Senior management – not budget limitations – is the greatest obstacle to improving in-home services, according to new research from the Economist Intelligence Unit. Twenty-five percent of respondents in a survey of in-home service providers lay the blame on senior management for failure to act in this area, while 19% point to budget limitations.
In-home service providers include firms in a range of service sectors, from retail to telecommunications, healthcare and utilities.
It is instructive that this absence of senior management vision is less of a problem for companies identified as "leaders" in the survey – those that perform well in terms of revenue and market share growth – than for the "laggards": 28% of the latter point to a lack of senior management commitment to improving in-home service while only 3% feel constrained by budget limitations.
In the leader’s group, by contrast, 33% view budget limitations as the greatest obstacle and 17% blame senior management. These findings suggest that the survey “leaders” already feel they have a firm commitment from senior management to enhance service, leaving a lack of cash as the key challenge.
And those companies that are struggling are failing to make a compelling business case to senior management for improvements to in-home customer service.
Failure to make the business case is not due to an inability to calculate the return on investment (ROI) of improving customer service.
Ninety-three percent of companies have a formal method to measure their customer’s opinion of improved services, and 73% of companies have a defined process for measuring the ROI of service improvements. Rather, poorly performing companies are struggling to understand and respond to the implications of personalisation trends—catalysed by the growing pervasiveness of the Internet and social media—for their company’s products and services.
Virtually all survey respondents (95%) agree that in-home customers expect services to be tailored to their specific needs, but it is worth noting that this response is consistent across all the regions surveyed. And nearly as many respondents (92%) say that their organisation is working to develop a more customer-centric company culture.
More than half of respondents say that brand has become more important to customers – while 56% also indicate that customers increasingly see their services as commodities that are not substantially different from those of competitors.
Read in the context of the growing influence of social media in this field, this suggests that although the Internet is making consumers more fickle, a brand that speaks directly to a customer’s needs and expectations is an important differentiator.
Investment in service improvements rather than direct changes to products are seen as offering the greatest ROI, according to survey respondents and executives interviewed for the report.
Employee training and customer service systems or software are identified as the best method for improving services with 93% and 89%, respectively, of respondents saying they have used these methods or plan to do so over the next three years.
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