The Essential Link Between Client Service and Brand Management

Key Points From This Bulletin:

Companies must forge constructive links between the brand management team and the client services team in order to effectively leverage the powerful brand management resource that exists in the client service center. The client services team should own a brand management champion.

Readily available tools should be leveraged inexpensively in a cooperative effort between the CSC (Client Service Centre) team and the brand management team to motivate measureable improvements in service and perceptions of the brand.

Key Points From This Bulletin:

  • Companies must forge constructive links between the brand management team and the client services team in order to effectively leverage the powerful brand management resource that exists in the client service center. The client services team should own a brand management champion.
  • Readily available tools should be leveraged inexpensively in a cooperative effort between the CSC (Client Service Centre) team and the brand management team to motivate measureable improvements in service and perceptions of the brand.

Use Brand Measurement to Build Service Quality and ROI From Client Service Teams

For almost any firm, client service centers (CSCs) represent a massive investment in both people and technology. Could the resources you’ve allocated to your CSC be generating a better return on the investment? Most executives respond, “probably!”. This article gives some practical guidance based on Credo’s experience. If you implement some of these processes, we guarantee improved service levels and better ROI with little, if any, incremental cost. At the root of the opportunity – branding and brand management.

Below we argue that if you’re a client service center executive, you need to be properly versed in the principles of brand management. And, if you’re a brand management executive, you need to truly understand the operations of your client service center. The CSC is a critical instrument of branding; if the brand management team doesn’t appreciate how the CSC operates, it won’t effectively leverage this key resource. In a similar vein, if the CSC management team doesn’t understand the important principles of brand management and if it fails to recognize its critical function as an instrument of branding, it will likely miss real opportunity to unlock its value as a business development resource.

Customer Service Representatives (CSRs) are a critical part of your company’s front line. Each time a CSR takes a call, they are confronted with a moment of truth for the client and they represent your company to an awaiting audience. In so doing, they deliver a unique service experience. This service experience directly affects your brand, i.e., the experiential expectations that are held by your customers. If your CSR understands and appreciates your brand, they are positioned to deliver an appropriate experience at that moment. If they don’t, you are taking a chance that they are not delivering and developing your brand effectively.

Credo defines your brand as the broad set of experiential expectations that your many clients hold of you. Ask a client about the expectations they have when dealing with your company. Ask a client how they have developed these many expectations over time. You’ll learn about the nature of your brand in the mind of your customer and you’ll learn about the touch points – both direct and indirect – that are creating your brand. Your brand in the customer’s mind invariably differs from your own definition of your brand ideal, and this is critically important. Recognizing that your brand exists in the minds of your customers (and prospective customers,) forces you to assume the role of a brand manager – one that is dedicated to creating experiences that support your brand ideal.

Brand managers need to be concerned about – and actively involved in – the management of your client service center. This includes being involved in the process of monitoring calls that are addressed by the client service center. This involvement should include monthly meetings between marketing and client service management where there is a review of data that can be collected in order to monitor your CSC’s progress in improving its brand development efforts. Credo recommends that every CSC install a brand management champion. Teach the CSR training team and the quality assurance team about the importance of brand and the specific nature of your company’s ideal brand identity – the experience that you want to be delivering – so that customers who call your CSC are having an experience that is consistent with your brand ideal.

TOOLS FOR THE CSC — Brand managers understand that there is always a gap between what is defined as the ideal brand identity and the brand that truly exists in the marketplace. Tools that brand managers use to measure their brand, and understand whether or not the experiences the company is delivering at its many touch‐points are supportive of the brand, are readily available in the CSC. They simply need to be oriented properly and deployed effectively by the CSC’s management team.

One such tool is a client satisfaction measurement system along with modified mystery shopping. These systems can produce tailored report cards that enable both the brand manager and the CSC’s quality assurance team to have a conversation about the effectiveness of the branded service that is being delivered by CSRs.

Most companies (84%) have a program in place that gathers feedback from clients about the service they receive from the company. Some of these programs are strategic – asking on an annual basis about satisfaction and experience dimensions at a high level.

Others are tactical, asking customers immediately after their experience about the nature of that experience. Such tactical programs are practical within a CSC. Implemented effectively, they enable training initiatives and can help a company better leverage their CSC resources. Credo has found that only about 4% of companies that use tactical surveys of clients after their experience actually leverage this valuable feedback quickly enough to have the feedback create a useful effect with the CSR.

WHAT TO DO? First of all, executives must recognize that a CSC client satisfaction survey is actually a powerful brand management tool. Used properly, it can help you actively modify the behavior of your service staff. It can generate a return on investment by motivating your client service team to effectively deliver better service. It can position the client service team to deliver experiences that truly support your brand.

