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That’s no moon. It’s a space station.
Obi-Wan Kenobi, in Star Wars
To any Star Wars fan, that line should be instantly familiar. Hearing it, they’ll recall the moment Obi-Wan Kenobi, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Chewbacca lay eyes on the Death Star. From a distance, it was perceived to be one thing; upon getting closer, it proved to be something else. And that something else was far more powerful.
This is a great analogy for the customer service–minus the evil, planet-destroying part. Companies of all sizes have some form of customer service. And while it is a powerful force for good, underneath lies power that can easily deliver significantly greater benefit to the organization.
Consider the purpose of customer service. It exists to respond to customers, address their issues, and to get them back on track–in other words, to right the failures in the customer experience. If every part of that experience–in discovering a new product or service, acquiring it, and using it–lacked problems, customer service wouldn’t be necessary. We all know such a perfect world doesn’t exist and hence the need for customer service. But beyond just engaging with customers, it can affect actual improvements in the customer experience.
Address common problems quickly
Interacting with customers one-on-one via telephone and chat are the common customer service channels. Today, customers also expect one or more forms of self-service. But to improve the customer experience, it must be delivered in a cohesive manner.
A portal should be the launching point for any self-service inquiry. One search should aggregate the potential answers across all the channels to reduce customer effort. Regardless of the service channel the customer uses–knowledge base, online community, or chatbot–the experience should be personalized so that only relevant solutions based on the products and services used by the customer are suggested.
Where solutions can be delivered instantly, workflow and automation should be utilized. Consider a situation where a customer discovers an erroneous charge on their credit card. With a few clicks, they should be able to initiate an investigation by the Disputes Department. This bypasses an unnecessary conversation with customer service, quickly starts the review process, and routes the request directly to the team that can assist, thus shortening the resolution time.
Connect departments to address issues
Using self-service to direct customer inquiries to other departments is a great option but it’s only a start. Customer service and other teams across the company should always be working together to address customer issues. Workflow can again help bring everyone together.
Imagine if a bank’s customer service team was seeing a higher than normal contact volume related to disputed charges. This might be an indicator of a larger issue. Customer service can assemble the evidence–the customer cases collected to-date–and route them to the Disputes Department for investigation. Using a formal process managed by workflow, customer service has visibility into the issue from assignment to resolution. Tasks can be reassigned if delays occur, ensuring the fastest possible resolution which translates to the best possible customer experience.
Deliver proactive service
The workflow-powered connection across the enterprise and visibility into customer issues drives new levels of customer service. It also creates an additional means of improving the customer experience: proactive service.
Consider again the large influx of customers with erroneous credit card charges. As a result of its review, the Disputes Department determines a miskeyed entry resulted in this issue and it affects a large segment of customers. Through collaboration with customer service, they discover that the customers who have contacted customer service so far only represent a fraction of those impacted–thousands more customers are likely to contact customer service over this issue.
In Star Wars terms, a “moon” approach would be to brace for impact, but not with “space station” customer service. By isolating the affected customers who have yet to contact customer service, they can be proactively notified of the issue and the pending resolution over their channel of choice, such as mobile app notification, text message, email, or automated call. When customer service is delivered proactively, customers aren’t forced to time out of their day to seek a solution–a poor experience. Additionally, customer service avoids a spike in contact volume. Call this a double win.
Delivering personalized and comprehensive customer self-service reduces customer effort and helps them solve issues at the time and place convenient for them. Workflow provides fast self-service solutions and also ensures more complex issues requiring specialists outside customer service get attention and a speedy response. Proactive service respects customers’ time by offering them solutions before they encounter a problem.
As the heroes of Star Wars learned, looks can be deceiving. In the case of customer service, it’s a lack of realizing the full potential of what’s possible by bringing all the power of the company into customer service. Don’t limit things by operating customer service in the traditional sense; instead, use it as a means of improving the customer experience.