Service Excellence

Bert Riel works as Manager Customer Care & Service at GROHE Benelux. GROHE was founded in 1936 and has since become the global market leader in sanitary products, including faucets, thermostatic faucets, shower systems and installation systems for the consumer and professional markets. In addition to its top-quality products, with which the company has won more than three hundred design and innovation awards in the past decade, service is another key aspect of GROHE’s success. Utilising the knowledge and hard work of the entire service team, GROHE Benelux is worked hard to provide Excellent Service. We interviewed Service Excellence Professional Bert Riel about what it takes to provide excellent service and GROHE’s strategy and approach.

1. What does Service Experience mean for an organisation like GROHE?

“Service and the service experience are incredibly important to GROHE. ‘Pure Freude an Wasser’ says it all. When product quality and design become intrinsic values for customers (they have come to expect well designed top-quality products), service gradually becomes the differentiator. It involves much more than politely answering questions. In close collaboration with our GROHE distribution and sales partners, we strive to provide an optimal customer and brand experience. To do so, we use a hybrid model in which consumers can receive expert and efficient assistance at the point of sale, but we as the manufacturer also provide assistance if need be. We conduct direct service interactions with professionals (B2B) and consumers (B2C). How great it is to interact directly with your distribution and sales points, installers and users on a daily basis? By actively measuring the service experience, we gradually gain more insight into how customers feel about us and what we can improve.”

2. What developments do you see in the service sector and how do you respond to those changes?

“The diversity of our customer base is growing. Some customers want us to provide assistance and take care of everything, while others want to purchase and install our products themselves. Regardless of which market channel is used to purchase the product, we strive to support customers earlier and for longer. For the retail market, this support naturally looks different than it does for the e-commerce or DIY sectors.”

“We therefore offer our service at those different times throughout the entire journey. Think of e.g. specific information when choosing products and accessories and support with installation or repair. In other words, everything customers need to optimally enjoy our products for as long as possible. That is also what makes it interesting to collaborate with you (Insocial), because you can help us make all these moments insightful.”

GROHE’s five experience values are: personal, reliable, involved, expert and carefree.

3. You completed the post-higher-education “Service Excellence” programme at Beeckestijn. You now use your knowledge at GROHE. The Service Excellence Model starts with developing and innovating an exceptional customer experience. What does GROHE’s exceptional customer experience look like?

“It is true that I put my knowledge to good use at GROHE. We basically started by analysing ‘where we stand right now’ and ‘what our customers want.’ What is truly important to them and what do they expect from GROHE? To find that out, we talked to our customers directly and formulated five experience values. To our customers, it is important that we are personal, reliable, involved and expert and that we offer them a carefree experience. We measure these five values with the help of Insocial to monitor whether we are performing well on all our core values. It is a continuous improvement process that involves both simple short-term changes and complex and strategic long-term changes.”

4. What is your plan of approach or strategy to realise this experience in practice?

“It is about providing an excellent customer experience and the road towards achieving that goal. We started by drawing up a so-called plateau planning, which we use to indicate what expectations we want to realise at what point. This provides the structure needed to gradually realise the optimal customer experience (based on our customers’ wishes). Providing an excellent customer experience is a constant journey during which you try your very best as a team, while also realising that you are not there yet.”

“We started with the basics, the cold, hard facts and the streamlining of our systems and processes. Are we easily accessible for customers? How can customers reach us and is this information easy to find? What are our waiting times and response times?”

“Next came the soft values. Do we use the right tone of voice during our interactions with customers? What do customers say about our service? What do they think? Did we give them the help they needed? We began measuring the five most important service experience values in real time and permanently and use this information to improve our service and achieve an even higher customer rating. ‘Continuous Improvement’ is top of mind for every member of our organisation.”

My goal is to make more and more people GROHE fans for life.

