Roger Swannell

Tag: custserv

Closing the loop in Customer Service

No customer contacts Customer Service for the sake of it. They do it because they have hit a barrier somewhere else in the organisation that is stopping them from achieving the things they set out to do, and they turn to the Customer Service to offer solutions.

When this happens customers want:

  • To be able to contact an organisation in ways that suit them.
  • To have their questions answered quickly, accurately and in language that suits them.
  • To feel listened to and understood.
  • To get back to doing the thing that they wanted to do in the first place. (Sometimes this is impossible and there is no solution, sometimes the customer journey goes into a dead end, what then?)

Organisations need:

  • Tools/systems/processes/teams to facilitate these outcomes for the customers.
  • To have a process for understanding the barriers and dead ends and deciding what to do about them.

Customer Service in isolation helps the problems to keep occuring.

Customer are the best testers an organisation could ever have. They’ll break every process, introduce every edge case, overcome every barrier and dead end. The challenge is to get that feedback from customers, through the Customer Service team, and on to the teams that can use it to make improvements. Close the loop.

Why I love customer service

The majority of my role is focused on improvement projects. Only maybe a sixth of my time is spent on the operational side of the business. And maybe only a sixth of that time is spent on answering customer service queries.

But, I think customer service is the most important part of what I do. I look at customer service queries every day, not because I’m necessarily the best person to answer them, but because it’s a good way to see what’s going on for our customers.

‘Getting closer to customers’ is one of the principles I think a lot about in how we improve and grow the business, and of course providing excellent support for our customers is a vital part of that, but more than that, our customers tell us how we should improve the business so we should definitely listen to them.

Customer Service Systems: Not just another inbox

Thinking about how to implement a Customer Service System to avoid the system being used as just another mailbox, as just a different way to receive emails from customers and send replies. A customer services system should be so much more, and with some consideration it can be. And I think that consideration starts with agreeing some principles.

Good Customer Service starts with principles

Four principles that are important to me for customer services are ‘Presenting one organisation to the customer’, ‘Customer experience is everyone’s responsibility’, ‘Aiming for the fastest route to resolution’, and ‘Building capacity for information sharing across the organisation’.

Presenting one organisation to the customer

I heard a stat from some customer services research that said that companies that have three ways for customers to contact them only answer the same question with the same answer 23% of the time. Three channels of communication and the giving customers the same answer falls to 8%. And if a company has four means of speaking with customers the same answer is provided 0% of the time. A good customer service system coupled with an organisational shift to wanting to be customer-centric is important for presenting one organisation to the customer. And presenting one organisation to the customer is simply what customers expect.

Customer Experience is everyone’s responsibility

This is a favourite of mine. It doesn’t necessarily mean that everyone in the organisation writes replies to customers (although that is one way to go) but it’s vital that everyone in the organisation understands how they play a part in the experience a customer has of the organisation. Making the aim of providing excellent customers experience the responsibility of the finance clerk who banks cheques, the warehouse picker who double checks he’s got the right items, and the customer service agent who takes an extra few minutes to properly understand the issue the customer is facing helps the principle to filter throughout the entire organisation.

Aiming for the fastest route to resolution

Speed is important but competency is more important. There is little point being fast if the answer doesn’t resolve the customers issue as they’ll be back with further questions. Aiming for the fastest route to resolution involves understanding and optimising the route. This means being able to analyse reoccurring issues to fix the cause and identify barriers to resolution, so it isn’t quite as simple as just answering the customer as quickly as possible, it requires a lot more thought and even more action.

Building capacity for information sharing across the organisation

Answers found for one customer should be available for other customers and for other agents. This principles is important for optimising the discoverability of answers and encouraging self-serve. For the agents it means having a comprehensive knowledgebase that is kept up to date with new answers added by people from all across the organisation. For customers it means having a front-end system available that gives them the answers they need when they need them.

Principles, and getting everyone bought into them, are essential for shifting people’s thinking from ‘just another inbox’ to having and using a customer service system that delivers real value to the organisation and it’s customers.

Customer Services Strategy by Martin Hill-Wilson

I went to a key note speech by Martin Hill-Wilson. Here are a few of the inspiring and insight points he made.

“Customers lead the way in expectations and it’s easy for businesses to get behind the curve.”

“Self-serve only works if the answers are easily discoverable.”

“Marketing has no currency any more, advocacy is essential.”

“Channels multiply, they seldom die”

“Solving new problems in the old ways doesn’t work.”

“Delivering omni-channel on mobile is hard, but that’s where the customers are.”

“Providing digital-only customer service is channel disruption and block customers from choosing the channel that suits them.”

“Customer Journey Mapping is the visualisation of how things fit together, and for each touchpoint it matters what happened before and what happens after.”

“If you don’t understand how the dots join up, you haven’t understood the problem.”

“Customers can be encouraged to change their behaviour by offering a better alternative.”

“Customer Experience can be understood and measured by asking ‘Was it successful?’, ‘How hard was it?’, and ‘How did it feel?’.”

“Customers don’t remember the entire experience, they just remember the beginning, the end, and the outliers.”

“By 2020, customers will manage 88% of their relationship with enterprises without interacting with a human.”

“Self serve can reduce the effort for the customer.”

“Can’t increase self serve with poor customer journeys.”

“The history of Customer Service has been about efficiency rather than effectiveness and quality.”

“The best customer service teams deliver impact immediately and in the long term.”

Copyright © 2019 Roger Swannell

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