Are Your Customers Happy? It Depends Who You Ask

There is a disconnect between managers’ and employees’ views of customer service capabilities, according to a new Forrester Consulting Thought Leadership paper commissioned by Ricoh Company, Ltd. titled, “The New Workplace Reality: Enterprises Must Capture the Soul and Spirit of the Emerging Worker.” 

Surprisingly, employees see more room for improvement in customer service capabilities than managers do. By a nearly 3-to-1 factor (43% to 17%percent), managers surveyed thought their organizations communicated well with customers through old and new channels such as text and email, whereas customer-facing employees, those on the front line dealing with customers first-hand, felt this was far from the case.

At the same time, the report shows that more than double the number of employees compared to their managers agreed that the businesses have older systems that require the customer to communicate in ways that they don’t always want to. Both groups agreed in one core area: They have a strong internal program to address multichannel communications, but aren’t fully there yet.

“As Ricoh continues to investigate the business impact of document processes at the point of service, now is the perfect opportunity for every company to objectively re-evaluate the customer experience it’s delivering and the possibility of improving it,” Yoshi Sasaki, General Manager, Business Services Center, Business Solutions Group, Ricoh Company, Ltd, said in the report. “Good customer service people can either be empowered with more timely information or held back, which can negatively impact customer relations. This depends largely on how workers are supported in terms of systems and underlying information management processes. Customer-facing employees deserve information solutions that enable swift problem-solving on any communications channel – in person or via mobile, landline or Web.”

According to the study, customer-facing workers said they need “smarter solutions” that improve information capture, analytics, process management, and information access. Customer-facing workers need “agile processes” that will give them the ability to handle exceptions in more flexible ways by having expert guidance, quick communication with experts and the ability to start new case processes.

Digging deeper: Why do customer-facing employees see more service shortcomings than their managers do? And how did this perception gap arise in the first place?

“The answer may be that these communication issues fall through the cracks,” according to the report. “They do not result in exceptions, lost customers, or delayed orders–things that managers track–but they will degrade the customer experience over time. Not closing these gaps through improved document and process support may result in inefficient workers, high employee turnover, declining competitiveness, and lost revenue.”

Nearly nine in 10 customer-facing employees (89%)–e.g. bank clerks, call center operators, nurses, bank managers and shop supervisors–said there’s a gap between the experience they can deliver and the experience the customer expects.  

According to the study, customer-facing workers are obligated to use systems that require too much time on low-value tasks–time and energy that could be invested more directly in providing a richer customer experience.

“The quality of the customer experience can directly affect the performance of a business, and a positive customer experience requires empowering the people involved in it,” Sasaki added. “We do this for Ricoh clients by mobilizing valuable business information from capture through transformation and management so that customer-facing employees can quickly and completely address their customers’ needs.”

The study was based on an online survey by Forrester of 250 global customer service strategy and operations decision-makers, as well as customer-facing individual contributors between March 2013 and May 2013.

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