Great customer service: it’s a three-legged stool


Peter Cross, John Lewis’s Director of Customer Service said recently about continually improving his company’s service performance, “There’s no silver bullet”.  And John Lewis, famed for putting their customers and their retail service values at the heart of their brand should know a thing or two about customer service. Peter points to the fact there’s no magic answer, but there is a simple framework that provides a clear lens on the issues that matter.

How does culture affect your operations?

The culture of an organisation is critical and something most organisations find tricky to address. There’s now a huge industry helping organisations measure, assess, change and improve their culture, normally with the goal of improving the end customer experience through performance management and leadership strategies. And it is a never-ending task, a bit like painting a bridge. No sooner have you reached the end of the bridge when you have to go back to the beginning and re-paint the bridge thanks to the constant battering of weather, (economic climate) wear (customers) and tear (change). Engendering the right culture to service your customers is key and provides the platform to achieve operational excellence.

How good is your product?

Roberto Verganti, Professor of Leadership and Innovation, Politecnico di Milano, describes in his book, ‘Overcrowded’ the need to create innovations that customers do not expect, but that they come to love and view as an indispensable part of their lives.  Truly great products and services are so distinct from those that dominate the market and so ‘inevitable’  (why didn’t we think of that?) that customers become passionate advocates. Apple, Nintendo, Alessi, Whole Foods Market, all built  sustainable competitive advantage through innovations that did not come from the market but instead created new markets by providing customers with a completely new reason to buy.

How effective is your sales and marketing effort?

The importance of the sales-marketing interface in creating value within business is widely accepted (Webster and Montgomery 1997; Kotler, Rackham, and Krishnaswamy 2006). When sales and marketing functions are integrated, firms can deliver more seamless customer value and achieve superior market performance. When variables such as mis-alignment over objectives or lack of clear role definition or culture mismatch go awry, then marketing falls flat and sales fall short.


Getting all three factors aligned

To be truly customer centric organisations need to look at the bigger picture and view themselves from many different perspectives both internally and externally, to even begin to put the customer at the heart of their business.  At the core of a great customer experience there are essentially three key components – three inter-related,  interdependent concepts that stand the test of time. Without these there’s no foundation on which to build brilliant customer experiences:

  • Product (quality, price, packaging)
  • Operational delivery (service, good communications, being easy to do business with, people, culture)
  • Sales and marketing (brand positioning, go-to-market strategies)

Simple at heart, these components are like a three-legged stool. If any one does not meet customer expectations, one of the legs falls short and the three-legged stool becomes wobbly and falls over. Work hard at all three and great customer service can set you apart and give you clear competitive advantage. It gives you mindshare in the heads of your customers when choosing one purchase over another, and licence to innovate and grow because your fan base has a strong experiential view of who you are, what you do and how well you do it.

For years marketers have talked about B2B, B2C and even B2CC. But in reality it’s just about people to people (P2P) marketing – people buy from people, even ‘automated people’ if the service delivers.  Organisations that deliver great customer experience understand that every employee (real or virtual) is a brand ambassador and every touchpoint (real or virtual) with a customer is an opportunity to deliver great customer experience.

We can help

At gigCMO we’ve worked with clients on their customer service framework, modelling the internal perspective alongside the external perspective and overlaying the two sets of references to highlight differences in perceptions. We then map in detail the service pain points that customers experience and prioritise product, operational delivery, and sales and marketing priorities to get the three legs of the stool working together in harmony. Talk to us to find out more about how our Fractional CMOs do this.