Board promise…bored response; lack of follow-through in Customer Satisfaction leads to business disappointment
While carrying out a recent intensive survey for an automotive client, I was forced to read the Annual Reports of around thirty companies. Half of them were from the motor vehicle manufacturing sector. A quarter were automotive, with the final quarter from other aspects of British-based industry. To say that it was a moderately varied selection would be true.
In over 90% of their stated aims, aspects of their approach to market that formed an intrinsic element of their ‘Mission Statements’ and even their KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), Customer Satisfaction was a board-approved remit. Sadly, when delving more deeply, both through the Company Financial Statements and from telephone call research, it was most disheartening to discover that little, or no investment at all had been made to bolster field service management, a key frontline in achieving high satisfaction levels.
My questions centred on this aspect, because so many of the firms contacted had been adamant that improvements made to their Customer Satisfaction (or CSat) stance could multiply their expectations by upwards of five times. After all, the best business management consultants and reference books had told them that it would be so. However, it also became abundantly clear that the results in successive years were unfulfilling. The simple reason appeared to be a lack of follow-through, or more precisely a lack of commitment.
Commitment tends to be demonstrated by positive and reasoned investment. However, when each of the companies surveyed was asked to analyse their KPIs, not one of them was able to place a supportive monetary value on their actions. Yet, all agreed that Customer Satisfaction was a vital sign of their enterprises’ success. They also recognised that introducing improvements would enhance the overall health of their businesses.
Naturally, in the modern era, social media has become the feedback zone. It is one of the vital ‘touch-points’ with the customer. After all, the Basil Fawlty stated means of customer satisfaction (“We ought to have him stuffed!”) will not work too well these days. However, a lack of follow-through from business operators is more than slightly evident and their lip-service responses are less than logical.
In defining overall satisfaction levels, nobody in their right mind can believe that 100% is possible, no matter how desirable that scenario might be. However, formulating a benchmarking ideology but sticking to it, in order to create reproducible and monitorable results, is essential. Only by repetition can goals be established, problem areas targeted and the right direction be taken.
Presumption can be a tremendous deflator, when important tenets are not realised. The old adage about ‘assume’, in which you make an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me’, is worth reflecting on. If customers do not perceive your business as ‘unique’, or ‘innovative’, while you do, it is abundantly clear that some construction is necessary to bridge that gap.
However, all of this potential is worthless, unless proper funding is put in place. A business’s profitability and its customer satisfaction are both linked and impacted by proper field service management and in excess of 80% of respondents agreed with that principle, while less than 5% actually put their money where their mouths are. Intriguingly, those companies doing so also expect field service management to become a revenue-earner in the near future. It is worth reflection.
While ‘machinery’ is important, the human element, especially within industrial businesses that might not possess a conventional commercial outlet, is even more vital. It is eyes on the ground that can see issues arising, usually first. Warranty leakages and parts supply are regarded commonly as the biggest drains on business efficiency but a reliance on technology and even connectivity in the workplace cannot replace the human instinct. Not to invest in this area and enliven its potential might be perceived as a desertion of corporate responsibility.
It is generally accepted that ‘augmented reality’, already being used elsewhere in the manufacturing world, has a valuable role to play in the production environment. For some firms, making the ‘quantum leap’ (actually, a very small jump) has simply not been contemplated. Those that spend the cash will find the RoI (Return on Investment) to be significant. Yet, it is the level of belief that is accorded to the trusted frontline operative that needs to be reconsidered, armed with technology, or not.
Amazingly, less than 10% of the responding companies believe that they perform strongly in managing leakages and parts supply issues, although almost 90% of them stated that supply issues were challenging at best. Ironically, almost a quarter of the firms contacted suggested that the issues were not intrinsic to their business strategies, which does raise an eyebrow.
Birmingham-based ISQA is one of a cluster of professional support businesses that deal with Field Service managers and Customer Satisfaction issues on a front-line daily basis. While recognising the future potential of technology in manufacturing, ISQA is still reliant on the human touch and recognises that its staff can work in harmony with and enhance a company’s field service management aspirations. Its services are geared towards ensuring that its customers can satisfy their customers more proficiently.
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