A simple app gets satisfied customers to make the effort to identify outstanding service agents
We are always on the lookout for companies who have progressive and genuinely innovative ideas that contribute to improved customer experience and service. I recently interviewed Steve Carruthers who is the CEO of Tosay. Tosay is a new company whose product helps companies encourage and reward exemplary service with a focus on the employee rather than the company.
The problem with rating sites is they create skewed views on how good or bad a company is which often creates a lack of balance for the very person who is trying to decide whether to do business with them or not. John Lewis has had tougher times of late in the last year with pre-tax profits falling 77%. Nevertheless, the company has always enjoyed a strong customer experience and service reputation. KPMG Nunwood has ranked them at number 4 in the UK non-grocery retail sector – a drop of 2 places – probably reflecting the impact of change as it attempts to restructure its operations to improve profitability. Apparently 80% of shoppers now review a company before making a purchase so many would expect John Lewis to fair pretty well.
Not so according to Trust Pilot. 4300+ reviews have ranked John Lewis with a paltry 1 star out of 5, with 65% of consumers reporting a bad customer experience and less than 25% reporting anything above average.
Really? If that is true, you would expect their customers to be departing them in droves. Whilst profits have taken a hammering, overall revenue is increasing, although not by much.
Steve Carruthers explains: “This is the problem with ratings systems. The numbers of people who have a poor experience and complain – often bitterly – is disproportionately higher than the people who praise when companies like John Lewis do exactly what they have always stood for and deliver experience and service way above the average. Companies such as Trustpilot are working hard to beat the fake review accusations but even so the picture they paint is simply not reality”.
He expanded: “The real value of ratings companies is to create a focus on exceptions. The people who do deliver great service are rarely named and in larger companies the top performers are insufficiently recognised. We have developed Tosay as a 180-degree change from the depersonalised and pressure-driven approach of ratings systems to create an environment where truly great is recognised and attached to their profile forever – irrespective of the company they work for.”
The mechanism appears to be a simple one. Customers are informed that there is a mechanism to tell the company about exemplary behaviour. The customer goes to a website or app and names the staff member and describes the situation that impressed them. The fact that the customer has to proactively go through a few steps to go to the site is a deliberate one. Steve explained that customers who are truly impressed will go out of their way to give their views. We are moving to a single moment of truth world where it is all too easy to press a button and give a thumbs-up when all that has happened was a server has given a pleasant smile. Tosay garners reviews that are truly exemplary, so they want customers to need to make that extra effort. The glowing recommendation is automatically filtered to the service agent’s manager or HR function and the recommendation stays with that agent forever. The agent can download and use the testimonials wherever they ultimately go to.
Steve summarised: “Too few top performers are genuinely recognised and the focus all too often is on correcting exception generated mistakes. The service environment is already tough enough and we want to help people who genuinely aspire to perform above the norm to shine. They work harder, they work longer, and they perform more consistently. The impact on customer service is far greater than traditional ratings approach.”
The mechanism that Tosay is adopting is a compelling one – at least in theory. There will always be concerns that some agents will try to manipulate the application and use fake reviews. The auditing mechanism within the product makes this sort of behaviour easier to detect but nevertheless companies will be asking this question. Companies such as TrustPilot thrive in the ratings business but often create an incorrect perception of reality. It’s well known that the best service agents are those who possess the innate attitude and desire. A mechanism to identify, encourage and reward the high performers would help many operations. Tosay is right at the start of its journey. It will be interesting to see to what degree companies buy into the underlying concept.