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Customer service and customer experience (CX) have plenty of sobering statistics to consider. Two of my favorites:

  • In 2017, 54% of customers had higher expectations for customer service compared to the prior year; the expectation jumped to 66% for consumers aged from 18 to 34 years old (Source: Microsoft)
  • It takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience. (Source: Ruby Newell-Legner)

On a more positive note:

  • It was found in a study across twenty industries a modest improvement in CX would increase the revenue of a typical $1 billion company, on average, $775 million over three years. (Source: ROI of Customer Experience)
  • A 5% increase in customer retention can lead to a 25% to 100% increase in profits for your company (whether it be through upsells, repurchases, or even referrals.) (Source: The Loyalty Effect)

The message is clear: customer expectations are high, and delivering quality product experiences and customer service leads to greater business growth.

It’s hard to avoid the inevitable, though. A problem will occur, and the customer reaches out to customer service. While some might believe quality customer service will suffice, it’s not enough to simply answer the telephone or respond to emails quickly.

For 2020, consider how to focus on making an impact. Resolve to deliver great customer service (and CX) by going further: collaborate with teams outside customer service to address the underlying cause of customers’ problems.

Working across departments

It’s fairly common for departments to operate in their own silos, with no connection to others. While this is unfortunate, the isolation of customer service is especially detrimental. Beyond serving as the friendly face and voice of the company, customer service brings additional value to the company. By acting as the eyes and ears into the customer base, customer service can provide valuable insight into the issues customers are experiencing. Items arriving broken or missing parts? Unclear instruction manuals? Billing issues? All in a day’s work.

The problem is these problems all originate (and can ultimately be solved) outside of customer service. To properly address them requires help from another team. For this reason, customer service must build and maintain strong connections with outside departments where those real solutions can be developed. With solid working relationships and a shared purpose to raise the bar on customer service and CX, customer service can work in conjunction with other teams to do more than simply provide a workaround–they can address the core problem.

Identifying the root cause

It’s important to satisfy the customer with a reasonable resolution in a timely manner, but when companies limit their responses to just repeated one-time answers they are missing the chance to deliver permanent solutions. This is because the underlying cause continues to exist. The examples of problems customer service given earlier come as the result of a broken process somewhere outside of customer service:

  • Product issues are a result of quality control problems in manufacturing or engineering
  • Confusing directions originate from the documentation team
  • Billing errors occur when finance makes a mistake

Customer service can provide details as to how the issue impacts customers and how widespread it is, but they can’t affect the change needed to prevent the issue from recurring for the affected customer as well as future customers; the real solution lies elsewhere, and customer service must work with outside teams to identify the root cause.

Once the root cause has been identified, customer service continues to work with the appropriate team to develop a solution. Problems can come in different orders of magnitude, so customer service and the team in question must work collaboratively on the best solution. If an issue affects ALL customers, a business process change is absolutely necessary; after all, if 100% of customers are affected, this doesn’t project a quality image of the company and its products nor can customer service sustain servicing all customers.

If only a subset of customers is affected or the issue is a lower priority with a lower CX impact, other options are possible. It might be more cost-effective to deliver a workaround impacting a small subset of customers than completely recalling a product, for example, if the affected customer segment is small. Alternatives like automated self-service or knowledge articles can be utilized to deliver solutions to problems in these cases.

Maintaining visibility and accountability

When customer service and another team agree a process change is necessary or a workaround will be developed, the team owning the solution goes to work—but customer service’s job isn’t over. With that other team working on the solution, customer service still needs to know when the solution will be delivered.

Workflow makes this possible. Part of any modern customer service platform, it provides full visibility, accountability, and a timeline from issue identification to solution delivery. Once the needed fix is ready, customer service can notify currently affected customers. They are also spared from taking additional calls, emails, and chats on that same issue.

Improving customer service and CX together

When customer service operates alone, the status quo is maintained and nothing improves. Service may be fine, but more importantly, CX doesn’t get any better.

Superior customer service and CX can only be delivered as a team when customer service is connected to the entire organization. On-point and triaging the issues, customer service can work cooperatively with other teams in the organization to raise customers’ problems, identify the root cause, discuss and agree on the solution, then use workflow to monitor the resolution through to its conclusion. By addressing the root cause, existing customers benefit from a permanent solution and future customers are never impacted. CX improves and customer service never need address that issue again.

If your entire organization isn’t working this way, consider making 2020 the year to make an upgrade and connect customer service with the rest of your organization. Customers will appreciate the resulting improvements to product and service quality and the company will benefit from greater retention and revenue.