Aiming toward greater customer satisfaction together with our customers
Suzuki Motor Corporation (henceforth Suzuki) has set up customer contact centers as points of response to deal with customer inquiries, as a means of improving customer satisfaction, gathering feedback for R&D purposes, and identifying risk to the company at an early stage, evolving into an important branch of its own with a new role to play.
As part of efforts to strengthen the role, Suzuki has upgraded its current system from FastHelp3 to FastHelp4.
We inquired about this process and the functions the software incorporates.
The slogan, "Small Cars for a Big Future"
Suzuki, first established in 1909 as a loom works, made its move into transportation in 1952. Since then, Suzuki has been paving its own path through the history of motorcycles and small cars, and continues to grow to this day. As a Japanese car maker able to compete in the world market, they have developed a lineup of truly individual models for a uniquely large and dedicated fanbase.
An example is the well-known minivan type small car Wagon R. Equipped with ENE-CHARGE which does not wastefully use gasoline when charging the car, and ECO-COOL which creates a more pleasant environmentally friendly drive, it ranks No.1 in low fuel consumption among wagon type small cars with its 30.0 km/L fuel efficiency.
"Much like both ENE-CHARGE and ECO-COOL, the company places gives great consideration to environmental concerns. The policies, technology, and efforts being undertaken known as SUZUKI GREEN is being driven companywide" explains Noriyuki Suzuki of the contact center work group.
The corporate slogan "Small Cars for a Big Future" expresses the values of both of our companies toward the environment.
Customer contact centers to drive 'Fan Net media releases'
Suzuki started Fan Net media releases to try bring in many new Suzuki fans, even if just one person at a time. Here there are releases such as "All of our smiling staff ready to serve you", "An inviting and comfortable place", and "We will definitely deliver on our promises to customers".
Mr. Suzuki who is customer center chief officer tells us that "the customer contact centers are operated based on the policies of Fan Net media releases"
As part of the domestic sales main branch, the customer contact centers take around 120,000 customers each year. In response to the consumers, the majority of the role involves dealing with inquiries, complaints, requests, suggestions, and document orders for product features and fittings, purchases, and service and maintenance.
The customer contact centers opened in 1995 as public liability issues were coming in force. Free Dial was introduced in 1997, followed by CTI in 2001. Here was the beginning of systemization where things like spreading out operator loads, recording of telephone inquiries, and keeping and analysis of customer service histories all became possible.
Adopting TechMatrix's FastHelp3 in 2006, the system went into reform. "In comparison to the time the contact centers were first established, volume had increased 10-fold, and there was a greater demand for work efficiency. Also, as inquiries by email increased, we aimed to move towards multichannel communication with email included into our existing response channels in phone and fax" (Mr.Suzuki).
Increased volume, improved customer service, emergency response issues
From 2010 to 2011, a number of issues began to emerge in FastHelp3 creating the need to seek out a new solution.
"First was the increase in volume. Up until then it had increased 10% yearly. Furthermore, the level of the subject matter of customer inquiries also increased. As the cars themselves were becoming highly electronic, there was demand for the appropriate knowledge to provide answers, making job support increasingly important. Also, there were demands to respond to the improvement in customer satisfaction being driven by the company" (Mr.Suzuki).
Furthermore, this was under the backdrop of two significant events. One was the impending end of support for Windows XP, requiring a response plan.
The other was emergency response plans. Hamamatsu City in Shizuoka, where both companies are located, has from an early time been identified to be at risk of earthquakes in the Tokai region, and with the area at risk being expanded by the Nankai superthrust earthquakes, the level of danger was further highlighted. Then in 2011 as the Great East Japan Earthquake occurred, plans were raised to move the ground floor contact centers up to the upper levels as a tsunami countermeasure.
In conjunction with this, consideration towards reforming the system began to gain momentum.
A smooth transition: an absolute requirement for system reform
Without getting bogged down in the old system, both companies began an investigation into finding solutions at the domestic call centers. Availability, operability, and efficiency were raised as requirements. For availability, the first thing was to remove the softphone system that was currently in use.
"In the case of a power blackout, you can't take calls with a softphone. We thought we should remove this vulnerability" (Mr.Suzuki).
For operability, it was to look for a level of operability that did not vary too much, adding unnecessary burden to the operators. For efficiency, there was a desire for features which enable a smooth response to a large number of inquiries.
"For example, the existing system only displayed a single customer response history at a time. In order to put up other customer histories you would have to close the one you were looking at. However, when it comes to our highly important response to customer inquiries, there is a need to provide it smoothly by allowing a number of customer histories to be lined up together with the input screen" (Mr.Suzuki).
From the beginning of 2012, through discussions with several vendors and a series of screenings, the final decision was made to select TechMatrix's FastHelp4.
"Of course ensuring us that we could smoothly switch over our data went a long way in satisfying our requirements. This was difficult for the other companies. As it the system is part of the same series, we can maintain operability, which makes the confidence we had in the existing maker one of the reasons for adoption." Mr. Suzuki remarked in regards to the reason behind the adoption.
Efficiency in execution and the ability to provide an appropriate response to customers
The new system has been in operation since March 2013. Only one day on a weekend was required to change over the system. From the following Monday, they were able to begin to accept inquiries without any issues, or resistance or confusion from the operators.
"The operators were able to customize their own screens and select the menus they needed to display on screen. The ability to display multiple customers' details on screen was also well received. They were also able to respond appropriately to the occasional more "passionate" Suzuki fans that called in" systems officer Ryo Nonomura explained in regards to the simplicity of operating the FastHelp4 screen interface.
Also, in updating the call recording devices, voices were clearer and easier to pick up, decreasing some of the stress involved.
The merits on the management side were also large. "At the contact centers, we are expanding on our product quality, all customer satisfaction reports, as well as monthly and yearly reports. However, because it became possible to search and collect data from multiple screens, reports became easier to compile, and completion times were reduced" (Mr.Nonomura).
It even made checking work more efficient with faster searches for recorded sound data.
The 'mountain of gold' and positive effects following a FastHelp4 version update
In updating their version to FastHelp4, Suzuki's customer contact centers produced tangible results especially in improvement of search capabilities, in addition to the aforementioned effects on screen operability and work efficiency.
Through multi-channelization, centralized data management, and synchronization with call recording equipment, important content from inquires and call recording data can be easily searched and extracted, even though management data increases, because search capability has been improved.
Customers who may speak a bit harshly or are more frank in their opinions are always reaching the customer contact centers. This precious voice of the customer is akin to a "mountain of gold" so to speak, in which product development and advice for improvement are hidden in large quantities.
For example as explained by Mr. Suzuki, "When we received a call from a customer who has slight color blindness due to a medical condition complaining 'The speedometer is difficult to read', we received advice leading us to consider universal design".
At these customer contact centers, which aim to be able to respond to customers while putting them first, there is a contribution also being made to increasing customer satisfaction, and product development by grabbing hold of this "mountain of gold". This is what continues to move the company forward internally.
Expectations on FastHelp4 and TechMatrix
If you were to ask us our plans for expanding CRM systems going forward, we are considering making it possible to have a voice recognition system for FastHelp4, as well as synchronization with text marketing tools.
This system recognizes and interprets the content of inquiries, then automatically displays a calculated answer, extracting trends in combination with text marketing. This will decrease the need for manpower, and should lead to faster resolutions to problems.
"As a car maker, the customer contact centers are some of the few places we can come face to face with customers, and so will become increasingly more important going forward. We would like to continue to rely on the support of TechMatrix into the future" Mr. Suzuki said of his expectations of TechMatrix.
* Interview date : October 2013
* The information in this article pertains to the time of production