Multiple customer self-service channels are effortlessly providing answers to customers at any time on any device. The knowledge base is curated on an ongoing basis, with solutions to new issues documented quickly. Chatbots are solving the most common issues, powered by those same knowledge articles. The online community is connecting customers with problems to fellow customers and others who offer their answers and advice.
Live service channels are performing similarly. Agents are knowledgeable and have the tools they need to work efficiently. Call and chat wait times are low to nonexistent. Emails are responded to within minutes of receipt. First contact resolution is steadily above ninety percent.
Add to this customers seem happy. Customer satisfaction scores (CSATs) are high. Post-service surveys sing the praises of both self-service and customer service agents’ skills.
For any customer service leader, this probably sounds like paradise. Everything is operating perfectly and in harmony–yet this isn’t necessarily the ideal state. Great CSATs don’t equate to great CX (customer experience).
Service means broken experience
In an interview a few years ago, Charlie Herrin, Chief Customer Experience Officer at Comcast, said, “Customer service is what happens when the experience breaks.” He went on to clarify: “When you think about the experience, that’s the interaction you might have when shopping—that’s how you unbox the product, how you use the product.” Herrin had had firsthand experience with this. He had come to the Chief Customer Experience Office role from Comcast’s product design and development group. His observation was acute for two reasons.
First, customers don’t expect to have a problem with a product or service. Customers want things they purchase to work flawlessly, from that time of opening the box to the time of replacement or disuse. During that period, if something is unclear or is outright broken, they must take time out of their day to engage with customer service. Self-service or live assistance, it doesn’t matter; it still requires time and effort on the customer’s part. Customer service to the rescue.
Second, the best service such as described at the start of this article is important to provide but it doesn’t change the fact that the customer had a problem. Of course the customer does appreciate fast, friendly, and accurate service in their moment of need; all the same, this is a negative hit to the experience. If the customer encounters enough struggles in their journey, they begin to question their relationship with a brand.
Focusing on experience
No one will argue the job of customer service is to address customers’ issues and get them back on track. But in today’s world, it’s even more important for customer service to help identify and address the biggest problems affecting the customer experience. Every customer issue has a root cause that, when eliminated, permanently solves it. The challenge is the parties responsible for addressing those root causes lie beyond the walls of customer service.
This is where a shared commitment to the highest possible customer experience is required. Without it, attempts to improve will be challenging and likely will fail. Customer service must work cooperatively and collaboratively with other teams across the business–finance, engineering, legal, manufacturing, and others–to identify the root cause and determine the best means of addressing it.
What does it mean to work cooperatively and collaboratively? It means using a company-wide customer service platform and a system like workflow, where problems are assigned and routed to the teams that can address it. It means setting timelines for fixes. It means maintaining accountability. And when it’s working well, it means permanent fixes are delivered so that currently affected customers can return to happy and productive use of your product or service and future customers never experience them.
The value of experience
Why is focusing on the experience so important? Because customers enjoying the best experience remain loyal. They are then more likely to purchase additional products and services. According to Bain & Company, a five percent reduction in the customer defection rate can increase profits by five to ninety-five percent. And faithful customers will offer positive reviews and referrals.
There are also cost savings benefits. Fewer issues equate to fewer customer requests for assistance, reducing customer service operating costs. It also means a reduction in marketing and sales costs, since acquiring a new customer can be five to twenty-five times more expensive than retaining an existing one, according to Harvard Business Review.
Improve experience through service
None of this is to say striving to deliver the best possible customer service is the wrong thing to do. There will always be problems with products and services and a need for customer service. The error is in focusing solely on this part of the equation.
More importantly, it’s about how better to harvest the underlying information gleaned from customer interactions to drive incremental improvements in the customer experience. By focusing on improving the customer experience, not only can expenses be reduced in customer service, but companies will achieve higher revenues in retained customers and new referrals.