Challenge Customer demand for service – Test your might
Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results
-- Alebert Einstein
This quote tells exactly how most of the customer service mechanisms are structured --we are making the customer service department strong enough to handle any load in queue no matter how qualified or categorized it is. What is repetitive about this is the very fact that intel from support tickets is rarely obtained thus making the support queue increase with customers coming forward with same or similar reasons. Support demand needs to be classified and acted on accordingly.
Seven principles for achieving best service with less customer service are:
- Eliminate dumb contacts
Eliminate as many contacts as possible in order to focus more accurately on real issues
- Create engaging self-service
Create tools that will allow clients to help themselves (aside from well known NPS - Net Promoter Score as a metrics system, there is also CES or Customer Effort Score where clients can rate how easy was it for them to solve the issue or find the answer they were looking for)
- Be proactive
Have a system that will alert clients on any issues (global issues) before they have to contact you
- Make it easy for customers to contact you
Even though we need less contacts in our queue we need to make sure those who must reach us can do that effortlessly
- Own the actions across the company
Take issues reported by clients to appropriate department in order to be ironed up, fixed and made sure they don’t come across our path as repeated issue
- Listen and act
Even though we need less contacts in our support queue there is benefit to each contact - we have intel about how users use our service, product, platform, etc., and we can use this data to create new features or act on those bug reports that can help improve our current product
- Deliver great service experience
Use metrics gathered by tools like https://successify.io to learn more from live interactions and apply appropriate actions to improve the service provided
To start from the beginning, we need to address all the “dummy” interactions with zero value for company and zero value for the customer approaching us.
Eliminate dumb contacts
Going through our own experience with this matter, there is unexpectedly large number of tickets and chats that were addressing the same or similar enough issue throughout the years of working on this service. From billing matters where we have wrongly stated invoices, wrongly billed accounts, there are also technical issues with the same feature or product that are rather mitigated than fixed long-term, and the list goes on.
The point behind improving the service is to identify and eliminate repetitive and constantly occurring need for service - make sure billing doesn’t flop, that the feature is permanently fixed, etc. Technically speaking these are items that are impossible to get done and fixed for good but, what matters the most is the process. As long as the process of elimination exists, improvement will be seen. We can’t permanently fix certain bugs in our system, but we are definitely going to work on it and thus, have a clearer picture of the issue and possibly more effective communication with client reporting this problem.
Create engaging self-service
Customers are looking for help from customer service, and to be honest, we all like to be either helped right away, or if possible (and preferably), I would like to be able to help myself instead.
In this step we are bound to find a way to generate “get started”, “howto’s”, etc., articles or apps that clients can use to find the resolution for their issues. Needless to say, this is not the way we are fixing it, rather it’s a way in which we are lowering the number of unnecessary back and forth communication between support and clients. This way we are potentially working backwards to step #1 and strengthening it even more.
When an incident occurs on the platform or in any scope of the product we are supporting, we can predict two things - 1. Clients from certain geographical areas will contact us for details and 2. We will know approximately how many of them will experience this issue. In some form of willingful ignorance we are (usually) getting ready to handle all the complaints on support service side instead preparing the “service status” informative web page or other form of informative forms, depending on how our clients are reaching us.
There are many online services we can use to let our clients know the status of an ongoing issue with all the necessary details like when it happened, why, what is being done with the root cause and when do we expect it to be handled. One of which we can recommend is statuspage.io.
Make it really easy to contact your company
There are different ways we can do to eliminate “dummy” contacts but, making it impossible for clients to reach us is not a viable one. We are experiencing this approach every day when dealing with large corporations that have small support teams focused on highly valued clients or enterprise ones. The only mistake here is that instead of moving to self-servicing model, clients are more likely to search vendor with more direct relationship, better self-servicing methods or more stable service overall.
So by making it hard to reach us, we are forcing clients to think about other vendors. If, for whatever reason, company needs to or wants to keep the current support resources as they are, self-servicing methods must be advertised so that clients know what are the options support as a service is offering. However, we must never forget the fact that whatever we do it will never be enough to completely route all issues to self-service or otherwise, we will always need a way to hear from clients and give our attention to issues they are having. This is the only healthy thing to do, anyways.
Own the actions across the company
Simply put, internal ticketing system is a must-have in any working business today. Complaints of any kind towards the system or service we provide will always keep pouring in so we need to treat them with care. Worst thing to do is to “blame” customer support and expect support department to own the thread for reported issue where there has to be internal flow of information and responsibility from support queue to the department to whom the reported issue is concerned.
Usually, there are well known tools companies already use for product management where these tools have the ability to segment issues and projects between departments so that we can easily track the progress. In conclusion, instead of turning the blind eye on support inability to act without cooperation with other departments we need to setup a system where support department can address, escalate or delegate tickets to appropriate department(s).
Listen and act
Going back a few steps back and realising categorisation of the reported issues can be used in the very end of this process so we can act accordingly. So, why not use the customer service queue as a source of viable information when it comes to preparing the final act on getting the service on higher level?
Some companies use external tools to collect user voice and some are still using only support queue (more than enough) in order to categorise all the complaints. Properly categorised, complaints are a good source of information so we can prioritize and setup a plan for eliminating repetitive issues clients report.
Deliver great service experiences
Natural and final step is to use everything from the above and everything we’ve learned to apply to our system and then deliver excellent service to our clients. This is a complex process and needs to be planned out properly. For instance, “The Best Service Is No Service” addresses security information required from clients when they reach us as a step to be “handled”.
It is our duty to make sure all internal data, all client data and everything we keep on the system (regardless of compliance) and with that in mind, security is not something to be compromised on. Modern systems do, however, allow more user-friendly approach when it comes to identifying customer so, wherever it may be, we have to try and use the ability to cut this process without hurting the security scope of the platform.
Next stage in the process is to find the right balance between speed and quality. It is no secret that companies are setting up targets quantity wise but, at the same time, just by knowing this fact we have the ability to add up quality to equation. There are numerous tools like https://successify.io we can use to measure quality of the service our support team has provided and then act accordingly.