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Four Trends You Can't Ignore

Use customer service terms in the right context, brush up on your change management, and use big data sets wisely

Although there are numerous longer-term trends and challenges for customer service teams to contend with, such as providing service via the mobile web, taking a more long-term view of metrics, or getting to grips with omnichannel customer service, there are four that they can’t afford to ignore in the next 12 months

  1. Distinguish between customer service experience and customer experience: Everyone wants to talk about the customer experience and how to improve it, but many confuse different terms. Sometimes when customer service managers talk about customer experience, they are specifically talking only about the service interactions the customer has with the company – inbound questions, problems, or transactions that the customer is trying to resolve or accomplish.

    Whereas customer experience is usually defined in a much broader fashion as a product of all of the interactions a customer has with a company, which may include their interactions with the product itself, marketing offers, the sales team, etc.  To be sure, customer service interactions are a large part of the customer experience – but there are other parts as well.

    As customer experience grows in importance, and heads of a dedicated customer experience function increase in number, defining both terminology and governance structures of customer experience vis à vis customer service experience will be critical to company success to avoid duplication of efforts and working at cross-purposes.

  2. Use technology as an aid, not a solution: Many service leaders are exploring new technology solutions or updating systems that have reached the end of their life. While the idea of a more integrated CRM system or a brand new social media analytics platform sounds like it has a lot of promise, teams should never see technology as a solution to problems like a disjointed service experience for customers or a lack of employee adherence to knowledge management processes.

    While technology can certainly ease the path to doing – and good technology (or at least technology that is a good fit for your goals) is particularly good at accelerating work – customer service leaders rarely see the actual change unless they apply a sound set of processes and structure around that technology as well.

    So as service leaders think about technology, they should first think about the solution that is intended to be achieved with that technology.  Then begin to work out what else, besides technology, that must be achieved to reach the goal. A comprehensive plan may not only help service leaders achieve their goal faster, but may also help to integrate the new technology into the organization.

  3. Make sure your change management is better than ever: Front line reps, supervisors and support staff have all had to put up with a lot of change over the past few years to improve service interactions in a more complex world.

    As new skills, activities, and cultures spring up in customer service organizations, service leaders will have to manage that change and enable their teams to adapt to those changes, rather than hide from them.  It might mean going slower than planned to make some of these changes, or it might mean appointing a change management owner(and set of processes) into all projects.

    Either way, it will absolutely pay to recognize that constant change takes it out of the most reliable and robust of employees and success in the next few years will be determined in no small part by how good leaders’ change management is.

  4. Don’t integrate data just for the sake of it: Data, particularly customer feedback, is often kept in multiple “siloes” across a firm due to internal company divisions, like customer channel or line of business.  Many service leaders want to bring disparate data together to get a more holistic view of the customer, or better understand customer service needs and the company’s progress against meeting those needs.

    While data integration may have its benefits, it also has its drawbacks.  Data, particularly customer voice data (in-depth understanding of customers’ wants), is often gathered with distinct purposes in mind. While one set of data may have come from an outbound study done on the reasons for customer callbacks on a particular product, another might have been done on customer satisfaction with reps’ knowledge of the company and what it sells. And when a data set built for one purpose is used for another (or if data are gathered without a purpose), it is hard to interpret it in a way that leads to useful conclusions.

    The purpose of any data collection efforts are determined by the insights that people are looking for and the hypotheses they want to test. So a team that’s sitting on a mass of data may find there’s little in the data that answers their particular question. They might be better off finding a way to quickly gather a few data points, maybe without even surveying customers, and then testing and refining hypotheses as they go, instead of combing through a gigantic combined data set.


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