CALL MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY has the capacity to present short, simple post‐call surveys using Interactive Voice Response (IVR). Use this to your advantage. Set up your system to invite your callers to complete a survey immediately after their experience. Some systems will execute a call‐back survey while others will enable a transfer of the caller directly to an IVR survey. Whatever the case, make sure you’re asking a small set of simple questions that matter. Use a simple scale. Word the questions so that they are not ambiguous. Without survey design expertise, many people will ask questions the responses to which cannot be effectively interpreted. Check your questions with a research specialist before you begin to conduct the survey. The questions should produce data that can guide your management and training efforts.

MEASURE EFFECTIVENESS — Do you measure each CSR for effective individual training and motivational purposes or measure the CSC as a whole?

If you choose to measure each CSR, then every quarter, each of your CSRs should receive a report based on 30 randomly chosen calls. Appreciate that 30 is a special point from a statistical perspective; it’s the point at which we move into the realm of “large sample” statistics. It’s the point at which you can start to say that the sample of calls effectively represents the whole set of calls that were addressed by the CSR. Fewer than 30 calls and you’re actually walking on thin ice with respect to saying that the sample effectively represents the CSR’s work. Your call management technology is likely sophisticated enough to ensure that 30 measurements are taken randomly from the CSRs entire set of calls.

With some tweaking your technology can involve your CSRs actively in the survey process. At the completion of any call where a customer was surveyed, make it a part of the CSR’s process that he should have to answer a short, simple survey, too – a survey that takes less than 1 minute to complete. Here’s an example:

“Please complete the following questions about the client call you just finished addressing: Agree or disagree with the following statements:
* I sense that the client I just dealt with was delighted by the service he/she received.
* I feel better about my role as a CSR after this call than I did before the call.
* I feel that my last call enhanced the callers appreciation of what our company stands for”.

Several quick, simple data points about meaningful matters can help you manage and train your team to deliver what you need them to deliver.

Much value exists in asking the CSR to complete a short satisfaction survey about the experience they delivered on the same call where the client rated the service. The results of this exercise actually produce a gap analysis. Compare the customer’s perception of the call with the CSR’s perception of the call. When there is a lack of congruence between the views of the caller and the views of the CSR, there’s a perception gap and an important opportunity to manage the CSR’s perceptions and performance. Because the surveys happen is real time, within minutes of the service experience being delivered, recorded calls can be flagged and immediately sent to both the CSR (for self‐evaluation purposes) and to the training and quality assurance manager for follow up.

Such an exercise is also of value because when it’s linked to your client satisfaction survey scoring in your effort to motivate CSRs and make them accountable for their work, it keeps the CSRs focused on service and on the delivery of an experience that is congruent with your brand. It keeps the CSR self ‐ aware with respect to the work he is delivering and it can help CSC managers gauge the level of the CSR’s en ‐ gagement in his activity. By making the CSR more self‐aware with respect to his work, you encourage team members to take greater ownership of what they deliver.

THE BRAND CHAMPION — It comes back to the en‐ gagement and training of CSRs. It’s essential that a brand management champion exist within the CSC to ensure that your CSRs know that they have a responsibility to support the ideal brand identity with the service they deliver. Teach them about the ideal brand identity that you’ve designed. Explain to them why it’s important that they understand brand and why you need them to deliver the customer experience in a manner that supports the brand. Run small, simple 30 minute workshops to teach your CSRs about the importance of the relationship between their work and the brand.

ACTION ITEMS — What do you do from here? If you’re a training and quality assurance manager in the CSC, contact the management team at your CSC and urge them to initiate discussions with the marketing team about training the CSRs to better understand your company brand objectives. If you, and the people around you, cannot articulate the essence of your company’s brand ideal then a conversation certainly needs to occur. Your objective is to have everyone singing from the same song sheet. Volunteer to become the brand management champion. You can be certain that members of the brand management team will be pleased to know that members of the CSC want to better support the brand ideal.

If you’re a brand manager, remember that it’s as important to deliver the brand internally as it is to deliver it externally. Initiate a discussion with the CSC. Help them understand that the training that the CSRs received when they started needs to be supplemented regularly. Help them understand that the company views them as a valuable instrument of brand delivery. Help them understand that they need to be able to articulate the essence of the brand, clearly and concisely. Credo’s research has shown that clarity lies on route to brand credibility and that brand credibility is, ultimately, a critical driver of sales support.

Research for Wealth Managers

Credo Consulting Inc. works with companies in the wealth management industry. Our clients include many of the industry’s largest asset managers: mutual fund companies, banks and insurance companies. Credo also works with a number of investment and insurance brokers/ dealers as well as with several industry associations.

Credo helps its clients by providing independent, objective research consulting services. We provide insights based on measurement for management.

Most of Credo’s research focuses on a combination of:
1. Brand gap measurement and management;
2. Client Service Measurement;
3. Sales Force and Distribution Effectiveness;
4. Econometrics; and,
5. Product development.

While our focus helps clients with various aspects of marketing management, we regularly conduct customized research projects to help clients gain critical perspective on their unique circumstances. Accordingly, much of our work is never published. Credo’s objective guidance will help you understand how your company is performing both practically and in the eyes of your clients. Our work will help you establish process for managing perceptions and various aspects of performance over time.