How I Would Design A Customer Service Solution

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If you could wipe the canvas clean and start fresh,
how would you design my companies customer service solution?

Not a new question for me, but the answer has been evolving
as I have grown up in the call center (sorry contact center) industry.  In
the late 90's early 00's my response would have been about cutting costs, and
introducing automation to the call to streamline it's support.  In the mid
00's my answer would include self service operations via the Internet, as well
as introducing email and web chat as a standard communications platform.
 Now in 2013, my answer has evolved to a solution that sounds more like an
SAP software solution for a major manufacturing organization who is obsessed
with Six Sigma.

So I realized that I need to simplify this
painted picture of customer service.  After some very hard work, and internal debate, below is my
first shot at what an ideal customer service solution would look like here in
2013 to me.

1. Phone Support: The most expensive,
but still the most critical part of any customer service strategy is phone
support for your customer.  Unlike years past where my first reaction is
to place IVR support on the front end of the call, this year I am taking a page
from Discover card and suggesting a live agent answering who can support the
caller for any of their needs.  From a training perspective this will require
additional time and effort, but the outcome is the ability to create a
horizontal career path for agents, which is great for moral and attrition in a
contact center.  

Important points for your call center operations:

- Stop managing by Average Handle Time and Average
Speed to Answer, and start focusing on First Call Resolution.  What you will
begin to see is that your overall call volume will begin to decrease and
typically your average handle time may go up a little, but not as much as you
would believe.  Dont stop tracking these figures though.  They still
tell a story, but they are not the stick, just numbers to use and support
mentoring of your agents.

- Empower agents to make decisions in the best
interest of the customer, so they can support the call end to end.  In
2012, *26% of Americans said they would switch brands because a customer
service department always had to transfer them around.

- Hire agents that match your culture and be open
to training the skills they need to support your customers.  So many contact
centers look for skills first, and forget that a skill can be taught, but an
attitude cannot be changed.  I always look for agents who are willing to
go the extra mile and always looking to do things for other people, before themselves.
 This is the mark of a great customer service person, that will always do
right by your customer.

2. Email: So many organizations set-up
forms on their websites, or offer up an email address that goes to some black
hole some where in their organization.  Email, though annoying and
overused, is still a critical communications channel for customer service.
 The trick to supporting email successfully is a good software solution
that can intake the emails, and read them and offer up suggested canned responses
to an agent.  This allows your team to be efficient and have a knowledge
base guiding their responses.  But, make sure you always stress that
responses MUST be personalized.  This way your customer knows they are not
just getting an auto response, but a response from a company that cares about
what they emailed you about.

Important points for your Email operations:

- Do not have your voice contact center agents
handle non-voice support!  Agents who are great at non-voice support have
very different characteristics that than of a voice agent.  For instance,
with a voice support agent you look for strong auditory skills and a gentle
voice.  But, in a non-voice agent, auditory skills do not matter, but
grammar and word-smithing are everything.  In my experience my non-voice
agents are solitary and logical learners, who have amazing resumes and writing
samples, and bomb in an interview.  

- I personally treat email response like live
calls, and strongly suggest your team looks to do the same.  What this
means is rather than the old 100% of emails responded to in 24 hours, I use 80%
of emails answered in 30 seconds or less.  Customers hate waiting and it
has been found that 75% of customers will call about the same issue they
emailed about if they have not seen a response to their email within 20
minutes.  Once that customer picks up the phone, you are basically
doubling your cost to support the same issue.

- I mention the use of systems in my support
solution above.  My organization uses eGain which has worked great for us.
 Other systems available are, ZenDesk, and Right Now
Technology.  All are vetted out in a contact center production
environment, and can scale as your customer base grows.

3. Web Chat: Thought to be a fad for so
many years, web chat has become a required standard of support today.  If
your organization is not supplying your customer the ability to chat with you
on your website, you are forcing that customer to pick up the phone and call
you, when you could have solved the issue in a much more cost effective manor
by using web chat.  The trick here, is to make sure you set-up chatter for
success. Similar to email with a great software platform that will allow them
to have real time knowledge base integration to help them quickly find the
answers to questions they are asked.  Another strong tool I love, is at
the close of the web chat to email the customer a copy of the chat session
along with links to self service tools on your website that can help support
their needs in the future.

Important points for your Web Chat operations:

- Unlike phone and email, I strongly suggest mixing
web-chat and email together.  They are a perfect paring as the
communications channels are so similar.  Plus since web chat is real time
interaction, you will find that it will help your team meet and exceed a
service level of 80/30 with email.

