Customer Service Is Everyone’s Responsibility
By Donna Fluss
Customer service must be an essential element of the culture of every company, and all relevant departments must be part of the overall workflow. The days of interdepartmental squabbles must end, as it’s detrimental to customers and expensive for most organizations because it increases the number of employees who are involved in handling an issue, negatively impacting the bottom line.
There are many situations where multiple functions need to be involved in resolving an issue, but almost every employee should have the customer in mind at all times. This concept sounds logical, but it is hard to implement; people are accustomed to doing things the way they’ve always been done. One of our client’s employees fax documents back and forth even though they’re sitting 30 feet from each other. When asked why they don’t walk the item over and explain it, the reply was the infamous “This is how it’s always been done.”
Companies must start the difficult task of organizing their culture around putting the customer first. For the change to catch on, management has to demonstrate through their own actions the importance of customers. This can happen in many ways, including these:
- having senior executives spend time in the contact center to show their support;
- having senior executives take a call or two that are appropriate for them;
- empowering line management to make certain decisions;
- empowering agents to do things such as offer refunds, within limits;
- making supervisors available to speak to clients, instead of having them focus on reports or special projects;
- rewarding employees for demonstrating cooperation;
- creating a formal program where employees move throughout the company so that they know what other departments do; and
- paying contact center workers a fair wage, equivalent to what other employees are paid.
WHAT CUSTOMERS WANT
I’ve been told hundreds of times that employees don’t know what customers want. The best way to respond to this issue is to have them put themselves in the customer’s shoes. A customer wants to get a correct answer or an adjustment to her account quickly and easily. Customers don’t care that you are not the right person to solve their problem, and while they dislike being put on hold, it’s typically less frustrating than being told that you have to transfer them.
Customer journey analytics (CJA) can show the way forward, but it’s easier said than done. DMG has found that more than 50 percent of interactions (calls and emails) received by companies involve customers being put on hold or transferred. Some of this can be avoided by using an up-to-date knowledge base. Other interactions can be resolved by using presence technology, which allows the agent to reach out to an expert in another department, although the customer will be put on hold.
But these approaches won’t be used as long as agents are measured primarily by the number of interactions they handle and their average handle time (AHT). Therefore, changing the culture requires new key performance indicators (KPIs). It’s fine to keep track of the number of interactions and AHT, but first-contact resolution and ease of resolution are better ways to measure agents. The great thing about these two KPIs is that they drive down costs by reducing the number of resources involved in handling each inquiry while improving customer and employee satisfaction
The cost of customer service is increasing and needs to be reduced. Companies cannot afford to grow service organizations like they have for the past 20 years. But the answer is not to cut employees and then expect the remaining staff to do more with less. Cutting budgets and employees may help in the short term, but lasting actions must be taken, including breaking down walls between departments and improving self-service solutions. The great news is the growing presence of CJA solutions and intelligent virtual agents, which use artificial intelligence, machine learning, and natural language understanding and processing to help companies cut costs, make it easier for customers to conduct business, and improve the experience for everyone involved. These systems, with the support of executive and line management, can help companies make the necessary changes to organizational culture that put customer needs ahead of everything else.
Donna Fluss is president of DMG Consulting. For more than two decades she has helped emerging and established companies develop and deliver outstanding customer experiences. A recognized visionary author and speaker, Fluss drives strategic transformation and innovation throughout the service industry. She provides strategic and practical counsel for enterprises, solution providers, and the investment community.