Great customer service is the secret to maintaining your organization’s reputation

January 24, 2023

Sadi Fieldsend
Managing Director, PwC US

Progressive enterprises are learning how critical it is to be proactive on all customer-facing operations. Increasingly, reputation is being won and lost in the arena of customer service. A high-quality customer service engagement can turn a skeptic into a customer reference for life, while bad service can generate bad blood, an outpouring of social media invective and even negative media coverage that sours a corporate brand.

Up to now, service has been understood as something that fixes things, but in today's marketplace, service has evolved into something very different. Service is now fundamentally built around the reputation that we maintain and the level of trust that we create for our customers, internal employees and the products and services that we provide to the industry. It's about creating continuity.

Today’s consumers want as much information as possible about every transaction they make, but they want to communicate verbally as little as possible while doing a minimal amount of work. That expectation holds the same whether they’re buying a pizza or a new car. Any amount of friction creates a reputational problem in today’s marketplace.

How organizations can make customer service better

Naturally, the burden falls on businesses to make all of this possible. So, what can companies do to improve their service operations?

Many companies have spent years cleaning their data to better understand their customers, and now is the time to begin leveraging that data. This includes building predictive analytics so they can anticipate customer needs (versus just responding to service calls), as well as segmenting the customer base to holistically understand the different expectations of each buying group. Done right, portals allow customers some level of self-service without ever having to contact the company at all, while returning valuable real-time customer data that can be used to plan for future service needs and product enhancements.

“Buyers want more value,” said Patrick Crampton-Thomas, VP of asset maintenance and service solution management at SAP. “Companies offering proactive services like IoT-enabled condition monitoring, remote diagnostics and even predictive service will have a competitive advantage.”

Another key part of today’s service operations is the intelligent use of notifications. Every customer has a preference: Do they prefer text messages or emails? The evolution of service has evolved to the point that if a service professional is going to step on someone’s property, not only does the customer want to know when they're going to be on the property, they want to know when they're two stops away from being on the property. They want the service provider to take a picture of whatever they've done when they leave, and they want to know all of this information right away.

Modernizing service requires strong partnerships

Many obstacles lie in the path of businesses attempting to modernize their service operations. On a global scale, the ability to connect all these dots isn’t easy, and as an isolated company, you can’t do it alone. You must be able to build a platform that serves all of these communities, and that’s accomplished by building a network of partners, like SAP, who have the expertise to make these advances possible. Further, you don’t just need a platform that allows for this type of infrastructure and the pace of advancement, you also need the right people to help you run it.

Finally, remember that providing quality service — and maintaining the high-quality reputation of the business — is everyone’s job. “Companies need to evolve beyond traditional break-fix service and towards proactive and automated services,” said Crampton-Thomas. “We see service organizations as a powerful weapon in supply chain innovation.”

Ultimately, every department needs to be involved with the end-to-end service chain, and it is the job of the entire enterprise to increase that service level. The caveat is that you must choose how you go on that journey. You can't bite off the entire process at once. You must create the foundation, and then incrementally build a roadmap that will continue to evolve with you and the organization — and ultimately your customers.

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