Leaders, Does Customer Service Fix Failure or Build Success?
by Kate Nasser | 16 Comments »
The Future of Customer Service & Customer Experience Without Silos
More and more C-Suite executives are seeing the business value of a super customer experience. Because B2B and consumer customers have easy access to more experiences and choices, customer experience is becoming a competitive differentiator.
Customer Service Teams
Will this be turning point of recognition that you have long desired?
Historically, leaders have viewed customer service as an expense that fixes company failures instead of brand building moments that contribute to business success.
They have poured resources into other aspects of customer experience (improved product design, redesigned sales channels) all with the view of reducing the need for customer service.
They have also looked for any way possible — from off shoring to automated reps in online chat sessions — to reduce the operational costs of customer service.
Now that customer reactions to those steps have been less than WOW, companies are reconsidering the business value of the culturally focused human touch in building company success. Who better to tap than current global customer service teams?
Customer service teams: Are you ready to embrace the changes needed to fulfill the new role?
Customer Service Leaders: Key Questions to Ready for Success
How many of your metrics are focused on measuring cost and justifying your customer service teams’ existence vs. measuring customer experience? Of course cost is always an issue. Yet in the new success role you will play, it only takes on meaning if paired with what you are delivering that the customers value.
Re-allocating Agent Time.
Customer service operations managers — how would you react if the leadership asked you to allocate agent time to participate in other customer experience activities — product design review, listening to focus group feedback, participating in projects to redesign the online customer experience? Would you want your agents to contribute to these opportunities or worry that that it would drain your department temporarily or permanently?
Networking to Build the New Role.
Customer service managers — are you currently networking with your peers in other customer experience departments? How are you actively working to break the silos and build success for the company with other teams involved in customer experience?
On customer service teams where there has been an extreme focus on cost metrics (e.g. average handling time), you may need to un-train and retrain agents for this broader role. Are you open to this?
Also, if you have also set the culture to be highly competitive between agents by publishing individual agent metrics, you may need to build collaborative skills to work with other customer experience teams and to focus all on unity of purpose.
This change is low risk and high return. There are many customer service teams who have met their performance metrics without agent competition and internal collaboration improves the customer experience.
OK customer service managers — now for the tough question. If leaders were to float the idea of reorganizing to integrate customer service teams into other customer experience departments, would you resist? This is difficult for it may mean a dramatic shift in your role and career.
Overcome the fear of this change by realizing the potential for your career in having exposure to these new opportunities. Just as your agents will flourish from this cross pollination of professional development, so will you.
Be aware of the signs that you are holding on and resisting change:
- Insisting it won’t work because the cultures and goals of the various teams are too diverse. Instead establish the new goal of a seamless customer experience and build one culture to match it.
- Foretelling catastrophe in operational performance if these changes are made. Performance has to match the newgoal!
- Interpreting the idea of reorganization as a condemnation of all your efforts to date
Address the last one by stepping up and proactively lobbying to replace the old fixing failure view of customer service departments.
Show leaders in your company that you and customer service agents can build bridges between all customer service & experience teams for the success of the company.
If you truly want to rid your customer service teams of the fixing failure role, step up and champion the idea of a seamless super customer experience.
The future of customer service and super customer experience will be built without silos. Customer service managers — why not lead the way?
From my professional experience to your success,
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™
Super Customer Experience in Harmony With Customers
Leaders, Foresee the Burdens of Needy Customers
Kate Nasser, The People-Skills Coach™, delivers coaching, consulting, training, and keynotes on customer service experience, teamwork, and leading change. She turns interaction obstacles into business success. See this site for workshop outlines, keynote footage, and customer results.
Nice article Kate. The key thing I see in here is the need to get rid of the old mechanistic thinking that says there are some “parts” of customer service that can be separated out, rationalised and got rid of to cut costs. Customer service is a complex thing and in order to have that seamless experience you mention, a systems thinking approach is required. All the bits are required, none of them is discretionary. Systems thinking will not look at customer service as a “fixing failure” solution, it will instead view it bigger: something which boosts your brand. I’m with you on the point that customer service should not be silo-ed, it should sit with everyone who works for a business; this is much more a systems approach. Customer service is everyone’s business.
To your comment about “systems thinking”, I would add that organizational politics that impact the customer have no place in good systems thinking. Protecting fiefdoms/silos can sink customer service.
Thanks for adding your org. perspective on this!
You are absolutely right about the change in role of the customer service!
I also agree with John’s comment above that customer service staff should be always informed and participate in design phases as well coz they are the front line of the business and they know better what customers want!
Exactly Khalid. Why not tap front line employees tremendous knowledge about customers to improve the brand!
Thanks for your comments — and connection/friendship as always.
