Over the last several years, companies have come to realize the importance of the customer experience. Why? In a survey by Forbes, it was found that 59% of customers indicated a bad experience with a company caused them to stop doing business with that company. If this doesn’t strike fear into companies, consider also a Harvard Business Review study found increasing customer retention rates by as little as 5% could increase profits from 25 to 95%.
Let’s be honest, though. The experience won’t always be perfect. And the band-aid for when it breaks? Customer service. And delivering great customer service means more than just responding to emails fast and having a shorter hold time; to truly deliver great customer service, it must play a part in actually repairing the customer experience.
Working across departments
Efforts to improve the customer experience must start with two realizations: first, that addressing the same problems over-and-over will never improve things; and second, that customer service is not an island. While their primary job is to be the friendly face and voice of your company, they can’t be isolated and working alone. Customer service should serve as telemetry, providing valuable insight and information; it must be realized they can’t affect the change needed to address the broken experience. There must be agreement across the company that a relentless focus on improving the customer experience is important, and the understanding that all teams–not just customer service–play a role.
Identifying the root cause
Customer service primary task is to address customers’ issues. While it’s important to satisfy the customer with a reasonable, appropriate answer in a timely manner, this does nothing to tackle the real underlying issue. Problems are the result of a broken process somewhere outside customer service. Customer service can triage and identify a problem and perhaps even diagnose a workaround, but the real solution typically lies elsewhere:
- Widespread billing errors are a result of an issue from finance.
- Product quality issues stem from issues in manufacturing or engineering.
- Delayed or lost orders are the result of problems in shipping.
Customer service might have some insights into why an issue is occurring, but they can’t affect the change needed to prevent the issue from recurring. This is where providing the information collected and working across departments comes into play. The root cause can be identified, helping to not only fix currently affected customers but to develop a solution that prevents future occurrences.
Agreeing on a solution
When the root cause of an issue has been identified, its now time to work towards a solution. With problems coming in different orders of magnitude, how a solution is offered can vary. A lower impact problem might mean offering a knowledge article, while a more impactful issue might require a complete product recall.
In those cases where a business process change is necessary, the team responsible outside of customer service goes to work. At this point, customer service has already done its part to identify how many current customers are experiencing the issue (and perhaps, using analytics, have an idea of the potential future customers that might be affected), adding weight and priority to the issue. Be it altering product packaging, an update to the terms of the product warranty, or changes to systems providing order tracking information, other teams must now step up to deliver the solution.
But customer service’s job isn’t over. With another team addressing the issue, they still own closing the loop and providing the solution to the customer. By empowering customer service to not only assign tasks to outside departments using workflow (since things get lost in email) but also to monitor the work and the timeline to delivery, that loop gets closed faster. Once the necessary change is made, customer service can notify currently affected customers as well as breathe a sigh of relief since they have prevented additional calls, emails, and chats coming in on that same issue. But even more importantly, the entire organization, working together, has improved the customer experience.
The path to better experience
In today’s competitive marketplace, it’s dangerous for companies to simply relegate customer problems to customer service. Customer experience is the battlefield for the hearts, minds, and wallets of customers and customer service can’t be left alone providing workarounds.
A superior customer experience can only be delivered when teams work together. With customer service on point, they triage the issues, work cooperatively with other teams in the organization to identify the underlying issue, then discuss and agree on the solution. The break in customer experience is fixed, and customers will notice–and respond with loyalty and positive reviews.