Expansion problems?

Regus expanded its UK spaces in 2011 and continues to do so globally.

This restructuring is occurring as a result of increased demand for flexible working space. Of course, expansion can leave resources stretched, especially if it not only diverts senior bods away from day-to-day ops but also causes more pressure on an already pressurised booking and billing system.

Billing is sensitive

In the past I have often met with account managers to discuss invoicing and agree rates for meeting rooms. I sign paperwork and am left feeling happy.

Then sporadically I’ll get calls from either the Irish HQ or a Philippines call centre asking me to pay by credit card. This will then start a long chain of phone calls and emails where I try to explain I’ve an agreement to be invoiced.

I’ve even had old cards on record charged and have representatives call me to tell me the payment wasn’t going through, even though no agreement to charge to a card was in place.

Companies need to understand that billing is the most sensitive area. Customer satisfaction can often be achieved as far as delivery of the product is concerned, but if billing doesn’t go to plan then people will jump ship as they’re too nervy about the balance sheet.

Regus now has a minimum spend for invoice that’s fairly high. In countries such as Germany, the customer culture is such that when something like this changes, it is not taken lightly. Customers are likely to go elsewhere.

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CRM for the win

My guess is that problems can be narrowed down to a CRM system that isn’t fully joined up between account manager email, call records, and the central database, as well as with accounts.

There may be multiple records for each company on a system, as account handlers are often unaware of my previous spend.

This isn’t easy to fix, but Salesforce has never been more popular and many companies are realising that having a decent CRM system in place is the most important part of the puzzle, for customer care, sales pipeline, billing and more.

Improvement through social

One definite plus point for Regus is that the company is taking social seriously and with complaints being delivered increasingly on social platforms, Regus almost has a ready made contact system in the shape of a Twitter account.

Take a look at the account’s @replies to see how it is tackling complaints about service.

Staff turnover is tricky

To consistently be emailed a greeting from my ‘new account manager’ does not bode well. This is a problem I’ve also had with Dabs in the past.

Staff turnover is a fact of life, as is promotion and kidnap. But if, in the case of Dabs, previous spend is small, it probably makes sense for new account managers to pick up email forwarded on and then to sit tight rather than proactively contacting a customer numerous times who isn’t actually engaged.

Similarly, if spend is larger as with Regus, one expects the outgoing account manager to send a note or for your account to be placed with a reliable support function that goes to a number of competent reps.

If this system starts to break down, I have bypassed it and gone straight to a venue contact, someone I know to be good, and knowledgeable of the company’s workings but often who doesn’t have time to help fully or has to bite their tongue.

This is another part of the CRM problem.

Sales will be lost

If you email a company wanting to spend money, it can be doubly frustrating when service is slow or lacking because you’d expect the company to bite your hand off.

Part of the CRM problem is of course sales can be lost in the present as well as the future. Having email systems that ensure transparency across such a big company’s booking system is essential.

Analogy with travel and the task in hand

The travel industry, in parts, can be seen as one of the poster children of digital transformation.

In travel there was an obvious reluctance to invest in new technology. This reluctance stemmed from bean counters not wanting to sow in order to reap, and also because the nature of booking systems is that any change has a big associated risk.

The same can be said of meeting room space but making the change, investing in the customer experience at these most vital touch-points will help retain customers. This makes new customers incremental and not just ‘churn’.

Econsultancy currently has a range of services available that can help guide organisational change, business restructuring and digital transformation strategy