Define this. Customer Service is…

Definitions come and go. In this case, how companies define customer service is critical to how they position themselves in the customer ecosystem. How is customer service defined in your company?

 

 

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.

Reflections from Call Center Week 2013

I had the pleasure of sitting down with Jason Boies from Salesforce.com the other day to chat about our observations from Contact Center Week, held in Las Vegas in June.

His interview of me is here at Salesforce Marketing Cloud blog.

If you have a different perspective on where the industry is going, click back here and let me know in the comments.  I’d welcome some different perspective.  Thanks.

 

The Social Customer Service Talent Show

talentMany of the most progressive companies are blazing a path forward with new business models and technology to support a shift from reactive customer service (solve my problem) to proactive customer engagement (insure I don’t have any problems…or at least anticipate and minimize them).

This shift to proactive customer engagement has far-reaching implications across the enterprise. Too many to explore with any meaning in one blog post. So, since I’m sitting here in a contact center, lets dive into what that means here. For one, just when some of us old-schoolers have started to get their arms around the shift in terminology from “call center” to “contact center”, we now need to focus on this transition to the customer engagement center.  Yes.  In this case, a name is not just a name.  It is a vital element in supporting the enterprise shift to proactive engagement.

Proactive, predictive, multi-channel, cross-channel, omin-channel. In this human-capital intensive function within the enterprise, I’m wondering how’s all this impacting your customer service human capital strategy? The skill profile of the omni-channel customer engagement center representative is certainly different from that of the single-channel phone or email agent. So too are the methods by which the customer engagement center will acquire these human capital assets. The days of recruiting, staffing and deciding whether or not to outsource this function based solely on cost are long past. Customer demands of the engagement center are rising at a steady rate.

The complexity of this environment is not the only contributor to the need for broader and deeper communication skills. The ever-increasing public exposure of both service successes and epic service failures leaves no place for poor service to hide.  No longer is it even minimally acceptable for customer service agents to mechanically read from a script, capture some call notes and insure that the 53 elements of the quality form have been adhered to.  Customer service representatives have to be effective communicators.  Be able to think on their feet.  And possess sound judgement in order to do the right thing for the customer AND the company.  Oh, and the organization needs to empower the front line troops to do this.  But that’s another story.

In addition, the customer engagement center, through my lens, is fast become one of the focal points in the organization for not only collecting, but aggregating and analyzing the exponential growth in customer data.  Customer engagement professionals will need the skills to deliver actionable insights to various data consumers across the enterprise.  No longer is it sufficient to produce a static report and blast it out in email.  Not if customer service is to realize the strategic importance of sales, marketing, product development or other more traditional “knowledge capital” functions.

So, where is this new breed of customer engagement professional going  come from?  What does that hiring profile look like in your organization?  How are you going to identify those current customer service reps with the potential to take on this new role?  What are the new training requirements?  Methods? What does this do to how you model the finances of customer service?  It is certainly a different justification process.

Perhaps THIS is how marking and customer service finally get engaged…and tie the knot.