- Again I bring up software as a critical part of
this operation and want to share some suggestions here.  Our organization
uses many web chat platforms, but have found LivePerson to be one of the best
on the market.  Besides chat, it also allows your agent to push the
customer to a website and take over control of their screen.  A great tool
if you have online self service tools, and your agent just needs to then guide
them to help themselves.

- Another reason I love to mix email and web-chat
is that the hiring profile is exactly the same.  Please see #2, point 1
for details about the agents I look for.

4. Social Media: Commonly referred to as
social customer service, social media has become a customer service channel
that is so unique that in some companies I am seeing whole departments being
formed to support it.  Breaking it out of traditional support channels, is
something I am 100% in agreement with.  This is because social customer
service takes a blend of customer service and marketing skill sets.  It is
the first time that we are seeing the demand for the marketing team and
customer service to work together to help support the customer.  Because
of this unique blend, I see this team as a third team in your organization that
must have a leader that understands marketing, but has a primary focus of
customer service.  To be successful, like email and web-chat it takes a
great software platform to support it.  

Important points for your Social Media operations:

- For social media support you can use the hiring
profile for email and web-chat, but you need to place an emphasis on their
ability to understand analytics.  This is because as much as this role is
customer service, it is also marketing.  Everything your social customer
support agent does will affect the long term abilities of marketing your
company online.  You need agents who get this, and make sure what they put
out there helps the customer, but also is in line with your organizations
marketing plans.

- Yes, again we have software!  For social
media support you really need a combination of support solutions, but the
important one to mention here is monitoring software.  Depending on the
size and complexity of your organization will depend on the level of investment
you need to make.  My two favorite software solutions are Radian6 who is
owed by and Jive Software.  Both are amazing at monitoring
social channels, and building custom notifications for your social customer
service team.  But, that I will need a full article to talk about...

- Data mining for past interactions.
 Knowledge bases are okay for social media, but what you will quickly find
is that your CRM and documentation of past interactions with your customer is
what you really need to support your social customer service needs.  I
strongly suggest to organizations to take every piece of the client record and
make it searchable for your social customer service agents because, they
will need access to it at some point.  There is nothing worse than when
something is mentioned and your agent does not have access to a data point that
could stop a negative comment before it goes viral.

- Service levels are something that are not talked
about enough in social customer service, because most people have no clue how
to support this portion of your customer service strategy.  The reality is
that service levels need to be 100% as fast as possible.  This is a big
reason why social customer service must be performed by a separate team. Their
reaction time must always be N.O.W. (No One Waiting).  Social media is all
about instant gratification, and if your team does not support something as it
happens, it can quickly spin out of control and cost your company thousands if
not millions of dollars.

5. Self Service Tools: No matter
how great your customer service is, given the choice I would still take care of
something myself, given the ability.  Self service tools are so critical
today, and guess what?  They only save your company a HUGE amount of
money.  The trick with self service is to make it easy to find, use, and
navigate.  Another critical point here is to make sure you update your
self service tools regularly.  

Important points for your Self Service tools:

- Not everyone learns the same way, and your self
service tools must be able to handle all the different learning styles of your
customers.  I hate when I know I have found the answer to my question, but
the specific item I need is buried in a 30 page PDF!  This is why when I
help organizations design self service tools I always use the initials V.B.S.D.
to guide me. (Video, Bullets, Summary, and Detail)  Every question must
offer these four solutions.  This way your customer can chose what they
need at that time, so they actually use it.

- The ability to search a knowledge must not be
limited to keywords or search terms.  It must include the scripts of a
video, the bullets in a document, etc...  In addition, it must allow for
your customer to navigate to that specific portion of the Video, Bullets,
Summary or detailed answer.  That way your customer does not have to waste
their time sifting through everything to find the 10 words they needed.

- Make it accessible EVERYWHERE!!!  Just
because your self service is on your website does not mean it is every where.
 To be everywhere you must include mobile into your strategy, and this
does not mean just a smaller version of your website.  I tell my customers
all the time, self service is the best app you can make for your customers, and
they will love you for it.  Make sure to use a good app developer and
don't skimp on cost.  A good app will be great for customer engagement,
but a bad buggy app can be the kiss of death.

The main thing to remember this year is that more
than ever customers want fast access to accurate, updated information that can
help them.  And, when it is not available need your business to act
quickly to help them on any communications channel they feel comfortable on.
 No longer does your company get to choose the communications channel, it
is your responsibility as a good brand/vendor to be every where.  

To Your Success & Prosperity!

*2012 Global Customer Service Barometer, Echo
Global Research.
This article was originally posted on the Creative Business Mind blog.

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