Why Driving Away Customer Contacts is the Wrong Approach

We all love IVRs!  Ok, no we don’t.  Study after blog post after twitter rant confirms that customers generally would rather take a sharp stick in the eye.

Then it’s web self-service.  Everyone wants self-service!  In fact they prefer it over human-based interactions.  Right?  Not so much?

So, why is it that, for certain individuals, words like IVR and other self-service elicit such guttural, vial reactions?

It’s not that IVR and other self-service solutions are inherently evil.  The answer lies in that, in a great many cases, these solutions have been implemented to do one thing.  Reduce the number of interactions that are handled by a human, thus reducing the cost of service.  And, over the past 30 years, that has been the overarching myopic focus of customer service organizations, regardless of industry.

Because, any company that isn’t maniacal about pushing customers to lower cost channels, driving down average handle times, burying the 800 number on the 10th page of the website and reducing the total number of customer interactions will surely not be long for this world.

Oh…wait.  Zappos, eBags, Virgin & Marriott among others do exactly the opposite.  And they seem to be doing o.k.

The fact is your company, any company, should want to talk to as many customers as it possibly can, through whatever channels your customers choose.  By this, I don’t mean talking to the same customers about the same problem or issue over and over.  Rather, cast as wide and deep a net as possible.  Why?  Because, if you make the investment in and take the time to listen to those unsolicited customer voices, the insights contained within will deliver a return far greater than the narrowly focused cost saving efforts of restricted access.

A strategy of cost containment and access reduction limits the insight into customer preferences, needs, problems to be solved and ultimately, their behavior.

Slide1

What if we looked at the service delivery model differently?  If, rather than the conclusion of the interaction being the end of the process, we need to view that step as a means to a different end.  Then the business justification becomes clearer.   Investing in more ways for customers to communicate with your brand as the means of gathering a greater volume of unsolicited customer feedback can drive innovation in everything from product development, retail experience to back office processes and everything in between.

Slide2

Pretty intuitive.  Right?

Now let me not be so naïve as to suggest that anyone in your organization, especially your CEO or CFO, is going to write a blank check for you to go out and double the size of your customer service organization, reengineer your IVR and website and dump a whole bunch of money into new channels just because of the argument above.  Sorry to say.  But, you’re going to have to prove it.  And the proof is going to be different in every organization.  So, pick an issue.  Run a pilot.  And build the business case.  If, during that pilot, you identify that you don’t have the data, can’t get to it, or don’t have the ability to analyze it, you may need help from the outside.

Also note that this model of customer service as enterprise analytics hub will likely require different skills and resources within your organization as you are changing the value proposition for customer service as an enterprise function.

We’ll explore those skills and the process for transformation in upcoming posts here.

Comments

  1. Amber Thompson says:

    Great common sense perspective on what customers want in “customer service”. Companies tend to forget that consumers are simply customers and they are generally contacting you because they have a problem. Yet we treat the customer service center as a cost burden comprised of multiple channels used to eliminate humans.

    • thanks for the comment Amber. The real opportunity is to start framing customer service not within cost parameters, but in a value creation context. If customer service is delivering value to both customers and the enterprise, the cost to service relative to the value created is decreased. Certainly one way to accomplish that is to lead the organization, using specific quantitative methods, in identifying and fixing the upstream issues that are driving demand for service. That will, over time reduce demand and allow customer service to focus on high value engagement with customers. Costs go down, value goes up.

  2. Great outline on the perspective that the “C-suite” takes on the value (COST) of customer service. As tangible results (market share) surface from the companies actively expanding customer connections the transformation will move consumer affairs from cost center to profit center.

    • good point, Spencer. Customer Service/Consumer Affairs has to take the reins in that proposition and create the change that will move the discussion from cost center to value creater. The C suite is not going to do it for them.

Speak Your Mind

*