Customer Service Re-Emergence
By Eric Tamblyn, and Global VP-Guru Managed Services,
Since the early 1980’s the recording business has moved from analog to digital recording and distribution. Digital claimed to offer superior audio quality, reduced production costs, and easy to distribute. One would think that 35 years later the music world would be completely digital. However, today’s audiophiles are starting to turn back to vinyl, yes vinyl recordings, as a superior audio experience over digital. Consequently vinyl recordings have increased over 49% in 2014 and over 6 million were produced in 2014 alone. In fact there is so much demand for analog and vinyl recording the once doomed record business cannot keep up with current demands. When a technology like vinyl records emerges from certain death, it is called a “technology re-emergence”.
Similar to the recording business, customer service has been through a number of large transformations over the last 35 years. Stove pipes of customer service channels (phone, chat, e-mail, social media, mobile, and web) provide various entry points for customers to engage with corporations. Interaction queues decide on how to distribute and engage with each customer. Agents are trained on how to engage with customers based on automated routing, customer interaction data, and pre-determined work queues. Self-service applications try and solve common customer problems as both a customer convenience and cost reduction tool. In many cases a very significant amount of orchestration has been finely tuned to deliver good service quality while balancing speed and cost.
Similar to the music industry (balancing quality, cost, and convenience) customer service levels are actually decreasing. In fact in recent surveys customers will actually pay more for a product if they believe they will receive better service quality. In turn customers pay over double the price for a vinyl record over a CD. Since most companies rank customer service as a key differentiator
“Customer service performance metrics trend to out weight costs over service quality, a conflict when trying to differentiate with a superior service experience”
Many audiophiles will insist that the digital recording industry left out critical emotional characteristics, which flattens the digital sound and removes warmth and charm. Similar conclusions could be said about the customer service industry. Most of the customer service innovations over the last 35 years were put in place to better manage and automate contact centers, perhaps leaving out some of the warmth that once existed without all of the technologies. Too much automation and disjointed, disconnected service channels add to customer frustrations. Many call queuing algorithms focus on speed of call distribution rather than call quality. Customer service performance metrics trend to out weight costs over service quality, a conflict when trying to differentiate with a superior service experience. I will be so bold to say not only is Re-Emergence needed; it is required for business survival.
So what would a Re-Emerged Customer Service vinyl record look like? Well, here are the 5 hottest tracks, or strategies business will need to incorporate to differentiate over the next 5-10 years
Track 1. “I’ll be watching you”. Understanding and orchestrating the customer journey is a transformative and cultural changing strategy all business needs to embrace. Company’s to tear down their service channels and focus on helping customers reduce efforts. Let you customers know “I’ll be watching you” across all channels and add warmth back into customer experience.
Track 2. “Faithfully”. Given the choice between speed of service and quality, most customers will choose quality. However, most service queues are based on speed. Moving to a quality based queuing system will require assessing and ranking agent skills, however, the effort will keep your customer “Faithfully” loyal.
Track 3. “Don’t you, forget about me”. Customers expect that you use historical information to better improve their customer service experience (think of it as “auto fill” for service), however most companies leave customer information within each service channel, thus “forgetting about me” during each engagement.
Track 4 “Call Me”. Given the option, most customers would prefer to have a call back rather than wait in a long queue or get an agent that is not skilled to help them. So given the customer the option to “Call Me” can both help reduce peak traffic, it will also help improve customer service qualities.
Track 5 “Eye in the Sky” Using analytics for continuous improvement is imperative in all aspects of customer service. Analyzing customer behavior, agent skills, interaction distribution and service KPI’s, require investments in analytical systems. Service analytics are your “Eye in the Sky” in achieving service goals.
The top 5 strategies above are the start of a “Re-Emergence” strategy that focuses on the customer, not just the distribution and automation. Great customer service tends to be when service is simple, anticipated and intelligent. Re-emergence needs to refocus on the fundamentals, which make up a great experience, like the Record Industry is realizing about vinyl records.