Customer Service: Change Is Good, but Only If You're Prepared (Q&A)

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connecting to a person. Even at the end of the Twitter handle—there's a face there for a reason. It's about how to make a connection between a big corporate identity and the customer.

But that's also been about customer service all along. It's not about the hundredth call of the day; it's about the name of that individual who's reaching out. From the customer's perspective, you're the only person at that company.

SCS: How does this impact agents?

JR: The challenge for customer service, the contact center in particular, is realizing that customers don't stay in one place. Often when you're interacting with brands, you're doing it across multiple channels. Typically, when a customer interacts with a brand, they use three or four channels. A customer might be on the company's Web site, have their app on their phone, and follow them on Twitter. When they have an issue, they might go to a number of these places. If the answer they're looking for isn't there, they will go somewhere else—maybe chat.

But what we're also seeing is that the live agent is not going away—what's happening is that agents are now handling more complex interactions. Customers know that if...they can resolve an issue themselves, that's what they prefer. If they want to check the balance on their credit card, that's easy to do. But if there's a problem with their account and they think something's wrong, that's when they will call into the contact center. That's where they're going to leverage the human because they want the high-value stuff. That's what they want to use an individual for.

SCS: What can organizations do to identify such situations?

JR: Corporations need to figure out, what are the high-value interactions? The stuff that people are really calling about that requires complex thinking, that isn't easily discussed through an email. What are those interactions and how can we make sure our front line is best prepared to help those types of customers? Those types of interactions require somebody who can do critical thinking and "see the gray" and use discretion effectively. That's not necessarily an entry-level position. Contact centers used to be about customers being able to reach someone who had a pulse. Now it's about complexity and the high value of the human-to-human interaction.

That's really exciting to me, because now it's about figuring out, through technology, how you keep the easy stuff away from the agent—they're bored by it anyway—and how do you maximize them to be highly intuitive, nimble individuals?

SCS: What issue really bothers you the most in the current customer service environment?

JR: What's really scary is the ways organizations capture and leverage customer information. It's not where it should be. Companies aren't doing a good enough job of listening to their customers, capturing what they're saying, and then putting plans into action as a result.

At an executive level, companies are saying that customers are driving their decisions, but what they're doing is making assumptions, and that's what scares me more than anything in the coming years. Are organizations making decisions based on assumptions and hearing about what other organizations are doing? Or are they making their decisions based on customer insights, leveraging what the front line is saying, and what customer expectations are? Whether it's pressure from stockholders or competitors, corporations aren't closely aligning themselves to what customers really want.

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Posted May 26, 2015