Insider Interview: Why A ‘Common Sense Approach’ Leads To Happier Customers
In many industries, customers have already developed a high level of cynicism when it comes to dealing with customer service personnel. Because of increasing customer expectations, spurred by the rapid advancement of technology and social media, customer contact centres are finding it hard to keep up with the demand of their customers. Well, not exactly in the case of Murali Krishnan, Group Head of Customer Care at DirectAsia Insurance. In this insightful interview, he talks about the ‘common sense approach’ in dealing with customers, how social media can be your friend, and the one super power he wishes to have.
Can you give us an overview of your role at DirectAsia Insurance?
Murali Krishnan: I’m the Group Head of Customer Care. I manage sales and services operations across two countries – Singapore and Thailand. Our primary channel of communication is phone but we actually cover a full suite of communication channels including email, fax, snail mail and social media.
Our contact centre accepts sales enquiries as well as customer issues. So, if you want to buy policies from DirectAsia, there are 3 ways:
- Online, where you can buy insurance quickly and easily,
- Via our contact Centre, if you need someone to talk to, or
- Visit our retail outlet, where our friendly staff will assist you.
What would you consider are the top 3 challenges faced by customer care managers in the insurance industry?
Murali Krishnan: One of the biggest challenges is recruitment and retention. Trying to find someone who not just has the aptitude but more importantly, the attitude to do the job is important. You know, insurance can be learned, it’s not actually rocket science. What we look for is someone who can make things easier and simpler for the customers. He or she must have the right attitude to provide outstanding service – that is something we can’t teach. A person’s got to have that attitude.
The other challenge is managing increasing customer expectations. We’re an online company so customers expect us to respond instantly. These days, customers can choose any channel of communication they are comfortable with – be it Twitter, email or phone – so we must be ready to respond to all these channels almost instantly.
The last one is that online comments are quickly magnified. Because of the advancement of technology, when someone posts a comment on Facebook, thousands of people can see it instantly, so managing these things and making sure that we’re providing great service all the time is a big challenge.
Have you faced some of these challenges? Tell us how you overcome them.
Murali Krishnan: Yes – I’ll start with recruitment. At DirectAsia Insurance, we create a culture and environment where our employees find it a good place to work. We want you to get up in the morning charged and happy to come to work because you know it’s a place where your voice is heard and team members have a say in forming our processes and making it better. It’s almost like a family outside your family. That’s why retention is not so much a challenge for us anymore. It used to be, but with the culture that we’ve created, this is now better addressed.
As for dealing with customers, what we do is actively manage their expectations.
For example, if we know that it will take time for us to resolve a particular issue, we make sure that the customer is informed, they know of the details of the case and they know when to get the information they require. We’ve found that when we’re very upfront with the customers, it actually helps a lot.
What would you consider are the top qualities of a good customer care manager? Please tell us why you think each of these qualities are important.
Murali Krishnan: The most important is for the customer care manager to be a people manager. He or she must understand their staff very well. Any contact center comprises different people, with different personalities and backgrounds so it’s vital to understand your team members, coach them and guide them.
The other thing is he or she must be at the forefront of workflow and workforce optimisation. Customers’ expectations are very high, so it’s important that we’re able to streamline our processes to deliver excellent services because even just a small disruption to the customer could result to big issues if not resolved properly.
What do you think sets DirectAsia Insurance apart from competition when it comes to dealing with customers?
Murali Krishnan: We use a common sense approach when it comes to dealing with our customers. Sometimes our processes and policies can be extremely regimented. What we’re good at is questioning our processes: “Does this lead to a happier customer experience?” If not, then we ask ourselves, “How can we change this?”
Our customer care specialists actively do that. We are good at looking at our processes, questioning them and making them better. We don’t just follow the book for the sake of following the book.
What is your view on social media? Do you think it is more helpful or harmful in resolving customer issues?
Murali Krishnan: I think social media is a double-edge sword. It can go both ways, really. Like I mentioned earlier, a single post can be read by thousands instantly, so the question we ask ourselves is: “How do we get our customers to post about their happier experiences with us?”
“Social media is like a double-edge sword. It can go both ways, really. A single post can be read by thousands instantly, so the question we ask ourselves is: “How do we get our customers to post about their happier experiences with us?”
I look at it as a very positive force that we can use to our advantage. But the only way we can do that is if we can make sure that for every call we receive, we will deliver very high quality of service standards, and if we can consistently do that, social media becomes our friend really quickly.
Customer care managers are not just managers, they are humans too. So at this point, we want to take a glimpse at the human side of you by asking you to complete these sentences:
If I’m not a Customer Care Manager, I would be a
Murali Krishnan: …Chef! I love feeding people. It makes me happy.
If I can have one superpower, I’d choose the power to be…
Murali Krishnan: …able to teleport. It would really be cool to visit any country without a passport and no airfare. Instant travel sounds perfect to me.
If I can spend 24 hours with any human being (dead or alive), I would spend it with…
Murali Krishnan: …Winston Churchill. This man led a country through a war successfully. If you want to learn about crisis management and dealing with difficulty, Winston Churchill is your man.
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