Scrum and Your Customers: The Most Crucial Stakeholders

By Mark C. Layton, David Morrow

Your customers are the perfect addition to your scrum because they are great sources of product innovation ideas and improvements. Alienating them not only creates ill will, but also cuts off a crucial feedback loop that can lead to innovation.

Internet service providers, phone companies, and local utilities consistently rank among the highest in customer service complaints. Where service providers are limited, customer service is commonly (although not always) weaker than in other industries. Customers frequently encounter long hold times, frustrating service, and labyrinthine automated service menus. Pressures on the bottom line have caused many companies to cut the budget for customer service, yet customers are the most crucial stakeholders in any business, and they need to be provided good service. Without the customers, there’s no business.

Comcast is an example of a company that has experienced bad press regarding the quality of its customer service. Instances of customers unable to get refunds for bogus charges, wait times forced until closing, and an inability to cancel subscriptions are just a few of the claims that have been made over the years.

Although the need for service is enormous, quality is often lacking, and millions of people are willing to spend the time to make others aware of their experience. Customer complaints about the handling of their service calls abound.

The service conundrum

Perhaps the number-one failure in service is that customers often report that their issues aren’t even solved by the agent. Customers need and expect service representatives to be able to answer questions and solve problems regarding their companies’ products. Unfortunately, all too often, training in companies fails to provide the customer service representatives with the knowledge they need to meet this need of the customers.

The service representative may not understand the problem because the customer explains it poorly, or the representative simply doesn’t understand the situation the customer is describing.

Seventy-eight percent of customers state that their good customer service experience was due to the knowledge the rep had, while only 38 percent said it was due to personalization. Knowledge matters. Training development for representatives is a high priority. Preplanned answers don’t carry the weight of true depth of knowledge.

The cost of losing a customer is far more than the customer’s annual subscription rate. Customer service divisions are often thought of as being cost centers, but in fact they save and make their firms huge amounts of revenue. Following are some statistics that reflect how customer service can affect a business in ways that you may not have considered:

  • It’s more than six times more expensive to gain a new client than to keep a current one.
  • 78 percent of customers have forgone a purchase or transaction due to poor service.
  • Loyal customers are worth up to ten times the amount of their initial purchases.
  • Twelve positive experiences are needed to make up for one negative one.
  • For every customer who takes the time to complain, 26 others tell their friends instead.

Information overload

In this day and age, too much data is quoted as a source of call center failures. Too much information can paralyze the effective functioning of a service representative. Service representatives can become overwhelmed with too much data that’s hard to use, and many centers haven’t managed this information so that it’s useful to representatives.

Perhaps you’ve been on a call with one representative and been transferred to another, only to find that you had to explain the issue all over again. Often, a client’s historical data doesn’t get fed to the rep. It’s frustrating for the customer to rehash his situation or to hear the ominous words “I have no record of your claim here.”

Getting the right information to the right people is part of the problem. Sixty percent of customer service centers say they aren’t even able to get certain pieces of customer information (for example, portions of customer history) to service representatives. On top of this, more than 30 percent of representatives don’t gather and record customer satisfaction data.

Sometimes, data isn’t consolidated between organizational divisions, or the data is hard to find. Firms are experts at gathering information, but timely and effective distribution of that knowledge is a problem.