“Save one person.”
“Then you’ll know.”
I sat down one night recently and a superhero movie happened to on. I’d seen it before, but I enjoy this movie genre and ended up watching it yet again. If you’re not familiar with this movie, this bit of dialog is a pep talk between a veteran hero and a younger teammate, assuring him that while he might not be ready for battle, he has the abilities to make a difference by rescuing some hostages.
You’re probably wondering what this scene has to do with customer service. Bear with me here.
Generally speaking, customer service is not a matter of life-or-death. But for a customer experiencing a problem, it can seem like the end of the world for them: they can’t use a product or service as intended, and this is creating a setback for them in their personal or business life.
In the movie, the junior hero takes the advice and acts–saving just one person–which makes him realize how easy this is, leading to saving more and more, eventually removing every hostage from the grips of the supervillain and his minions.
Just as in the movie, the same is possible with customer service, but in a different manner. One small act by a customer service agent can create big results if the right follow-on steps are taken.
Saving just one
The ability to deliver a solution at large-scale starts by resolving one issue. An agent answers a telephone call, responds to an email, or picks a chat from the queue. The customer’s issue is new, something the agent hasn’t encountered before and a solution doesn’t exist. The agent asks the customer some questions and troubleshooting entails. The agent might consult with fellow agents or more senior agents for ideas. In time a solution is found, and the customer’s case can be closed. One customer is saved.
The story could end there, with just that one customer saved. However, this newly discovered problem is likely to impact more than just one customer, and this newfound solution has the power to save them as well. But how can more be saved from this problem, and in a manner that is faster and more direct?
Documenting the solution
The first step is to take this solution to the masses. To do that, the problem and the steps to resolve it must be documented. Typically, this is done using knowledge management to create an article. Articles are published online for customers preferring self-service. Customers locate the solution either by searching the knowledge base directly or it might be offered as they converse with a chatbot.
This process takes work, but modern customer service platforms reduce the effort necessary to document solutions. When a case is closed, if a relevant article doesn’t already exist, the platform can suggest agents copy case details into a draft knowledge article. Those draft articles are then submitted via workflow to knowledge teams who will validate them, edit them for style, and make them available online.
Granted, not every customer will go online to find their own answers. That’s okay because knowledge articles will benefit other agents assisting customers live. Agents can perform their own manual search for possible solutions in the knowledge base, and select customer service management platforms will even automatically suggest relevant knowledge articles as the agent enters case details. Now, more than one customer can be saved by making this solution easily reusable.
Proactively serving customers
So far, service to customers has been reactive in nature: though a solution is available, customers will still encounter it, then contact customer service directly or by going online to find an answer themselves. More than one is saved, but even more is possible. The next level of service involves notifying potentially affected customers of the available solution before they encounter the issue, taking heroics to a new height.
Why is it such a big deal? Though proactive service is gaining in popularity, it is challenging to deliver. First, potentially affected customers must be identified. Then some sort of communication (such as an email) is drafted explaining the reason for contacting the customer, what the issue is, and a link to the knowledge article. It is then sent to customers. Now, more than one customer is saved prior to experiencing a problem.
While it sounds simple enough, this process requires information from customers, information a business might not typically be collecting. What kind of data? Whatever is necessary to help narrow the communication only to those customers likely affected. If a certain batch of products is defective, this could be model and serial number. If a product tends to fail outside of certain temperature ranges, this might be where customers are located. Companies understandably do not want to barrage their customers with messages–especially those relating to problems a customer might never encounter–so the more targeted the communication is, the better.
Find your one
If this entire process is already familiar and regularly practiced in your customer service organization, you are ahead of the curve. To quote another superhero movie, “with great power, comes great responsibility” and you are effectively exercising that power. But could you do even more? Is the new knowledge article creation process as straightforward as possible? Review current problem trends; could additional customer details be collected to better target customers for proactive service?
You shouldn’t stop at only saving one customer at a time. The right customer service platform offering the right capabilities and the right processes makes it possible to transform one-time answers into long-term preventative solutions for all.