The customer service issue you havenâ€™t thought of
Whatever sector your business operates in, customer service is never far from your mind. From the consumer-facing arenas of retail and hospitality, through to corporate professional services and B2B organisations, from single site SMEs through to multi-national firms with thousands of employees, weâ€™ve all heard the old adage: â€œthe customer is king.â€
Opinions vary, of course, on what great customer service looks like. Whether itâ€™s about delivering the highest quality product available, or being the most competitive on price. Whether itâ€™s about responding to every query first time, or going the extra mile.
One element that you may not have considered, however, is the issue of network availability and system downtime.
An internal issue with external effects
Business continuity is not always considered in conjunction with customer service. Itâ€™s certainly a key priority for most organisations, but more often in terms of lost productivity and revenue, or risk to data integrity.
However, consider some of the ramifications of non-availability or poor performance of your critical business resources, and how they can impact, directly or indirectly, on your customers:
Direct effects: customer frustration - amplified
Customer frustration can be triggered in a number of ways. First, directly, when system downtime prevents them from being able to complete a purchase, reach the contact centre theyâ€™re trying to call or use an online service. Secondly, indirectly when technology negatively affects their experience. For example, when they call your call centre and the agent is repeatedly unable to answer their questions due to â€˜technical issuesâ€™ or the Wi-Fi fails in your waiting area and customers expecting to be able to work canâ€™t do so any longer.
In these scenarios thereâ€™s an immediate reputational risk. But in todayâ€™s ultra-connected world, that risk is more significant than ever before. Customer frustration can be rapidly and dramatically amplified via social media, and even a relatively minor network problem can quickly become a PR crisis and even a headline news story.
Indirect effects: employee demotivation â€“ passed on
Next, letâ€™s turn our attention inside your business. System downtime is a huge issue for your employees. Work will be interrupted and may even be lost. Crucial deadlines loom even faster. Nothing turns small work problems into big ones faster than system downtime. The situation can get even worse for customer-facing staff in the event of downtime that affects customers directly. They may be expected to explain when systems will be back online when they have no knowledge of the overall situation, or unexpectedly have to tell a customer that a purchase they expected to be able to make is impossible. As a result, those staff members are liable to be on the receiving end of those customersâ€™ frustration and even aggression.
All of this adds up to stressed and demotivated employees â€“ who, in turn, are highly unlikely to be willing or even able to deliver high levels of customer service.
Thatâ€™s why network connectivity, system performance and downtime should always be thought of in terms of customer service. Even if your customers are never aware of a downtime problem â€“ even if exclusively affects internal systems that a customer never sees â€“ your staff will be impacted. Their workflows will be disrupted, their stress levels will rise â€“ and this is directly passed on to customers in terms of service levels.
Network monitoring: a key element of customer service
So you can see that effective, comprehensive network monitoring, which immediately alerts the business to any system problems, enabling them to be fixed as fast as possible, is about much more than smooth internal processes. Itâ€™s also a crucial element of your customer service offering.