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Transform Customer Service into a Customer Insight Machine 

Jeremy Watkin | Jun 9, 2017 608 views 5 Comments

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I’ve spent most of my professional career in a contact center, and let me tell you what us customer service operations folks are really good at.

  • We excel when it comes to putting enough people in seats.
  • We are terrific at putting our heads down, mowing through a call queue, or busting out mass amounts of support tickets. (A former colleague termed this a “ticket headache”)
  • We love to connect customers that have a problem with the right solution.
  • We strive to increase our efficiency, constantly working to improve our KPIs — and likely a bunch of other stats we track.
  • We are good at measuring the quality of each interaction, making sure all of the boxes get checked.

These are all good activities, right? As I review them, they also seem rather exclusive to the “Customer Service Department.” What value are these activities providing to the rest of our organizations?

Sharing Valuable Customer Insight

It goes without saying that the customer service team spends the lion’s share of their time interacting directly with customers and therefore, possesses a treasure trove of knowledge that other departments in the organization could certainly benefit from. Think about the marketing team that would love to know sooner than later about the ad that was offending customers. Consider the UX team that would have preferred to quickly fix an issue rather than having customer service send multiple emails to customers with a certain workaround in it.

Clearly the head-down-focus-on-getting-support-related-activities-done approach has its flaws. What if there’s another, better way — a way where the customer service team regularly shares valuable customer experience insights with the rest of the organization? Here are couple fairly straightforward practices that customer service leaders can and should implement right now.

1. Do a quality alignment check

I once heard someone say that quality assurance measures how well customer service meets the company’s expectations, and customer satisfaction (CSAT) gauges how well the service meets the customer’s expectations. Eager to see how aligned our expectations were with customers, we did a study at FCR where we compared our quality scores for each of our programs with customer satisfaction. Both were measured on a scale of 0-100% which made for easy apples to apples comparison. This might not be as easy with an NPS score unless you take the average of the 0-10 rating instead of the actual NPS calculation.

For some teams, CSAT and quality scores were within a few percentage points of each other. There were, however other cases where quality scores were 95% or above and CSAT was lower by 10-20%. In laymen’s terms, this is the equivalent of saying that our customer service is awesome but our customers are only happy 75-85% of the time. I implore you to find any executive that’s happy with a CSAT rating between 75 and 85%.

It can be tempting to look at this gap between quality and CSAT and blame it on issues with a policy, the product itself, or another group in the organization. While there may be some truth to this, it’s a better use of everyone’s energy to look for opportunities within the control of the support team to positively impact CSAT. This might include a retooling of the quality process to drive the right behaviors on each interaction. It could also be an initiative to help your agents get more comfortable with great service. Here’s a recipe that can help. One simple change we’re making at FCR is adding a CSAT question to our quality forms and asking supervisors to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and rate the interaction. This is helping them be mindful of and coach to the bigger goal of making sure the customer is satisfied.

2. Build Your Laundry List of Customer Experience Issues

There are also issues that impact CSAT that are totally out of the control of your agents. Washing your hands of those issues and saying, “Not my problem”, or blaming another department, isn’t gonna cut it. We need to be a part of the solution as well.

When I was with Phone.com, we had an executive team that not only understood, but expected that customer service would have a laundry list of issues that negatively impacted the customer experience. Our engineering team reserved time during each sprint to prioritize customer experience issues that weren’t being addressed by other projects. Having this laundry list of top customer issues was no small feat, either. You need to know two things in order to build your list:

Know what the issues are in detail

To know what the issues and insights are, we had to pull them from a variety of sources. Here are some to consider:

  • Have your quality assurance team track issues that arise as they review interactions. They are already reviewing the interactions anyway, right? So have them think about the customer experience while they’re at it.
  • Regularly review interactions yourself to keep your finger on the pulse of what customers are saying.
  • Conduct roundtable discussions with your agents to get the full picture of what’s happening and what’s frustrating to them and customers.
  • Read what your agents are saying every day in Slack (or whatever your team uses for group chat).
  • Review your disposition reports to know top reasons customers contact you.
  • Use speech and text analytics for more insight into all of your interactions. I wrote about this a couple of months ago.
  • Regularly review customer survey feedback and close the loop with customers.
  • Look at the reasons people give when canceling service.

Know the impact of these issues

You need to be able to quantify the impact of these issues and the costs associated with them. Here are a few things to consider:

  • Understand how many support interactions are caused by each issue. If you know your cost per contact, you can estimate how much the support costs are for each issue.
  • Know how many customers are canceling service because of an issue. If your company tracks a cost per acquisition or customer lifetime value, you’ll know how much it costs to replace the customers you’re losing.
  • Determine how many customers are dissatisfied because of the issue. This allows you to show the impact to customer satisfaction which is likely a company-wide KPI.

When you have a complete understanding of each of the top issues that are occurring and the costs associated with them, you’ll then have the ability to partner with the other departments in your organization to prioritize and get them fixed.

Conclusion

By checking your alignment between CSAT and quality, you’re first shifting the focus from checking boxes on a quality form to coaching and empowering customer service agents to do the things that are within their control to improve the customer experience. For those things that are outside of their control, your list of customer experience issues and insights will serve as a valuable guide as your organization prioritizes improvements. In doing so, the customer service team is transformed into a critical, valuable contributor to the organization’s customer experience efforts.

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5 Responses to Transform Customer Service into a Customer Insight Machine

  1. Alex June 10, 2017 at 6:49 am (1 comment) #

    Hi Jeremy,

    This is really a nice post and I strongly agree with your point ” It goes without saying that the customer service team spends the lion’s share of their time interacting directly with customers and therefore, possesses a treasure trove of knowledge that other departments in the organization could certainly benefit from.” because I have worked as a customer service executive and I know the value.

  2. Thomas Wieberneit June 11, 2017 at 8:33 am (226 comments) #

    Hey Jeremy, nice one again!

    While I agree that quality and csat should be in alignment even if they are there still is a treasure trove for improvements coming in via the customer service team. With proper feedback loops between customer service and product teams both KPIs can get kept consistently high. After all one – or both – of them will get down if this feedback loop doesn’t exist.

    Thomas
    @twieberneit

  3. Jeremy Watkin June 11, 2017 at 8:01 pm (32 comments) #

    @Alex, thank you so much!

    @Thomas, this is a great point. These feedback loops are indeed so critical!

  4. Michael Lowenstein June 12, 2017 at 7:35 pm (1323 comments) #

    While it makes intuitive sense that, given their proximity, CSRs can gather customer transactional information, please lets remember that they are not professionally trained to generate the granular customer experience insights which leverage decision-making. Here’s a quick example. CSRs are skilled at handling expressed complaints, hopefully in a proactive, once-and-done manner. They are not trained to identify unexpressed complaints, those issues that high percentages of b2b and b2c customers never communicate to vendors, but which are often serious enough to cause risk, even churn.

    I’m not suggesting that CSRs and other frontline staff shouldn’t be a useful debriefing channel, only that organizations maintain perspective about the objectivity and depth of the information being gathered in this way.

  5. Jodie Baldwin August 17, 2017 at 4:39 am (1 comment) #

    Hey Jeremy,

    It’s an excellent write up to read. Providing a smooth and hazel free customer service has become a crucial part of an organization. And to deliver this organizations need detailed customer insights to understand what a customer actually want. so customer insight and customer service both go hand in hand. Thanks for highlighting its importance.

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