With all the new self-service applications out there, how do companies ensure efficient and consistent customer service across all channels?
Plan, integrate, test and refine. It sounds obvious, and even a little patronising, but with the plethora of self-service technologies and new media channels available to increase customer service flexibility and satisfaction, it is often a principle that can be forgotten in the haste of deploying new solutions.
Planning for the impact the technology will have on the people and processes is critical. A first step is to define appropriate service levels and escalation procedures for the new channel.
Once this is understood it will become clear which existing technologies will be impacted, and the impact on the agents' desktop when customers escalate from self-service to assisted service and reporting systems.
A controlled introduction of the new channel to a particular customer segment can provide an excellent way of gauging use and acceptance of the technology. Piloting the system will enable rapid changes to be made based on real-life user experiences, enabling the organisation to "perfect" the system before making it widely available.
Finally, it's important to communicate clearly and actively with the customers to set their expectations on how the new self-service system will improve their interactions with the company.
How can a company instill a service attitude into its employees? Is this something that can be trained or is it down to each person's personality what level of service he or she gives?
People deliver service, therefore, attracting and retaining people with the right personality traits is important in delivering high levels of service. However, a business can also help create the right culture and attitude to customer service through effective training, motivation and people management. This is not the responsibility of a single part of the organisation, such as training or HR, but must begin at the top and stem down from the executives, through the team leaders, to the agents in the call centre. Active monitoring and management of the attitude and aptitude of agents is essential in delivering high levels of customer service.
Do you feel that executives of companies are still focused on service, or are cost reduction taking over?
Cost reduction is critical during difficult economic times, however, organisations that erode their service levels during this process do so at their own peril. If executives want to reduce costs in their customer service department they must do so carefully, intelligently and without reducing service levels. This sounds idyllic, impossible even, but can be realistically achieved through the automation of high volume, repetitive, simple transactions using customer friendly self-service technologies.
A prime example of this is the introduction of Natural Language Speech Recognition (NLSR) systems to enable customers to naturally interact, eliminating the frustrating and tedious task of pressing numbers on the phone pad to complete simple tasks. Customers therefore use the service more frequently and consequently reduce the load on call centre agents. This reduces call centre costs whilst maintaining, or even improving, service levels.
Can you define what 'World-Class Customer Service' really is?
Handling customers' enquiries quickly, effectively and accurately via their media of choice. However, as the definition is based on the needs and demands of customers, it is a dynamic, ever evolving goal. It is therefore essential to carefully listen to the needs of customers and adapt accordingly. Listening to customers requires a disciplined systematic process that can only happen efficiently and effectively through utilising supporting quality monitoring and management tools.
Do you feel that some industry sectors are better at service than others?
Highly competitive industries with limited barriers to customer churn have invested significantly in developing commendable customer service practices. This has occurred through necessity as service becomes a key differentiator. Also as industries have deregulated and new aggressive, nimble competitors appear on the landscape more innovative services are developed, particularly through using new customer-friendly technologies.
Do you feel that service should apply to internal customers (colleagues) as much as it does to external customers?
Efficient service to internal customers is essential to maintaining productivity and effective communication. With more emphasis being placed on flexible working, employees need to be able to access the services they need through the best medium they have available. In-house helpdesks for IT, Procurement or Financial services, for example, have a direct impact on the levels of productivity an employee can output. The company should therefore ensure that the employee has the right tools to deliver optimum performance.
Damovo is a services company delivering corporate communications, serving 26,000 clients in 18 countries on 3 continents. Through consultancy, design, implementation and management they deliver business solutions in the areas of - Data and Converged Networks, Voice Enabled and Mobile Solutions, Enterprise Relationship Management, E-collaboration and Managed Services.
Published: Tuesday, June 3, 2003