing branch quality service in the comfort of their own homes or on the move with telephone or online banking.
Customers are looking for quicker solutions, better service and they need security with the service providers they choose and we want to feel cared for. Competition is high and consumers are in control, we are all making greater demands and we know we can affect a business’s reputation and success with a couple of lines on social media. We are more aware of our money and we are all searching for the best value.
We have seen an increase in demand for efficiency; customers want businesses to act swiftly, time is money and we are not willing to spend it waiting for a business to deliver service or product at its own pace. Businesses need to think about their customer journey, measure effectiveness and ensure demands are met, service must be measured and problems quickly addressed.
One of the biggest challenges faced by businesses is cash flow, at times pressure is high when money is needed to pay wages, bills and stock or resource but delays occur when cash isn’t coming in at the same pace. There can be many reasons for cash flow problems, such as not sending out invoices timely, customers not paying them on time or simply not having the skill or resource to pro-actively manage debt owed. Below we talk about some of the things you can do to improve cash flow.
Capture invoicing data immediately
Before providing a service or product it is extremely important to discuss payment terms and costs up front to gain customer co-operation and agreement early on. It may be necessary to provide a contract or simply confirm payment information in a letter or digital communication. You should include the invoice terms – how long the invoice will take to produce, where it is sent, how payments will be made and by when. Failing to have this initial agreement can make settlement difficult and can even cause legal complications if the invoice is disputed later on.
A great team is difficult to build, it is a challenge to make a team work and maintain performance if the leadership isn’t correct. This weeks blog we share some of our tips.
Building the team
The first thing is to build a team, one mistake commonly made is selecting members who are the same or we feel will fit together well, we seek out people who are similar to us or have the same qualities, especially new leaders who just want a harmonious team to be in charge of. If you need a team to perform in diversity and develop their skills we need a good mix of skills, personalities and motivators to reach our ultimate business goal. When we build teams we review the nine Belbin team roles model, there are free and downloadable tests which you can ask team members to complete if you don’t have enough experience working with them personally to be able to assign their roles. Check out the model at https://www.belbin.com/about/belbin-team-roles/
A good mixed team will work collaboratively if you give freedom of tasks and roles. Assessing the team goal will help to see how flexible that can be, for example if the team are working on a specific task from end to finish the roles can be variable and different members input will go into each area according to their strengths and development needs. As team trust builds they will naturally exchange skills and develop each other so the team becomes even more diverse and able to perform if one of the original roles were to leave the team and as new members join the skills and strengths will be passed on provided the team is maintained well.
We specialise in outsourcing, it can be misunderstood or seen as passing work which could be done internally. However outsourcing can be an incredible resource for business to increase productivity and skill range, it’s not always just sending work out to be done and reported back, even though that in itself can be a valuable extension for a business. Below we talk about various outsource options which can a huge source to your business.
Short term outsourcing
Outsourcing short term is good to take pressure off a business when experiencing high demand or dealing with a back log, the outsource company simply takes on some of the time consuming tasks which can drain energy and resource, ultimately taking the focus of the core purpose of the business. Good examples where short term outsourcing may be beneficial is during an advertising campaign where the number of incoming enquiries are high, an outsource team could have all new calls and emails directed to them to assist with collecting data and compiling into a system or datasheet for easy import and processing. There may also be times when pressure is on a call centre due to adverse weather conditions or when a backlog has snowballed beyond control, the outsource company recording information and giving support, only escalating work that requires technical work which the organisation need to deal with.
Communication is the key for every successful business. Customer demands and needs are evolving and as providers of service we need to adapt to satisfy expectations. An area we look at with our clients is premier communication, not just answering questions and ticking boxes but providing the best service possible. Below we highlight some of the points from our internal training which are important in ensuring communication is the very best it can be.
Customers and partners need to know how to communicate and many have preferences on how they like to interact. One of the strangest things we hear is when contact centres pick up a phone to advise they don’t deal with phone calls or only dedicate a set amount of hours to handling phone calls. What is the point of having callers in a queue waiting to be told this information? It is a good idea to state contact information, state the suitable times to use the different methods and when a response can be expected to an email or letter. So many contact centres actually create their own traffic and backlog because this information isn’t on websites, Google and social media pages, so people have to chase simply to ask for this information in the hope of learning when they might get a response. If contact centres choose not to deal with telephone calls, a simple recorded message providing an email address is less frustrating than having a barrier put up by a handler picking up the telephone to state their telephone is simply an accessory on their desk which they do not use to talk.
Recruitment is an exciting opportunity to add new skills and diversify your team; however it can be daunting to fill a critical role. Recruitment is challenging and mistakes can be made if your process isn’t targeted to attract the right people or managed well enough to engage them. Here are our five recruitment tips to help you find the right candidate.
You need to build a profile of your new team member, what do we want them to be able to do? What personality would enhance the team that already exists? What skills must they have and what skills can you train if they don’t already possess them? Having an idea of who you are looking for will help you find them!
It can be difficult to attract the right candidates if your advertisement is too vague and doesn’t speak to the people you need. Include information about the company, what qualities you desire, what skills are essential along with the job description and what training is available for the right candidate. It is best to receive quality over quantity; people reading your advertisement will be able to self evaluate themselves against the criteria, requesting a covering letter gives each individual the opportunity to express why they are suitable for the role.
Negotiation for some people is difficult because they feel it might cause an argument, they don’t want to feel rejected or loss if the other person is better or they may find the entire process of trying to get a good deal embarrassing. Individuals with this mindset will approach negotiation in two ways; writing down their view in huge letters and requesting that the other person write to them in return or, at the other end of the scale, there are the dirty players who charge in shouting, throwing mud and challenging their opponent to a game of tug-of-war to see far they can pull them over their line.
Negotiation should be a factual discussion to reach a mutual agreement where all parties leave feeling satisfied with the outcome. Once people appreciate what negotiation is and the basic skills are practiced, it can be productive and even become an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
We all have to find own individual comfort levels and style in negotiating. It takes practice and self evaluation to develop good negotiation skills, but the principles we use are always the same.
Customer Service is ever evolving, soft skills training is one the most discussed topics with our partners to enhance the skills and performance of their customer facing team members. Below we share tips from five areas where basic soft skills can be used to provide better service with just a few extra personal touches.
Create a positive impression
Use a positive and upbeat tone to personally greet and welcome communication, exchange names and ask how you can help is a great start. Project your voice clearly, at a steady pace and pronounce words clearly so the other person can understand you easily. Take opportunities to build a rapport, extra touches such as using their name appropriately, adding in a few polite questions to show an interest in the person and exchanging useful information can really open up communication and make the experience much more enjoyable.