As consumers we are getting far more sensitive to inconsistency of customer service. We easily spot a process that is not joined up. Particularly when different departments or even different companies are responsible for the end to end process.
If you want to experience it at its worst, try subscribing to a Sky TV, internet and phone package and throw in the fact that it is a new house with no existing phone line. Our experience was it took 12 weeks and 15 visits. In fact whenever I talk about poor customer service Sky is normally the first company mentioned. But they rely on BT for the ‘last mile’ for the phone and internet. And BT is probably the second company mentioned for awful customer service.
In fact my Sky experience highlights SO MANY issues with customer service and process it deserves its own blog a little later. But for now I want to focus on the question “How much process is required for good customer service?”
Many of you process professionals would say – “As much as possible.” Think through every situation, get it clearly documented, rolled-out so that every customer service agent can access it quickly and easily. That will drive up compliance, customer service consistency, reduce errors, enable lower cost staff, and ultimately drive up customer satisfaction.
But there is a disadvantage with this approach. It is impossible to anticipate every circumstance, unless you have a very simple business. By process mapping the vast majority of situations (user cases) and then dumbing down your support staff you do not have the intellectual horsepower to be able to handle the non-standard situations. And there are many of these.
Combine this with regulatory compliance or customer security requirements and you get into some fairly ridiculous situations. Comedian Andy Parsons describes one such situation on a recent episode of the Now Show. You can listen to it here but make sure that you are somewhere you can laugh out loud.
But in truth most companies have too little process, not too much. You only have to navigate through the automated call routing system to realize that it was never planned or tested thinking about how it was going to be used.
Great ideas, but what about an actionable item?
Think about the balance of clearly defined process and the experience and autonomy of customer support staff. If in doubt err on the side of MORE process and MORE senior people.