By Ed Ariel
Vice President, Customer Service
Many changes have been made over the years in the name of making things easier for the customer: Questions and Answers (Q&A) became Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs),which then morphed into Self Help (no initials, doomed for failure). But did those changes really help the customer? There is a lot of talk nowadays about re-engineering the call center to take better advantage of technology. You can make small changes for the sake of jumping on the bandwagon, or you can take a data and customer-driven approach that positively impacts your organization and your customers.
At ezCater, we are insanely focused on being insanely helpful to our customers at every touch point. When we discuss implementing a new technology, the critical question is always ‘why?’ Whenever introduce a new technology unless it maintains (at a lower cost) or improves (1) the level of service or (2) the experience for the customer.
Many companies implement re-engineering plans with the primary goalof reducing costs. Reducing costs without improving the customer experience may provide a short-term benefit, but if customers do not receive the level of service they expect, they will eventually stop using your service. In that case, short-term gains will be quickly wiped out bya lower customer lifetime value.If you try to offset departures by acquiring customers at a faster rate, you may then end up with another costly repercussion: higher customer acquisition costs.
This is not to say that reducing costsis always detrimental. Show me a call center without customer chat or a work force management tool and I will show you a call center with some easy opportunities for improvements to the customer experience as well as cost reductions.
To determine if a new technology will also enhance customer experience, look to the data. This data should come from two main sources:
- Your frontline service staff
- Conversations with multiple vendors and new technology users
The best companies hire the best people and utilize those people to improve their service. There is no better way to collect data on features that your customers arerequesting or features that will improve the service experience than from a highly skilled and motivated support team.
Your support people have the most direct interactions with your customers. They hear what your customers like and don’t like, and, maybe most importantly, how your service compares to competitors.
Set the expectation that staff should be acting oncustomer feedback as early as the interview process. The goal of continuous improvement from your service team should be reinforced throughout training and used as an ongoing evaluation metric. The best members of the service team are the people who listen to the customer, probe for additional information, and present well-thought ideas to the management team.
Conversations with Multiple Vendors and New Technology Users
There is usually a push to move fast once your company has decided to make improvements. This is rarely recommended. The best next step is to start collecting more data. This data will generally fall into three areas:
- Measure what you are trying to improve. Is it length of interactions with a customer, how long an agent takes to complete a task, the level of satisfaction achieved by a customer Figure out what your goal is and how to articulate it.
- Talk to existing partners and industry contacts. The easiest data to collect is from your existing vendor partners. Who do they use to solve this issue or, even better, who do their partners use to solve this issue?
- Talk to the solution providers (even if this is internal). This is your opportunity to ask the hard questions: “We see that you, Company B, and Company Care the industry leaders. What makes you the best choice?” This is a logical question that will immediately give you a list of the differentiating factors for each vendor and quickly eliminate options that will not accomplish your goals.
Ed brings more than 20 years of experience building, implementing and managing comprehensive customer service and business process improvement programs and teams. Ed has a winning record of simultaneously boosting customer satisfaction and company profitability by building and directing great teams and equipping them with top-notch technology. Ed has held leadership roles in customer service, operations and risk management at Fidelity Investment Systems Company, TNCI Operating Company and AT&T. Ed holds an M.B.A. from Bentley University and a B.A. from the University of Massachusetts/Amherst.