Customer Care: Surviving and Thriving at Scale, with an Empowered Network
May 1, 20204 min read
In large organizations, tens of thousands of support people are being shifted to work from home. Sometimes it’s going well, other times…not so much.
We recently wrote about John Hagel of Deloitte’s perspective on empowering the whole workforce to solve problems – and the way that empowered, autonomous customer care teams are making the transition much more effectively than autocratic ones.
What can success really look like? Collaboration expert Simon Terry, of Change Agents Worldwide, offered this visionary picture of what it can look like to shift your customer care team from a cost center to a driver of strategic value.
Reframe Your Investment in Care
“These organizations have to change and adapt,” he said. “Most importantly, the work I’ve done has been about enabling them to, instead of seeing forty thousand, fifty thousand employees as a dead weight cost, it’s actually to see that as a sensing network.
“How can you use your employees to understand what your competitors are doing? What are your customers doing? How you might need to respond? Using your employees to identify breaks in your processes. … One of the things that an organization can do is use their employees to identify broken processes to fix them, either at the spot, or escalate them to be fixed.”
We’ve been inspired by organizations we work with who empower their care managers to do this by sharing what they learn outside the siloes of their own departments – and by those who use AI not just to route help requests to the right agents, but also to understand trends emerging across those care cases. Identifying breaks in the process is what Customer Experience Management is all about! Identifying them, and then fixing them.
Empowering the Network to Act
Fixing the problems is key, of course. This idea of a network of human sensors is something that IT security people rely on, to augment their technical sensors watching out for security threats. Offline, public safety workers are often asked to act as human sensors to detect problems in a community – and are increasingly being empowered with data flowing back to them and empowerment to solve the problems they find, when they can. (See this Deloitte article about IoT and public safety, for example.)
In addition to hiring and training the right people, and using the right technology, there are cultural and process changes required to really do this effectively, as well. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh talked about this with McKinsey several years ago. “To harness collective intelligence, we think of every single employee as a human sensor,” Hsieh said. “Everyone senses different things, and you want a way to process all of that input….You don’t allow the other sensors [in an airplane] to outvote the low-voltage warning light and ignore it, yet the analogous thing happens all the time in organizations…The structure that we have enables basically all of our employees, if you think of them as human sensors—to actually do something about it, versus just getting outvoted.”
Benefits Across Formerly Siloed Departments
It’s all interconnected, but employee empowerment and the benefits to the entire enterprise are a common thread. “The access care agents have to their customers can be used for Marketing, Crisis Management and Product Insights,” says Grace Brinkley, a member of Sprinklr’s UX Research team. “I’ve also heard from our customers that by empowering their care agents, they hope to create happier employees – which then leads to longer tenures, more experienced agents, and transitions out of care and into other departments where they can serve the org.”
Customer care doesn’t have to be a cost center, it’s a great opportunity to interface with your customers. Imagine your care agents as a big network of human sensors and then move toward empowering them, one step at a time. That’s a vision of customer care that’s strategic.
Learn more about embracing and overcoming the current communication challenges your company is facing.