Great article on the power of shift to really putting customers at the center of an organization’s strategy. This shift requires customer service teams to do more, especially as it relates to internal processes that ultimately impact customers. Being more active in usability, quality, and other operational areas of a company is vital. It is no longer just doing phone work or computer work; it is being engaged in process work, carrying the voice of the customer and implementing it.
And the good news is Jon — most customer service employees would welcome the chance to be more broadly involved in shaping the customer experience. Org. structure, politics, and an insatiable craving for operational performance metrics keep this from happening.
Thanks for weighing in on this important subject.
The only way to change the role customer service plays in a business is to offer quality product or a service. If what you’re offering sucks, than that’s the first thing that needs to be fixed; otherwise you will be fixing failures non-stop. Get rid of the failure to stop fixing it.
The other problem I have with customer service is their notion that they are not in a sales position. Frankly, customer service does more for the business in sales than sales department could ever do. Businesses spend money on acquiring new customers, but it’s the current customers you already have that spend the bulk of money on you and keep returning… if the customer service is good, not only fixing failures but also helping the customer with whatever needs they might have.
Thanks for a great write up, customer experience is what matters. Start with a good product/service, and wrap it in a nice, friendly, and lovable customer service, with a bow on top =)
Thanks Viktor. So pleased to have your insights on this post — and I love the way you “wrap it up” in a bow: Have a great product/service and wrap it in lovable customer service. So beautifully said.
Many many thanks!
Great article Kate, you have managed to get right to the heart of issue!
Your assessment of how many organisations currently position customer service is, in my experience, so very accurate. Service is often seen simply as a subordinate function that protects and defends the business from problems with consumers. A leap of faith is required by many business leaders before they will see service as a driver of the strategic agenda, instead of (at best) as contributing only to the delivery of the organisation’s objectives.
You raise some excellent questions that will, I am sure, stimulate readers to take a deep, hard, look at how they perceive customer service, and start to realise the true value it can deliver for the organisation.
Great article Kate. Thanks for sharing.
It’s interesting to watch this evolution in how customer service is perceived. I love that this has gone from an area that was outsourced and seen as a waste of money to one of focus. The companies that are really succeeding at this are the ones that structure their company around customer service. Like you guys say, it’s important to keep customer service involved in many of the areas of an organization because they are the ones communicating with the end user and often the first to know of issues and what the customers really want.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in customer service and I love how companies that have gone away from good service are returning because the power truly is in the customer wallet and customers have become fearless about expressing their opinion.
If all of this results in customer service becoming a more appreciated department, maybe companies will see the value in having a core group of people connected to customers in a way that the rest of the company can never be. It’s time to see the value in good customer support instead of trying to find the cheapest way to deal with unhappy customers.
Great article, Kate. Customer service is not a department anymore. What’s changed? It is now a philosophy to be embraced by everyone in the organization – from the highest level executive to the most recently hired intern. It is everyone’s job.
It is everyone’s job — and crossing the lines or building bridges between these “jobs” creates a far better customer experience!
Thanks Shep. Your contributions to these posts are always cogent, concise, and much appreciated.
This is a thorough and thought provoking overview Kate. Customer service is at the cornerstone of most businesses these days. We have all heard stories of those cases where people have bad experiences, whether it be in business or in our personal lives, we know it: a bad experience is frustrating, effects brand image, and feeds your competition!
When you say “Be aware of the signs that you are holding on/resisting change” I think this is the key. We must all change our customer service approach with the the changing needs and demands of our clients. Your suggestions of cross department collaboration, and shared learning are key.
The more information people handling customer service can be exposed to – the better position we place them in to be able to help. Involving customer service teams in extended learning (training) gives them the opportunity to be exceptional, to speak with confidence, and to get the job done.
So much can be learned by visiting call recordings or examining existing experiences, and stepping back for a moment, and just listening to what occurred.
Thank you for this excellent overview and great advice. Companies have to get down into these areas and think about how they are responding, are they adapting, changing and empowering employees to represent the brand to the best of their ability.
Your suggestions are surely keys to success, improvement and advancement!
Many thanks for your thought-filled comment. My favorite is your advice: “The more information people handling customer service can be exposed to – the better position we place them in to be able to help.”
In this info rich society we live in, customers are intolerant of CSRs, agents, and reps who don’t have information. It seems illogical to them since technology makes information so easily available.
Thanks for this highlight and your comments.
Great article, Kate! Another thing to keep in mind is a “all hands on deck” approach. Every person in your company should be considering the customer in what they do. If someone has a “that’s not my job” mentality when it comes to giving CS you should get to the root of that right away. Everyone should be able to pitch in. Maybe they won’t get the issue solved right away but at least they can get the ball rolling! 🙂
I love your “all hands on deck” analogy. Great image of collaboration and definitely not siloed!
Many thanks for your contribution to this discussion. Hope you will weigh in on other topics as well.