Unleashing actionable strategies for Customer Care 2.0

Nate Brown

February 29, 20245 min read

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The CX paradigm is shifting from the historical role of compensating for organizational problems to a strategic evolution. This change involves transitioning from transaction-focused actions to strategic anticipatory service, cultivating service workers as cartographers of the customer journey. This article from Nate Brown, CX thought leader, helps service leaders herald this exciting era empowered by technology and strategic thinking.

If we are very honest about the nature of customer service work historically, it’s largely been about compensating for all the problems inside the organization. Run this manual process, find this missing data, resolve a miscommunication from marking, etc. This “stuff rolls downhill effect” was highly frustrating early in my service career. Some members of the company would become lazy and fall into bad habits, knowing that the Customer Service team would be there to clean up the mess.

A friction-filled journey with required engagements with the service department is one that only some customers will tolerate.

Fortunately, the mainstream impact of the Customer Experience movement has shown a better way. With this in mind, more and more leaders are now held accountable for designing a seamless experience, keeping the more extensive customer journey at the forefront. Additionally, this new generation of CX technology has successfully automated much of the “clean-up” work of the past. As Sprinklr states, “The best service is no service.”

But “no service” in the historical sense does not mean getting rid of your service department. Quite the opposite. It means embracing an exciting evolution – moving from transaction to action to leverage these fantastic resources strategically and proactively.

Action means being proactive. It means embracing our role as an effective guide. It’s putting away the “clean-up” mop, instead equipping ourselves with a far more strategic apparatus – the compass. Are you ready to elevate the strategic value of your service organization significantly? Consider the following:

Table of Contents

Anticipate Future Friction

Resolving the issue on the surface is generally all that customers expect. Just make this problem in front of me disappear so I can keep fighting forward. But what if we could dig deeper and keep the customer from having to fight at all? The Effortless Experience by the CEB describes the amazing concept of “next issue avoidance.” This is where the service worker not only resolves the obvious problem but digs deeper to understand what the customer may face next and proactively guides them to success. Talk about a mentality shift!

The power of technology and humans when they deliver anticipatory, proactive service

Cultivate Cartographers

Practicing next-issue avoidance, as described above, requires a few fundamental things. The service worker would need to intimately know the customer’s journey – past, present and future – if they will effectively anticipate future friction. We need to equip them with “the map” of this journey and the skills to read it. Sadly, the digital ecosystem inside many organizations can make this information flow impossible.

But it does not stop here. With many new variables impacting the customer experience every day, the service worker must have the skill (and the autonomy) to design a new map for the customer! Few customer service organizations achieve this level of capability. Magic happens when resources are trained in this way of thinking, given the tools they need to succeed, and the organization trusts them to create these elevated customer interactions.

I have an example from consulting inside one of the World’s largest gaming studios. When a player has a problem in a game, the traditional action would be to use a standard calculator to compensate the player with a generic currency. This was far from personalized. The player would have to figure out their own way to use this currency to solve their problem. Over time, many service workers were equipped with the freedom and relevant player data to offer more personal and appropriate compensation. The players felt honored that the service team took the time to see how they played the game. It was no longer just another ticket but an ecosystem in which a player who loved the game was being helped by a capable agent who also knew and loved the game. This goes a long way when we look at long-term loyalty and wallet share!

“Let’s take our service workers from limited ticket takers to map readers to full-fledged cartographers. If you have the right capabilities to measure it, you will also see a significant return on your investment.

Efficiency in the RIGHT Places

At this point, you may be saying, “this is all lovely...but come on back down to Earth, Nate!” It can feel like the things we are discussing are impossible when often it’s efficiency and cost reduction that matter most to Executive Leadership.

A balance is required. It’s about finding efficiency in the right places, saving the organization money in some areas, and earning the right to invest in others. A modern service leader needs to have a pair of bifocals on. One is the “efficiency lens”, and the other is the “CX lens.” Every company will have unique situations and challenges, but these examples may help to get you in the frame of mind:

Bifocal lens

Efficiency lens:

  • Reduce the number of service requests coming into the service center: By helping to apply customer journey thinking to other areas of the organization, you can reduce friction upstream and reduce the overall service burden. Help the organization understand how poor expectation setting early in the journey becomes costly problem-solving later down the road. 

  • Reduce attrition: The cost of unwanted attrition in the contact center is usually more significant than anyone realizes. When we employ the techniques discussed above, we are making the work far better and more enjoyable for the service professionals. Not only are you generating a higher level of talent, but you are keeping them longer. The efficiencies gained in the areas of hiring, training, and continuing education are tremendous. Capturing the cost-reduction achieved by reducing attrition gives service leaders an excellent case when approaching finance and HR for additional investment. 

  • Care more about First Call Resolution (FCR) than Average Handle Time (AHT): Many service organizations attempt to find efficiency by reducing AHT. This may seem like an obvious win. Less time spent resolving customer inquiries means more inquiries handled by fewer people. The problem is that many of these accelerated interactions result in a callback or some other form of frustration. When service workers have the time and freedom to solve the problem (and maybe even practice next-issue avoidance) it often results in greater efficiency and a better overall experience. 

CX Lens: 

  • Prove the long-term value of GREAT service interactions: Develop the right data capability to measure the impact of a strategic customer service action versus a “bare minimum” one. Metrics like customer lifetime value, renewal/retention rates, and share of wallet can often correlate back and tell a compelling story. We all know that great CX is the most differentiated and sustainable way to grow the business. The tricky part is often how to prove it. 

  • Voice of Customer “treasure trove”: Strategic Customer Service leaders have the gift of making the organization smarter through customer service interactions. Resist the urge to simply resolve tickets (transactional). Embrace your power to create ACTION across the organization by dynamically capturing and presenting Voice of Customer insights!

This is an exciting time to be a Customer Service leader. When you look at the four pillars of psychological safety presented by Timothy R Clark, fostering CHALLENGERS is the clear goal. By embracing the incredible new technology, we have available, fostering an even more strategic mindset, and promoting meaningful action through customer service interactions, we can be challengers for our organization like never before. Keep looking for innovative ways to go from transaction to action!

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