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Variance, the silent customer satisfaction (and performance) killer

McKinsey recently published the findings of a customer experience survey that concluded that the three Cs of Customer satisfaction are consistency, consistency, consistency. “It may not be sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy” the authors conclude.

The data clearly shows the strong link between a consistent customer experience and satisfaction as well as revenue and the bottom-line.

This is not surprising. Throughout various client engagements we have seen the impact of reducing variability by implementing a high-quality, consistent customer issue resolution process into how organizations manage incidents and problems. While correlation is not causation, we have time-and-time again seen that consistency goes not only hand-in-hand with customer satisfaction, but also with performance, for example in the form of resolution times.

In one case we have seen the reduction in variation of 77% be accompanied by a 74% reduction in resolution time. In another case we have seen the decrease in variation by 60% lead to a reduction of resolution time by 50%.

The authors of the research also point out that it is important to take a “journey-based” approach and look for consistency across that journey. We like to label this as the “end-to-end” process view of what the customer experiences. In the customer support environment this translates into the events and activities from when the customer first notices the problem to when the customer deems the issue being resolved to their satisfaction (or dissatisfaction).

So what can we take away from this?

Focus on consistency at least as much as you focus on average performance.

Averages can hide the truth. What damages your brand and drains internal resources are the cases of really poor service performance and inconsistencies that require ongoing management attention and drive the client up the wall. McKinsey’s research shows that a negative experience has 4-5 times the impact of a positive experience. If you can eliminate these “outliers” through a consistent, results- and quality-driven approach, you will see your overall performance improve significantly.

Break down the functional service/support silos and look at the end-to-end process.

Customers don’t care about your internal division of labor or who is responsible for what portion of resolving their issue. They just want it resolved – quickly and efficiently, ideally with the first attempt and without having to go through multiple, expensive trial-and-error cycles. This puts a premium on how you collaborate and communicate along the process of all the customer interaction points and problem resolution process. Focus on value and consistency at each step and you will find your customer satisfaction go up.

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