Posted by Matthew Vallance
The summer 2014 edition of Outsource magazine featured an interesting analysis of how a great customer service strategy can be formulated. The argument goes that we all know great service when we see or experience it, but the person responsible for a customer service team needs to measure it, manage it, and sustain those great customer interactions – none of which is easy.
At the front line of the customer and brand interaction are the agents. Whatever channel is being used – voice, email, or social networks – there will always be an agent there to represent the voice of the brand. You can hire great agents with an outgoing personality and a great attitude to service. However, if you then put those people in a team that is hampered by red tape, rules, and a shoddy service that none of them can actually be proud of, not only would it be a waste of skilled resources, but you will end up with a disgruntled workforce in your hands.
As Outsource Magazine suggests: ‘Even the finest waiter cannot deliver foul food with pride; they would prevent it ever leaving the kitchen.’ The Outsource analysis is more detailed than I can mention in this blog. But what I would like to add to their comment is that this issue is accelerating in importance because of the multichannel environment all customer service teams are operating within today.
But how is this multichannel environment really changing customer service today and what does this mean for businesses? I would argue that there are three major effects and every industry analyst or business journalist will be aware of these changes:
- Customers expect more out of service; they are using multiple channels, and most are familiar with at least six different ways to ask for assistance. There is also an increase in the frequency of engagement with customers asking for advice before, during, and after a purchase. The process of customer service is now an ongoing detailed engagement, not necessarily limited to comments or complaints post-purchase.
- This level of detailed engagement means that the customer service team is now far more important and integral to business performance. Customer service in most companies is becoming integrated with sales and marketing– and in many cases a vital part of their communications and PR process. As the place where customer interactions occur, this offers businesses limitless opportunities to use those interactions to enhance customer experience and satisfaction.
- This elevated importance of customer service today means that the agents on the frontline are more visible than ever. Contact centre roles have assumed more significance calling upon the skills of personnel trained to deliver complex roles in front line customer care. Needless to say, this change is revolutionising the customer care industry and the contact centre agent has become a critical part of the customer service infrastructure.
Multi-channel service has also impacted customer service performance metrics with an increasing number of businesses using advocacy ( NPS) , ease of use (Customer Effort Score, CSAT) etc. to measure and manage customer experience for positive financial outcomes.
In short, these changes in performance metrics, role of agents, shift in channel preferences and customer demand only seem to reinforce that customer service is right now an exciting place to be.
I’m going to use some of my forthcoming blogs to focus on some of these points in more detail. In the meantime though, leave me a comment or get in touch with me via Twitter @vallancematt. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what is really changing in the customer service landscape.