5. What are your goals as Customer Care Manager at GROHE?

“My goal is to make more and more people GROHE fans for life (from purchase to passion). This is the shift we spoke about earlier; from a focus on the product to a focus on the experience. Service plays an ultimate and crucial role in our brand experience. We have a fantastic team working on this. Collaboration, development and growth go hand in hand. I trust them to make service excellence an inherent part of GROHE’s culture all over the world.”

6. Can you tell us something about the biggest challenges you face along the way?

“One such challenge is creating support. Service is often seen as a ‘cost centre.’ I’m sure many Customer Care of Service Managers can relate to that. We were able to create this support at GROHE by carefully explaining what service is about and what you can achieve with it.”

“Another challenge is to realise the ultimate brand experience at any time through close collaboration with partners. Let’s be honest: we are not always successful. We have to provide the right information, knowledge and experience throughout the entire journey. We have therefore opted for active support for professionals and consumers alike.”

“Marketing, Sales and Service are gradually becoming intertwined. What we want is for people in a store who are looking to buy a faucet to immediately pick up the one made by GROHE, purely based on our brand promises. Together, these departments play a major role in the ultimate brand experience and in creating the ‘loyalty loop’.”

Insocial grants us insight into the “soft data” (the experience) as well. We can use these insights to train our team and restructure our processes.

7. How can a CX platform like Insocial help you achieve your goals and why did GROHE choose Insocial?

“Insocial grants us insight into the “soft data” as well. ‘Are we doing the right things?’  ‘Are we doing things right?’ ‘Is this in keeping with the goals we have set for ourselves?’ ‘What is not going so well?’ We can use these insights to train our team and restructure certain processes as needed. We do that all the time, which means we are getting one step closer to that excellent service every day.”

“Another aspect that Insocial helps us with is customer recovery. This means that we immediately follow up on all customers who give us a score lower than 7. A score lower than 7 means we did not perform adequately. At the very least, we want to receive an 8. In such cases, we want to know two things from the customer in question. Firstly, is there anything else we can do for you? Secondly, what did not go well? We can learn a lot from the answers we receive.”

8. What interactions with customers do you measure and what questions do you ask to acquire the most valuable insights?

“At the moment, we measure four touchpoints. Two of those have to with customer contact/communication, namely telephony and email. The other two touchpoints concern warranty processing. That means service provision via components and on-site visits, where we send out a repairman to conduct repairs.”

“The interesting thing about measuring these different touchpoints is that you start to see differences in the ratings. For example, the CSAT for visits from our repair staff is very high. That means customers are highly satisfied with this service, yet the Customer Effort Score is a bit lower in this category. It is easier for customers to receive a component than it is to have a repairman come by their house. For each touchpoint, it is therefore important to look at the differences in the scores, understand what these differences mean and what improvements you can make.”

9. How does GROHE develop and maintain its staff’s involvement and customer-oriented attitude?

“First of all, we make sure GROHE is a great place to work! We celebrate our successes and the team spirit is great. We also focus on behaviour. It is important to us that our people show initiative and that they are honest and entrepreneurial. We give each other plenty of room for this.”

“That open culture helps to celebrate successes, but also makes it easier to address things that are not going so well. Structurally sharing customer experiences and seeing how your efforts truly make a difference is a strong motivator and fosters independence. In addition to sharing this information with the team, we also frequently report at the management level. These reports are linked to our customer satisfaction targets. We are now working on narrowcasting, which we will use to share response and experience ratings in real time throughout the organisation via displays.”

10. Do you have any tips for other organisations who want to take their service to the next level?

“Think about your ‘end-to-end strategy.’ The right balance and interaction between marketing, sales and service will ultimately lead to improved efficiency and – crucially – a better customer experience.”

Are you eager to use the right insights to improve your service, just like GROHE?

With Insocial, you will know exactly what customers think of your service across all channels: from calls to your call centre to email traffic, your webcare team and even the chatbots you use. Gather feedback from all channels in a structured and insightful manner. Would you like to know more? Our CX experts are happy to tell you more during a personal demonstration – without any further obligation!