e-service as competitive advantage

Are e-services expected by customers?

E-commerce is evolving today into essential communication and consumption medium for consumers.

23% of American insurance customers are currently using a range of different online channels, including providers’ own websites and blogs, to research purchases. However, compared to other areas, the use of online channels is relatively low across the region. In Europe, 32 percent of consumers are already using online sources for research, and in Asia-Pacific, the mark stands at 39 percent.

However, the personal contact is still essential—especially when it comes to claims, as 50 percent in the Americas want personal contact throughout the claims process.[1]

Different recent studies in Estonia have exposed that e-services are considered vital by over half of the business and private customers. e-sales and -service channels have become for us important communication and comsumption output.

Recent economic downturn have had a significant impact on consumer behavior and preferences. Customer evaluates today more personal time and is therefore more willing to do purchase decisions without leaving home. But his decisions are made on the basis of in-depth information available on the Internet. Besides security are e-channels more trusted for quick access to wide information and convenience.

New opportunities have altered significantly expectations: consumer ecpects more transparency from the service providers, desiring to understand, for what he spends the money and why. He looks for smart and sophisticated services, but at the same time the ease and speed of the service setting. He is impatient towards incompetence and on other hand is ready to pay more for quality.

Client desires flexibility, convenience in service consumption and alteration of the rules just in an appropriate manner and degree. Such technical capabilities are provided by e-channels, where he is ensured the easy access to information, assistance, and he is given the opportunity to make his own changes to services.

One of the keys of e-environment is the ability and skill to communicate. The customer must get answers quickly, and even better, when other customers are included to the discussion. Comments are open to everyone, and the company is able to respond quickly and openly. Communication openness is positively affected by the combination with social media.

One of the e-channel basic goals is to win customer confidence, “thanks to the e-service channel, things are under my control, the company has gained the trustworthyness due to being transparent for me”

Why does the enterprise need an e-commerce channel?

E-channel is no longer just an nice-to-have alternative, but is becoming today the need-to-have core value. Internet offering almost unlimited alternative choices is supporting to lift the power from a  company to the consumer.

Increasingly difficult is today to differentiate by product or price. Still there is option to differentiate by  customer experience. For example standing out by the e-service quality, which is more convenient for the customer and eventually also more efficient for business.

Many of the conventionl services, or companies are entering with their services to IT sphere. Associated with the information development, complexity and amount of data makes manual customer support excessively time- and competence consuming. The solution is a high quality e-service environment that enables new, more valuable customer services and more sales.

E-services give the company opportunity to be operational and accessible during rush hours, and allows for a more clear direct interactions with a larger number of customers. e-channel gives the capability to be prompt, attentive and visible – willing to listen, hear and assist customer whenever necessary.

Strategic Management of Customer Relations

Stories by Leaders

are a series of experience exchange of Pärnu Konverentsid, where Estonian top executives will talk for 3 hours with other leaders, share their story in the open discussion with participants.

ER

In modern world customer-centered approach leads to success. “Strategic Management of Customer Relations” was the first of the leader stories in this spring’s conference theme. Ene Raja talked about her experiences.

In businesses where large number of customers do not have regular direct customer service experience the  service is perceived by the customer as an abstract of the fee to be paid.

In this case for an enterprise it is challenging to manage customer communication /loyalty and customer decision can be easily influenced by competition.

Command over customer experience becomes therefore highly important and should now be taken to the enterprise management level.

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The customer stays with the company, which provides to him good experience. Good experience management skills are for a service company the key for advantage today. Experience Management should not be random, it should be planned and managed carefully. Offer to your customer additional value, which is unexpected and would create a “wow-effect”!

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Do not expose the ignorance to your customer. TIP: customer is more satisfied with immediate response “we solve your problem in five days”, compared when the immediate response delayed and client receives your response and solution in three days. The customer wants to have control over the situation  – to know what and when are things happening with him/his question and when his problem is solved! This is often more important than quick (but not as quick as customer expects!) solution.

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Customer shares the positive experience, and even more, he shares the negative. Sharing the experience in social media has given the customer a significant position advantage. Compensate for the negative customer experience – it is cheaper and easier to have the situation resolved in favor of the client, rather than debate over the issue and degrade yourself publicly.

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Consumer expects kindness and friendliness, but he/she looks even more customer service expertise and competence to find the best solution and find it quickly. Trust service personnel and provide sufficiently broad mandate for decision-making – the limits within which employees can decide for themselves. Customers love today speed in decisions. This improves customer satisfaction, employee motivation, and company’s financial results.

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Distinction of the best pays off. Employees are different – recognize the best by prestigious remuneration. Evaluation principles should be clear and simple. Also, customers are different – sometimes it makes sense to abandon unprofitable customers to contribute more for the good. Create different service model for different customer segments!

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Communication with customers is mutual and two-sided – in addition to your telling, the client must be given word and you must hear it and RESPOND!

Customer communication in different media must always follow the basic direct communication rules: say hello, talk in direct speech, always respond to questions and say good-bye. As simple as such!

Ask for customer recommendations and link this result to your managers’ performance fee. This is the quickest way to teach your organization to listen your customers.

When asking customer recommendation (Net Promoter Score), it is really important (and smart) to provide feedback to the client, how your company uses the given recommendation and you get loyal customers without loyalty program! But when our loyal customer still leaves – then your price must be very wrong.

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Keep cost under control by smart development of e-solutions. Besides lower cost, e-channel provides in addition consistent service quality and good opportunities for additional sales.

The key for e-service is simplicity – customer expects easy and fast service. But … building a simple e-business solution is difficult task for a service provider.

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To each his own. Service design requires a different strategy for different national/ cultural environments. E.g. in Nordics customers can be on hold (queues) for a longer time period, in Baltics waiting in line more than half a minute would raise frustration; in South-Europeans prefer direct communication over e-channels, in Russia customers are satisfied receiving the necessary information from the telephone answering machine.

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