Triaging Customer Service


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Triage is a medical term that can be applied to customer service. Every customer is not created equal and your service delivery should not be equal either. To wow your customers (and your shareholders), segment your customer base and deploy your most valuable resources to your most valuable customers.

Big banks do this. So do airlines. Ever wonder why you have to enter your credit card number or your frequent flyer number when you call? The best customers (you with the Platinum credit cards, and you premium flyers) get in the shortest queues and are handled by the best, most experienced agents. The rest of the world waits on hold and when finally connected, speaks with the person who just got out of training an hour ago. These successful companies know they can’t afford to service all customers equally so they put their efforts where they’ll get the biggest return.

It’s easy for big companies to triage their customers…technology handles it all. But if you can’t afford the technology or are too small to really need it, there are still steps you can take.

  1. Review your customer base to determine which customers provide the most revenue or profit. Add to this the customers with the potential to be in this group. These are your “A” customers. Based on the Pareto principle, this will probably be the 20% or so of the customers who provide 80% of your revenue.
  2. Determine the customers that provide the lowest revenue or profit. They order small amounts less frequently. These are your “C” customers and typically represent 30-40% of your customer base.
  3. The rest are your “B” customers. They order on a consistent basis but in not the same volume as your “A” customers.

Now assign resources accordingly.

  • Direct calls so that your A customers route to your best, most experienced agents. No ACD? Then assign your A customers their own private customer service representative. How nice would it be as a customer to get a personal call or a real, old fashioned letter letting you know that you’re such a valued customer, you’re getting your very own customer service rep, one of the company’s best. Be sure these customers don’t have a long wait time for service, and see if you can smooth your policies and procedures to make it easier for them to do business with you.
  • Direct your B customers to reps who consistently meet call quality standards but who may not have the same depth of experience as those handling your A accounts. If you don’t have an ACD, consider creating small teams to handle groups of B customers. That way customers have 2-3 representatives familiar with their accounts.
  • Let the C customer come through the general queue. Even though these may be your lowest value customers, they still deserve top-notch treatment because, well, that’s just who you are as a company, right? You value all your customers! So while new hires may work with this group of customers, they need close monitoring to be sure customers receive good service while the new reps learn the ropes. Assign each new trainee a contact from the B group that he or she can call on for help while learning. This will minimize escalations and callbacks—two things that make customer very unhappy.

If you’re one of those lucky companies that can afford to provide A quality service to all of your customers, that’s fantastic! We wish all our customers could be so lucky. But if you have to watch your call center pennies, there’s a better option than offering luck-of-the-draw service to all your customers. Triaging customer service allows you to wrap your very best customers in a blanket of care while still providing great service to the rest of the customer base.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Peggy Carlaw
Peggy Carlaw is the founder of Impact Learning Systems. Impact helps companies develop and implement customer service strategies to improve the customer experience. Their consulting services and training programs help organizations create a customer-focused culture while producing measurable business results. Peggy is also the author of three books published by McGraw-Hill including Managing and Motivating Contact Center Employees.


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