Daydream Nation

I recently blogged on the deluge of disengagement among U.S. employees and stated that major achievements in productivity and customer experience will not be achieved until organizations tap into this 70% pool of disengaged employees and convert them to motivated employees.

A further breakdown of the data is now available which shows that levels of engagement are even worse in Western Europe. If the U.S. is experiencing a deluge of disengagement, Europe is already sandbagging and sending out the lifeboats. The highest engagement level is in Denmark with only 21% of employees engaged and France leads the way in levels of employee disillusion and apathy with only 9% of employees engaged.

As previously stated a host of social, economic and cultural reasons probably lie behind these figures. Undoubtedly however a large number of these employees are trapped in roles where they have little autonomy to influence how their work gets done. Locked into fixed inflexible processes in the restaurant, checkout or at a keyboard. From a customer service and experience point of view this 70-80% pool of disengaged employees is a well to be tapped. To begin eroding these levels of disengagement organizations need to become empowered organizations.

What does the employee empowered workplace look like? I’ll talk about that in the next post.

Daydream Nation

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Customer Experience – Using employees to fill the gaps processes can’t reach

Customer Experience is often defined as the aggregate of all of the interactions a customer has with your brand. From a business process improvement perspective the key word in this definition is “interactions”, that customer experience is determined over multiple interactions between the customer and the organization.

At some point in their interactions with your organization the customer will engage directly with an employee. Whether it’s face to face at a retail outlet, in a restaurant or via a service desk customer experience improvement projects must consider the needs of the employee.

In many cases however these customer facing employees at the service desk, at the checkout or employed as wait staff are your lowest paid employees. Yet these employees are the public face of your organization and have a disproportionate impact on the perceived customer experience. In addition the repetitive, inflexible and low paid nature of many of these roles means that they are characterized by poor staff morale and high employee turnover.

While BPM and process improvement technologies can go a long way towards delivering a consistent customer experience across the multiple customer touch points they can only go so far. It’s impossible to predict every potential customer interaction and automate it. At some point you rely on your employees to fill the gaps that your business processes can’t reach. Thus if your customer experience improvement project is to be successful one of the key objectives must be to empower and enhance the role of the customer facing employee.  This then becomes an opportunity for Case Management.

Case Management applications support your customer facing employees who fill the gaps your processes can’t reach. By devolving power and decision making authority from the center of the organization to your customer facing teams you can eliminate process gaps, manage unpredictability and through empowerment address staff morale, motivation and turnover.

Employees play a key customer experience role

Banks; Service so Bad it’s Good

I know it’s open season on banks at the moment and writing a blog post on how bad banks are at customer service is like taking sweets from a baby. It’s definitely not the most original topic but hey I can’t help it and I’ll explain why later.

Two banking related problems stumbled into view this week.

First of all this week the RBS in the UK suffered a SW upgrade fault that caused problems for millions of their customers. Thousands of customers failed to have money transferred into or out of their accounts leading to significant problems. Now we all know every company makes mistakes, what differentiates leading customer service organizations however is how they respond when problems occur.

So how did RBs respond? Well here’s one example where they left a customer stranded at a Spanish airport for 4 days and wouldn’t increase his credit limit to allow him to proceed with his holiday plans.

It’s not as though this problem was completely unexpected either. They had a similar glitch last year as well.

The second banking event of the week concerns the ongoing problems I’m having with my own bank. In my white paper on how organizations can use Case Management to transform ustomer service I describe how last year it took them over 3 months to process a name change on my account. This year it’s taken them 4 months to process my car loan application. Some of the classic customer service issues I experienced were:

  • Repeatedly having to submit proof of identity information.
  • Failing to update me on the status of my application.
  • Failure to meet any SLAs.
  • Having to interact with multiple poorly connected departments
  • Failure to have any coherent complaints management process

Both these events are clear examples of poor customer service processes. In the first case an inability to quickly adapt business process in response to unpredictable events and in the second an inability to manage processes that cross multiple departments and involve multiple participants.

So I hear you say, well if the service is so bad with your bank why don’t you leave? To explain why I don’t leave I’m going to quote Alvy Singer. Alvy Singer is the hero from Woody Allen’s Annie Hall movie and towards the end of the movie he uses a joke to explain why he keeps putting himself through the wringer of his bad relationship with Annie.

Alvy Singer [narrating] this guy goes to a psychiatrist and says, “Doc, uh, my brother’s crazy; he thinks he’s a chicken.” And, uh, the doctor says, “Well, why don’t you turn him in?” The guy says, “I would, but I need the eggs.” Well, I guess that’s pretty much now how I feel about relationships; y’know, they’re totally irrational, and crazy, and absurd, and… but, uh, I guess we keep goin’ through it because, uh, most of us… need the eggs. 

