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What’s happening this week at the intersection of management and technology: Making virtual reality a reality at work; chatbots aren’t just for Facebook; designing an enterprise app that employees will actually use.
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Hong Kong’s premier airline is using a blend of data and know-how to guide its daily operations. In an interview with MIT Sloan Management Review, Cathay Pacific CIO Joe Locandro describes how the airline uses analytics to make decisions that balance data with what it knows from the field. “Analytics will give you statistical spreads, give you training, but you still need to have this thing called experience and insight,” he says.
It’s well known that employees’ attitudes toward the organization have a significant effect on how they approach their jobs and how they treat customers. But recent research suggests that high levels of employee engagement are also associated with higher rates of profitability growth. While the products and services many companies offer can appear quite similar on the surface, exceptional service can be a competitive advantage. “Although we recognize that the ultimate focus of most organizations is on customers,” write the authors, “companies can benefit from adding employee engagement to their list of priorities.”
For KLM, social business arose as a spontaneous response to the Icelandic volcanic eruption that spewed ash into Europe’s airspace for days, halting all air travel and stranding thousands of passengers. Since the abrupt birth of the airlines’ social business strategy, e-commerce senior vice president Martijn van der Zee has made the company a model for using social in customer service.
A recent survey by MIT SMR and Deloitte shows that companies are starting to derive real value from social business — with the payoff concentrated most strongly in companies that have reached a certain level of sophistication in relation to their social business initiatives. The higher a respondent rated his or her company on a “social business maturity” scale, the more likely he or she was to report that the company is deriving business value from its social business initiatives.
Many customers are simply not profitable. Letting them go is one option, but so is trying to train them out of expensive behavior. Options suggested by Jiwoong Shin and K. Sudhir, both of Yale School of Management, include reducing services to unprofitable customers and educating them to use less costly service channels. “We recognize the mix of concerns, both ethical and practical, that swirl around firing customers,” write Shin and Sudhir. “We advocate firing customers only as a last resort.”
Innovative companies fund internal research and development to gain an edge in the marketplace. They also work closely with suppliers to offer greater functionality and performance for their customers. However, some critical new product insights don’t come from suppliers and customers working together but from the customer’s customers. Drawing on numerous examples from technology companies, this article explores the various ways parties can collaborate so that everyone benefits.
Everyone has experienced the frustration of having to repeat voice commands multiple times before finally asking to speak to a service representative. Many large companies have become so focused on optimizing their business processes and systems that they have become all too willing to forget about cultivating emotional connections with customers. But in order to detect and respond to shifting customer needs, companies need to show more, not less, empathy with their customers.
The Cara network of restaurants uses an application on Facebook called the Staff Room for associates to share stories about restaurant service and tips about managing their jobs.
MIT Sloan’s Andrew McAfee reflects on “the amazingly bad design and execution of customer-facing processes among financial services firms.” He wonders if they’ll only get better “when competitors appear who take process design and execution seriously, and digitize them to the maximum extent possible.”
Companies need to understand and manage the rising threat of online public complaining. When customers believe that a company has treated them badly, they may take their grievance public — very public. What can companies do, whether in reacting to such negative publicity or in preventing its occurrence? The authors have developed an “organizing matrix” to help understand and respond to online complaints, noting that “as long as the company uses such fair processes, and as long as it makes customers aware of them, customers will tolerate the occasional service failure.”
In sales, the rapport between a prospective buyer and seller can be the deciding factor. Using analytics, Assurant Solutions has tripled its success. (A case-study interview.)
This article examines how three factors—emotions, trust and control—shape customer assessments of service experiences and their overall view of service providers. Drawing on research conducted at companies including Dell, the Seattle Supersonics and McKinsey & Company, the article posits that organizations seeking to excel in customer service need to attack the “soft side” of customer management with the same type of intensity they have previously used to reengineer workflow and supply chains.
When bad things happen, companies need the right strategy for talking their way out of a mess and avoiding a calamitous pummeling of their corporate image. Choosing the best response can spell the difference between a brand’s survival — even enhancement — and its irreversible tarnishing.
To become a customer-focused organization requires senior executives to open up communication with people throughout the organization so they can hear what is actually going on — as opposed to a sanitized version. Few companies make this leap, even though not doing it can hurt long-term performance. However, managers can come to terms with their company’s weaknesses in the realm of customer focus by posing a set of five questions specifically designed to uncover their vulnerabilities.
There are several questions an organization should ask to improve its pricing strategy, including: What is the marketing strategy in this segment? What is the differential value that is transparent to target customers? What is the price of the next best alternative offering? What is the customer’s expectation of a “fair” price?
By asking these questions and others, an organization can choose a price point that provides the largest long-term value to the supplier.
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