Top customer service strategies – No.7 Looking at processes from a customer and staff viewpoint
If I think back to all the conversations about customer service I have had with friends, relatives and customers in the last five years – mostly about complaints, of course – the one category that one could group most of them under is a failure of process in the organisation involved.
Ever since quality programmes were the rage in the 1980s and 90s many organisations have had an obsession with process – mapping, procedures, systems and the like. However, most make the big mistake of trying to “improve” their process from the inside out, implementing and changing things whilst not considering either the whole process from start to finish, or, more importantly, ignoring the views and practices of customers.
Here’s an example
A senior manager in a large organisation has direct internal access to anyone in that organisation, so if something needs doing, the process is easy. However, if a member of the public (a customer!) tries to get the same thing done they must do so via a website that goes in loops, drops out on you, or worse, takes all your extensive details that have had to be typed in and then says that they can’t help: a regular occurrence for things like insurance and credit card applications. Why weren’t those killer questions asked first?!
Or, when ringing an organisation, having navigated the ridiculous automatic telephone system with 4 options, then 6 options then 4 again, none of which apply to the query, one gets through to a person whose scripted answers and limited ability to help are set by “company policy”.
It doesn’t have to be this way!
Firstly, those bosses could be forced to use the same system as the customer to get something done: I bet it would improve rapidly then.
Next, constant listening to calls and using speech recognition systems would highlight bottlenecks, areas of specifically concentrated aggro, and process improvement opportunities.
Agents know about the process problems
The staff in the contact centres will always know when there is a process problem long before anyone else, as they have to suffer the wrath of the customer time and time again over the same thing. Giving more empowerment, having regular listening sessions and internal focus groups, seconding front-line staff onto project teams and the like will all improve the processes in the right way.
And the same goes for new kit. Involving front-line people right from the start, instead of just the IT department, can turn a poorly performing CRM system into a really valuable tool – for no extra cost.
In the last six months I have encountered a motor insurance company where the link to DVLA for the agent when I phoned took several minutes to connect whereas when I got the quote online the connection was instant – why aren’t they using the same link in the contact centre?
I’ve just had a utility company refuse to let me do something for my account over the phone that I discovered I could do easily online. Why?
I’ve had a bank ask me to type in my account number on the phone and then at the first encounter with a human being they ask me my account number. Why?
And so on.
These things are just dumb
These are just dumb, and, believe me, I’m not a difficult customer, honest, just one who writes these things down for a living to try to get organisations to listen and improve.
The “crime” is not to make the mistake. The crime is to make it over and over again, and not know you are doing it (or, worse, know and not care!).
Hope it’s not you I’m talking about, but there is a lot of it about.
Paul Cooper is a Director at Customer Plus (www.customerplus.co.uk )
Good article Paul!
As an observation, whilst the front line agents know the major internal process issues, they usually dont have a “voice” to push these back into the organisation. Issues are often fobbed off as there is no quantifiable data to indicate how big the issue is, so they are ignored by the rest of the organisation as one-offs. The agents are often driven by call volumes and dont have the time or energy to try and escalate issues via team leaders to managers to the rest of the organisation.
Speech analytics can be of huge benefit in this area, allowing not only the identification of issues, but the quantifying of them too. This can provide very powerful ammunition to the call centre manager when trying to drive through process change. Some studies in which I have been involved in the past uncovered some startling insights that have driven major reductions in call lengths and improvements in customer satisfaction through the identification and fixing of simple process issues. Driving these back into the rest of the organisation became much simpler with quantifiable data.
We have developed a Contact Centre solution which works directly off the business process using IBM BPM.
We found that companies were spending fortunes on designing the process behind their website/ecommerce systems. A completely different group were designing their contact centre processes. Then a third group were designing the in-branch/in-store process.
Yet customers were often switching between all three methods. No wonder they aren’t getting a good experience.
By designing the custoemr experience you want your customers to have, then implementing it through all of the methods by which they interact with you you create a seamless, optimised experience. And save a fortune in duplicated effort.
You are spot on, having worked in the Customer Service Industry for 19 years there is nothing more that I can add to your wise words.
Until your next article…………….