Almost a year ago, at Pega’s iNspire event, I watched a presentation by Jeff Nicholson, VP of CRM Product Marketing at Pega, and Paul Greenberg, a CRM industry expert and author, entitled The Future Of Customer Service. Their discussion centered on how the “surface area” of customer service has changed over the last ten years, how customer service has increasingly leveraged technology, and how it is likely to develop over the coming few years.
The “surface area” they talked about is arranged along a continuum that goes from left to right like this:
- Agent-Driven Service, where a customer receives one-to-one service via email, phone or face to face;
- Assisted Service, where a customer can get help via mediums like live chat or messaging applications and an agent can serve multiple customers at one time;
- Self-Service, where a customer can help themselves via tools like a chatbot, an intelligent knowledge base or a self-service portal;
- Proactive Service, where an organization proactively communicates with its customers and provides solutions or information updates around common questions or operational issues before the customer asks; and
- Preemptive Service, where an organization can predict and anticipate customers’ needs or act to prevent or address predicted service interruptions by analyzing historical and real-time data.
The continuum suggests that the further right you go the lower the cost to the business, the lower the customer effort, the higher the speed of resolution and, by implication, the greater the distance from an interaction with an agent.
It’s a powerful and elegant piece of work that does a great job of simplifying what can often seem like a very complex technological landscape, particularly when it comes to customer service.
But, I think their analysis is missing something.
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I think it misses the internal dimension. The agent’s hinterland, if you will, that includes all of the essential tools and facilities that are there to enable agents to deliver, in the moment, the service and experience that customers want.
This dimension, I believe, could be a mirror image of the tools and facilities that are available to customers and would include Assisted Service for agents, Self-Service for agents, Proactive Service for agents and Preemptive Service for agents. Like their customer counterparts, these facilities would improve efficiency, reduce effort, enable agents, and drive better customer outcomes.
Explicitly including this dimension when we think about the broader landscape of customer service is important. Despite the emergence of new and competitive technologies and channels, voice and email are still the most popular customer service channels. Moreover, voice and increasingly video chat, regardless of demography, are the go-to channels when a customer’s issue is urgent, concerning or complex.
Therefore, these interactions are critical and can make or break a customer’s relationship with a brand if not handled well. Consequently, we must include this dimension in our thinking and the tools that we utilize as it will allow us to think in a more connected and holistic way about the whole service experience.
But we are not there yet.
Not from a technology perspective. Although many of these elements already exist and are developing, they are not all knitted together as yet in one connected platform. Discussing this with Andy Haas, Service Transformation Practice Leader at Deloitte Digital, he believes that “we are still 2-5 years away from seeing all of these elements being integrated into one platform.”
We are also not there yet from a mindset perspective. Haas adds that based on what he is seeing out in the market right now, most brands will be focused on what he calls “the foundational work required (to operate) in this new world” over the course of the next two years — getting the basics right if you like.
But, he went on to say that the top performing 10% of his client base already recognize this gap. They see the need to develop and integrate tools into their service and engagement platforms that further enable agents and are starting to address this through pilots and proofs of concept.
They are not waiting. They acknowledge the need to connect the customer’s experience to the employee’s experience, particularly in the service and support space, to deliver the experience that their customers want.
They are leading. They have started.
If you aspire to lead then you should do the same.