Five steps toward delivering the customer service opportunityby
Christopher Sladdin, Lauren Villeneuve and Jonathan Schmidt from Gartner explore transforming the overall customer service experience by reevaluating five key components – from CX metrics to value enhancement strategies.
According to Gartner research, 89% of customer service and support leaders agree that being a value-driven service and support organisation is the most relevant trend impacting their function over the next 12-18 months. In the past, the customer service and support function has focused on delivering a reactive response, which mitigates disloyalty and defection through issue resolution. However, the function has the potential to grow beyond this, delivering proactive and preemptive solutions that improve customer loyalty and ultimately revenue.
There are five key components that customer service and support leaders must focus on in order to deliver this untapped opportunity: channel strategy, live interaction approach, service goal, customer experience metrics and customer engagement strategy. By reevaluating each of these elements, the overall customer service experience can be transformed to reach the desired future state outlined in the below figure.
Step 1: Simplify your channel strategy
In 2023, many organisations offer a growing number of digital channels – from website live chat to WhatsApp, mobile apps and social media. In reality, this can lead to organisations adopting channels that are a poor fit for the customers’ needs.
For example, an organisation might add social media as a customer service channel. Some organisations who attempt to offer support in that channel end up doing one of two things: they resolve issues by direct messaging customers, which doesn't help others who go to social media to find an answer to what might be a very common query - because the answer is in the messages they can't see. Or, they end up shifting the customer to another channel to resolve the issue, which increases the customer effort.
Most organisations do not adequately guide their customers through this confusing array of channels, leaving them alone to determine which channel will work best. Too many channels often leads to reduced self-service adoption, despite half of customers preferring this approach.
Customer service and support leaders should reassess their channel mix, focusing on a smaller subset of channels that offer ease of resolution. They should also turn to technology such as a Digital Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to guide customers to the best-fit channels for resolving their issue. Doing so will reduce customer effort - which in turn drives customer loyalty - and organisation’s cost to serve.
Step 2: Optimise the live interaction experience
Despite customer service leaders’ efforts to shift volume to self-service channels, Gartner research shows that 74% of B2C customers and 67% of B2B customers still end their service journey in assisted channels.
However, leaders face several challenges when it comes to delivering best-in-class live interactions. The increasing complexity of the customer service rep role rep has led to burnout and high turnover. Challenges with onboarding new hires, combined with reps’ natural tendencies to be empathetic, mean that leaders should shift interactions to a more prescriptive approach to reduce costs and customer effort.
Becoming a more prescriptive service function requires that we get our house in order first.
Becoming a more prescriptive service function requires that we get our house in order first: Service leaders should monitor their self-service performance, onboard reps effectively by focusing on the critical skills needed to handle the most complex issues they'll encounter most frequently, and work closely with their workforce management team to manage the volume of calls reps are taking on. These improvements will feed through in the customer’s live interactions with your organisation, leading to enhanced customer outcomes.
Step 3: Prioritise value enhancement
Customer service and support must move beyond just being an “issue resolution shop” for customers – it must also focus on growing the business through a value-enhanced service experience. According to Gartner research, only half of organisations said they had developed a Value Enhancement (VE) strategy.
While organisations are starting to deploy Value Enhancement strategies, there are several hurdles limiting its success, one of which includes only focusing on VE in assisted service channels, even though self-service channels work just as well to deliver value. To ensure effective value delivery, leaders must develop contextual value enhancement strategies for both assisted and self-service. Once a VE strategy has been developed, organisations should actively measure and evaluate the impact on customer loyalty using a Value Enhancement Score.
Step 4: Rethink customer experience (CX) metrics
Static survey metrics such as Net Promoter Score (NPS) have long been seen as important indicators of service performance. However, Gartner research shows that only 25% of customer service and support leaders see it as a good metric for measuring customer service performance.
Many organisations are still measuring the wrong things, such as NPS and high-level CSAT. Customer Effort Score (CES) and Value Enhancement Score (VES) more accurately capture customer behaviour and intent during and following a service interaction, but many organisations have yet to adopt these metrics.
Customer service and support leaders should introduce and prioritise action-oriented indicators.
Customer service and support leaders should introduce and prioritise action-oriented indicators like CES and VES to better understand the total customer experience and effectively measure service’s impact on customer confidence.
Step 5: Customer engagement
In contrast to the current, reactive state of customer service, the future state centres around more preemptive, predictive service experiences. Yet many organisations have not been able to make this a reality.
Predictive models rely on data, but organisations struggle to manage and utilise the correct data in a way that enables predictive models to work effectively. Leaders must implement a Dynamic Customer Engagement (DCE) framework, using data to target next best actions, recommendations, and guidance. A DCE framework encompasses six capabilities:
- Proactive customer service: The ability to preempt a customer journey during a reactive engagement.
- Low-effort experiences: The ability to reduce the customer effort required to complete transactions.
- Contextual conversations: The ability to present relevant and timely information to customers.
- Personalised content: The ability to personalise content to specific customers.
- Connected journeys: The ability to orchestrate a customer’s journey across channels, eliminating the need to start over when switching channels.
- Continuous conversations: The ability to engage customers through ongoing communication, creating a continuous conversation throughout the customer life cycle.
By following the steps outlined here, leaders can build the foundations for the customer service and support function of the future, delivering its true potential.