Today’s post is triggered by Esteban Kolsky’s 2012 prediction for Customer Service markets. His predictions make sense, because Esteban is a good analyst that understands his job and takes it seriously. And since I do not understand a lot about the IT market, and frankly don’t want to, I advice you to trust Esteban’s views on that.
True, yet disappointing
I have to admit though, that I am disappointed with these predictions, because they are true. They show that vendors in the Customer Service arena, are hardly making any progress in understanding and shaping what it is Customer Service managers are trying to get done, now and within the next 2 to 5 years out.
And to me that’s disappointing because to a large extent many of the improvements we have made in the “industry’ were technologically driven. Think contact routing to the best suitable agent, think self-service solutions, think the numerous CRM, knowledge- and workflow-management applications, even think workforce optimization suites. All these tools have helped us to improve the Customer Experience even before we named it such.
But for quite some time now we are seeing, at large, diminishing return on those kind of investments. I have not recommended any such systems to my Clients for the past three to four years. And this is not because the market is saturated nor because of a lack of money. I don’t advice such tools because there is MORE substantial benefit in doing something different. Something that has a return on investment of months, not years. Stuff that benefit all stakeholders in AND outside the organization, like Customers, not just the company.
Stop the squeezing
We do not need more technology to help us squeeze the last drop of operational excellence out of our front-line service staff, We do not need large investments in Social tooling (for one, most of it is not that expensive) and Customer Service managers are also not waiting to be served from the cloud which mostly is just another delivery model for the same tools.
Three things to do
So what do Customer Service managers need? In my humble opinion they need to get the next couple of things done:
- Understand the Customer (Service) Journey throughout the lifetime of a Customer (and beyond) and thus understanding how value is created with the Customer at the different touch-points.
- Develop a clear understanding of which and how many contacts in the Contact Center are of value to the company AND the Customer, and which are not.
- Develop a Customer-driven dashboard to help you understand which Customers are where in the journey, how they feel they are being treated and how well their problems are being solved at what ‘costs/effort’ to them.. (not just you!)
Based on an overlay of the information and insights gathered out of the above three ‘things’ you should be able to extract priorities for improvement and start to manage, or maybe even adding, the right contacts, for maximum value co-creation, whilst getting rid of contacts that irritate both you and the Customer. (You should actually try and do this for all touch-points, but you will probably be working on this part for the next 2 to 3 years, so don’t bother just now).
These priority contacts need to be designed as part of an orchestrated end-to-end experience, not a stand-alone transaction or interaction. And I’ll tell you this: Those priority contacts are not very likely improved through a new Social Media tool, more workforce-repression solutions or a cloud based ‘anything’.
Once improved ‘the right way’ though, your Customer Services will no longer be a transactional value extracting unit, and its returns will exceed your Customers’ and bosses’ wildest expectations.
In my humble opinion of course.