Beyond Tickets: Unveiling the Layers of Shift Left in Customer Service Evolution

Nate Brown

March 4, 20246 min read

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I remember when the ‘shift left philosophy’ took the customer service world by storm many years ago. Serviceaide states, “the shift-left approach refers to moving service actions or steps closer to the end-user for more immediate results and lower costs. By moving information and service functions closer to the customer, unnecessary steps are eliminated, and the dependency on higher-cost resources is reduced.” 

The service landscape is so different today. New tools, new philosophies, new working environments. Does the shift left mentality still have a place in the conversation? 

The answer is yes.  

The goal of extending information closer to the customer and lowering costs is more relevant than ever. Many of the change management mentalities of the past are exactly what we need today. They are the foundation on which great technology rests. When properly applied, great tools have the power to amplify the gifts of great people. 

The conversation around knowledge management becomes very dynamic. Information can be made available directly to the customer if properly curated. This could lower overall ticket volume and accelerate resolutions while also letting the customer control their experience. The importance of this control cannot be overstated, given how much customer psychology has changed in recent years. People (generally) do not want to be forced down a path. They want to have good, intelligent options with absolute freedom to choose. 

Sadly, the implementation of shift left inside many organizations has achieved the opposite. Instead of creating another highly viable service option, organizations re-routed tickets onto a single path, one that often results in a dead end. This leaves the customer feeling strung along and drives up expense channel switching. 

What is the right way to incorporate a shift left mentality in an omni-channel world? The answer lies with timeless wisdom from The Effortless Experience. This resource prophetically challenged service leaders to guide customers to the BEST resolution path. There is tremendous power in this simple phrase. 

Improve resolution time by 30% using smart Omni channel routing

Assign Omnichannel interactions to the best-suited agents with AI-powered Unified Routing

When we provide a small number of intelligent and relevant resolution channels, we still give the customer a choice, but we don’t lead them to a dead-end! It’s evolving from a reactive model in which we blindly make every channel available to an elevated proactive model in which we make the right channel(s) rise to the top at the right time. 

World-class support organizations are doing just this. Guiding customers to effective resolution channels takes the pressure off to have every channel imaginable accessible at every point in the customer journey. This “omni-channel utopia” may seem like the pinnacle of service, but it not all it’s cracked up to be. A modern shift left approach gives us a better way. 

Shift Left: more than how tickets are taken 

There are two primary components of the shift left movement. The one we have explored thus far has been about changing how tickets are handled. Part two is even more critical, as it significantly impacts the very structure of our service departments.  

This part is all about service workers and the roles/responsibilities given to them. Traditional shift left philosophy seeks to maximize efficiency by moving everyone down a tier. Managers to supervisors. Supervisors to “tier II agents” as an example. Tier II agents to tier I. And tier I level interactions deflected through automation. 

There are several healthy opportunities to modernize this way of thinking and still generate the outcomes we are looking for.  

As mentioned recently on an ICMI webinar with Roy Atkinson, “a focus on deflecting tickets is a focus on deflecting customers.” We should instead be embracing our service interactions as opportunities to galvanize relationships. Effectively automating can be quite different than forcefully deflecting them. 

I see this especially clearly while working in the gaming industry. What many service leaders considered “deflecting” tickets was making it such a pain to receive customer service that players would completely give up. They would delete the game versus trying to navigate the complicated process of getting help. Of course, the total number of inquiries on specific channels went down. But so did overall customer satisfaction and engagement. 

“We should embrace customer service for what it is – a chance to grow partnership and enhance long-term loyalty. 

The even more significant opportunity is how we are thinking about upskilling our resources. Instead of just moving service workers down a tier into a different box, let’s throw the box out! 

Frankly, most service organizations are too rigid in how they are organized. I’ve been in two recent coaching conversations where service leaders struggled with the division between tier I and tier II, or “Agent versus Sr. Agent.” What types of tickets should tier II take? Do I give them time out of the queue? Do tier I agents touch every ticket and escalate when they can’t handle it?  

In exploring both cases more closely, it was revealed that what these teams needed was a flexible mentorship model. It’s a modern version of shift left. Don’t create another “box” that will lead to inefficient and lower utilization. Sr. Agents are there taking tickets and actively mentoring team members on how to handle complex issues. They are modeling the right behaviors right on stage with complete visibility so everyone can learn. This is far more effective than a blind escalation or a closed-door quality check. 

This exact example may not apply in every environment, but some versions of it probably will. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely want a career progression path for these service workers. Have this progression focus less on moving to a title or “box,” and more on unlocking new capabilities as knowledge curators and mentors. These resources make everyone better at their job and allow leaders to retain the versatility they need to thrive when things deviate from the standard. (Basically, every day in the world of support😊) 

Shift Forward 

In conclusion, a shift left mentality can be beneficial in accelerating a service transformation. When we bring great information and capable resources closer to the customer, consistently better experiences will be the natural result. Practical tools make this all possible, forming the digital ecosystem to see the entire customer journey. While shift left thinking is rooted in efficiency, we have the power to genuinely shift forward and provide exceptional service as the primary outcome. 

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