I guess I’m the customer service equivalent of Alvy singer. I need my bank because I need their eggs. I need them to continue to show me how bad customer service can be and give me the motivation to try and improve things.Their service is so bad that it’s good.

 

Case Management and Customer Loyalty

What do customers hate most about bad customer service? Well according to this survey by ClickFox a few common things get customer’s blood boiling. The top three were:

  1. 42% hate having to speak with multiple agents and start over every time
  2. 17% hate being kept on hold or not getting what I need on the first try
  3. 14% dislike rude or inexperienced representatives

Let’s address each of these issues in turn, understand why they occur and how the issues could be addressed.

  1. Multiple Agents and having to start every time. In the perfect scenario the customer would only have to speak to one agent who would be able to completely understand their problem and resolve it at the first point of contact. In reality this isn’t possible. For example in many larger organizations with multiple product lines or services the first line of service exist to triage the problem or to resolve the most common problems. Resolution at the first point of contact  in many organizations would not be possible without a great deal of training. Whether we like it or not the issue of multiple agents is here to stay. The big opportunity for service providers is to better manage the frustration of the hand off and eliminate the customer having to start afresh with each new agent. What if we could deploy a customer service solution that could manage the end to end process, orchestrate multiple employees and integrate with multiple line of business applications and eliminate having to restart the process with every new service agent?
  2. On hold. Ok everyone hates being put on hold. In reality when put on hold the agent is probably frantically switching between poorly connected business applications to retrieve the customer information. What if the customer service representative had a 360 degree view of their customer?  What if the customer  service agent had rapid access, via their desktop web portal to customer information where ever it resides in the organization?
  3. Rude or inexperienced representatives. I found it interesting that rudeness and inexperience were tied together in this response. I’m of a firm belief that customer service rudeness and inexperience are closely related. In many occasions what the customer feels is rude service is in reality an employee tied by his or her employer to inflexible business processes. The employee has no authority or empowerment to use their initiative to resolve the customer issue. This lack of empowerment leads to high staff dissatisfaction, high employee turnover and ultimately inexperienced representatives.  What if the agent was able to go off script, to modify their process if necessary in flight or choose alternative paths or approaches to resolve the customer problem? Would this empowerment higher employee satisfaction, lower staff turnover and eliminate the perception of rudeness and inexperience.

The three customer problems outlined above are all classic reasons for deploying a Case Management solution. The objective of case management applications include the integration of multiple line of business applications, the delivery of a 360 degree customer view and employee empowerment. Management of many customer service interactions is done today using CRM applications that quickly run out of steam when asked to manage anything more than a simple workflow and don’t adequately address the top three issues above. When we integrate CRM with a Case Management business application however we have the opportunity to address these customer problems and begin to transform how customer service is delivered.

Unsourcing – The Future of Customer Service?

Why bother outsourcing customer support when you can get your customers to do it for you. I’ve been watching the success of giffgaff with interest for a while. For those not familiar with giffgaff it is a UK mobile service provider where customers participate in the company’s business operations, specifically Marketing, Sales and Customer service.

As well as via the Giff Gaff community web page Facebook and Twitter provide additional channels for customer support. Support is provided socially, by fellow customers rather than using Giff Gaff employees.

This trend of setting up online communities to deliver peer to peer customer support has been dubbed “Unsourcing” and is not limited to Giff Gaff. The obvious reason for many organizations choosing to unsource is cost. Gartner estimates that using communities to solve support issues can reduce costs by up to 50%.

However viewing unsourcing as an opportunity to reduce customer support risks repetition of the same problems that have beset organizations who have chosen outsource their customer service to emerging economies, most importantly creating a disconnect between the organization and its customers. Simply viewing customer service as a cost center rather than for example an opportunity for differentiation and as a source of new product ideas is doomed to fail.

Unsourcing has a number of benefits. It allows Gen Y customers to interact with organizations via the social channels with which they are most familiar and to engage with fellow customers who share a common interest. In addition it creates a bond between an organization and its most important customers.

Unsourcing will become a key aspect of the customer service mix rather than a panacea. Organizations will still need to ensure that their customers aren’t left high and dry should they not get the right answer. If it’s a complaint they will need to ensure it is addressed as quickly as possible. They must monitor the channels to detect emerging trends, product problems or new product opportunities. In other words they will still need to tie the social or unsourced customer to business processes.