Improving our customer services

Today we went live with our new customer services system.

It’s a very Kanban-ish with all the tickets visible, each ticket having a status and states to move through (open, waiting & resolved), each ticket having an owner which means only one person can work on it at any time, and tickets having an SLA which serves to limit the work in progress.

The new system will help the eight people across three sites involved in customer services to be more coordinated in how they help customers and achieve our principles:

  • Shared: We all work together to give the customer the best experience of the BHF. Customer experience is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Speed: We want to provide the fastest route to resolution for the customer.
  • Satisfaction: We want the customer to feel satisfied with the resolution, keep the relationship intact and maintaining the reputation of the BHF.

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.”

“I can’t do that” shouldn’t be part of the vocabulary of a multichannel business.

Next tried to deliver a rug to a neighbour who wasn’t in so the delivery driver asked as to take it in. Then the neighbour moved house and never collected the rug. We could have got ourselves a nice new rug for free and that could have been the end of it.

Instead we called Next customer services who couldn’t find any order information and asked us to return the rug to a store. We did so and explained the situation to the shop assistant. The shop assistant asked us to wait while she went off to speak to the manager. After a couple of minutes she came back and suggested that they’d take the rug, hold it in store and contact the customer and refund them if they didn’t collect it. We said that was fine, and could she write a note saying that the rug had been returned so that if the customer came back looking for their rug we had proof that we hadn’t kept it.

She said that she couldn’t do that and that the customer would get a refund and so we could ask them to check their bank statement to see the refund. I explained that that wouldn’t provide us with any proof and that the customer could still choose to claim that we stole their rug regardless of what their bank statement said.

She tried calling Customer Services to get more information but after another ten minutes of waiting I had to have a more forceful chat with her to make the point that we’re doing them a favour by returning the rug and that all we want is for her to write on the delivery note that we’ve returned the rug to the store.

She seemed unable to accept that we wanted some proof that we’d returned it to store. I even offered to take the rug to a different store or explain the situation to the manager if that made it easier for her, and eventually she agreed to do as I asked.

Multichannel channel is a challenge for any business. And most businesses understandably approach it from the system point of view when really a good multichannel channel strategy needs to start with the needs of the customer, and then empower the front line staff to meet those needs effectively. “I can’t do that” shouldn’t be part of the vocabulary of a multichannel business.