A few days ago I was asked on Twitter how I would define Customer Services: in the reactive sense, the pro-active sense, or both? It was immediately followed by a second question: What is the agenda for pro-active Customer Services? My initial response was that it is both (re-active and pro-active), for sure, whilst adding that I haven’t been giving the future of Customer Services very much thought lately (shame on me actually).
This great question and short discussion made me think though. The agenda for Customer Services in the (socially) networked era has more to it than transforming from re-active to pro-active, from helping customers re-actively answer their requests or solve their problems to pro-actively engaging through social media or any other channel to collect feedback and help prevent and solve (service) issues, or to assist Customers in their purchasing decisions. All important stuff, but already happening.
The Agenda for Customer Services is not (only) about integration of (new) systems, channels, quality improvement models or even pro-active servicing. In some format, more or less implemented or leveraged, this is already there. The Agenda for Customer Services is also not about transforming (or morphing) the traditional cost-center approach into a value (for the Company) approach. The latter not only not being the company’s choice, but also since it is mainly about maintaining the status-quo (how can we keep justifying that we spend large amounts of money on our Customer Services department? Because they contribute to value/revenue for the Company!).
So, what is the Agenda for Customer Services? I do not have the full agenda in mind, but I trust that you can help me with that by adding your views in the comments. Let me share some topics that I think should be on the Agenda of the company’s Customer Services Strategy for the future:
- Agenda topic 1: Align the scope of the Customer Services function with Customer’s service perception:
Customers think of service in a broader perspective than just after sales service as most companies see it. Terms, conditions, policies and even the products and services that are surrounded by them, may have more impact on the perception of good service than flawlessly executed customer service resolution. This topic is not only relevant to ensure alignment with the Customer’s perspective, it is also needed to be able to allocate funds and resources to those parts of the Customer (Service) Experience that matter most to Customers.
- Agenda topic 2: Expand the customer services function into helping Customer’s get the job done:
I take that a company’s improvement strategy should be focused on meeting the Customer’s unmet needs or desired outcomes whilst doing the jobs they are trying to get done. Helping Customers to better meet their needs is probably the most pro-active and largely unexplored function of Customer Services. Your Customers are closing the gap for you now on all kinds of (online) communities. Sounds great and is surely cost-effective, yet you are missing out on great opportunities.
- Agenda topic 3: Implement Enterprise Feedback Management (really now):
Collecting Customer feedback and using it will become more important in the networked era than it has been before. Customer’s will judge a Company’s value not only by the resolution of their own questions, problems or complaints. In the (socially) networked era Customers will also judge a company by the way it takes care of other Customers and how it improves based upon the feedback provided. Enterprise Feedback Management must become an integrated part of Customer Service design. Closing the feedback loop towards your Customers is not a nice to have.
- Agenda topic 4: Align you metrics with Customer’s service perception and desired outcomes:
Metrics and KPI’s need to be aligned with the scope and (new) functions of Customer Services. Aiming at meeting the unmet needs and desired outcomes this is also exactly what you should be measuring against. Correlating with Company’s performance (revenue, profits, retention, Customer Life Time Value) is the final step you need to take to see whether you are doing it all right.
These are my thoughts. Care to share yours (or comment on mine)?