06:57:02 am on July 10, 2008 |
Customer demand more – more features, more service, more representatives. You look at what you can do within your budgeting constraints and probably want to start crying. Not much more you can do, or afford to do; least of all, bring in more people. Certainly, other corporations are doing better than you – right?
Well, No. Everyone is asking the same question: how can we grow the number of customers without increasing the number of representatives or the cost for customer maintenance. Alas, leading corporations began to realize in the last 12 months what it takes to achieve this difficult balance. Hire more customer service representatives. Lots more,,, like millions of them.
That’s right. You can get as many more customer service representatives as you want – for free. Yes, FREE. Impossible you say? Unlikely you express? (OK, I ran out of synonyms without checking the thesaurus). Nay. Easier than you think. The answer is simple: empower your customers to become customer service representatives. There are three steps to get there:
First, find the right interactions. Comb your logs, ask your agents. What is the largest number of interactions that your customers could solve on their own? Changing an address? Establishing new service? Getting a refund? In the early days of web self-service, AT&T Wireless (the old one, not this one) leaped ahead of their competitors by offering the ability to claim credits for dropped calls automatically through a web interface. The saved lots of time and money and (more important) lots of CSRs time to take on other tasks. No interaction is too complex or too simple if you can figure out how to automate it.
Which brings us to step two. Automate, entirely and completely, the chosen interactions. That means there is no human check at the end of the process to ensure it is correct. You write all the business rules and exceptions for processing, feed them into a rules server, test them. Then flip the switch. The computer will now handle those interactions for you – and kick out the exceptions you want or need. Your only job is to monitor the results periodically and tighten the rules and exceptions as you go along. Can you imagine the savings if you deflect all those interactions from the phone?
Right about now your question is – will people use it? Well, here is where it depends on you – our third step. Advertise, advertise, advertise. “Force” customers to use the system (that means make it simple, available, and advertise it all over). Make it a service differentiator. Make it part of your brand. Let them know the benefits, incentivize them to use it. Make sure it performs flawlessly each time – and that necessary handling of exceptions is above average for speed and satisfaction (i.r. err on the side of the customer).
Guess what? You just hired millions of new CSRs towork for FREE. What do you think?