Most companies maintain a roadmap of their products and services. It provides an idea of today’s offerings, as well as where they are intended to go in the future. This could mean new capabilities, new markets, and more.
Companies have different opinions about sharing that roadmap. Some choose to keep it confidential, out of fear of providing too much detail to competitors. Others might share with select customers to validate their ideas. Even fewer share it openly.
A few weeks ago, I shared some observations from my company’s recent customer conference. The customer stories centered around adopting our product as their new customer service management platform. That process might also involve the consolidation and elimination of other systems while making new services available to customers. To accomplish all this, they had developed long-term plans very much akin to a customer service roadmap.
It made me realize all companies–going through a radical transformation or not–should be maintaining a customer service roadmap.
Use it for additions
The obvious benefit of a customer service roadmap is for planning purposes. Like a product roadmap, it offers insights into what’s to come, into as far into the future as you choose. What’s to come might be new engagement channels (such as adding chatbots) or perhaps adding service programs or policies.
Don’t confuse the roadmap with an actual project plan. The roadmap is a high-level view of individual projects. It provides visibility to others without the underlying details. Each one of those projects will have its own unique characteristics and requirements:
- If planning on adopting a new customer service technology, is vendor research and implementation partner evaluation needed?
- What type of customer service agent training is necessary?
- What are the goals of the project, and how will they be measured?
- How will customers be informed?
- And so on…
But none of that is necessary for the roadmap. Each of these projects would be individual signposts on the journey.
Use it to gauge innovation
You’ve heard customer experience is the new battleground. A big part of that experience is customer service. And by looking at your customer service plan at a high level and holistically, you get more than just a plan for the future. You will have a complete sense of what your service looks like today and what it aspires to be tomorrow.
Looking to the future, will you be offering the right customer service options? Are you on-par or staying ahead of the competition? Are there new technologies missing from your roadmap, such as artificial intelligence, that would benefit your customers and business? As the business itself and the market evolves, do your plans also need to change?
Use it to make the tough decisions
You might think a roadmap is all about additions. Typically that is the focus. But it can also mean the end of a service.
Is a channel’s volume declining? (Is it time to stop offering service via fax?) Has the maintenance of a service become too expensive? Perhaps a policy needs updating (General Data Protection Regulation and updated privacy policies, anyone?).
Ending or modifying service can require just as much work or even more than an addition. Legal obligations might exist for customers. Vendor relationships should be verified. Any sort of change that will affect customers should involve notification well in advance of the planned change. As with adding a service, a whole underlying project plan is necessary and inclusion on the roadmap provides that strategic view.
Use it to give customers insight
During my company’s customer conference, presenters are very forthcoming about their plans, goals, and progress. In one case the presenter admitted their service had been suffering. As a result of a myriad of acquisitions over several decades, service operations had found themselves with too many disconnected customer service systems. Similarly, multiple online service portals existed, also completely siloed from each other. Customer information was spread across this disjointed landscape. Consequently, customers struggled with service (as did the agents providing it), and this company’s Net Promoter Scores reflected the chaos. A big change was needed.
Their first step? Imagining their ideal future for customer service. Creating the roadmap to deliver it promptly followed.
They even went a step further. They shared the roadmap with customers. They branded this transformative effort and gave their customers a progress report as systems were consolidated and new services became available. Not only did it provide insight, it provided hope for an improved future.
Customers loved it. How much? The company’s NPS score increased 10 percentage points in the first 10 months. Of course, the company also realized additional benefits from this transformation, but the impact on customers and the corresponding positive reception showed through clearly.
What’s on your roadmap?
Roadmaps are a great visualization of near- and long-term plans. They can be as much about innovation and service additions as they can terminations. For the truly bold, they can even be a method of sharing what’s to come with customers. While we often think of roadmaps for products and service, they should be equally considered for customer service.
I’ll leave you with this thought:
If you don’t know exactly where you’re going, how will you know when you get there?
― Steve Maraboli in Life, the Truth, and Being Free