27. Mar. 2019
Chris Rall
3 minute read

Lessons Learned: Building a Digital Customer Service Strategy isn't Easy

Most companies are transforming their customer service strategies from voice to digital but still don’t have it all figured out.
Digital media affects virtually every step of the customer journey today and requires companies to rethink both their engagement and service approaches. Organizations are shifting their customer service strategies from voice-only to digital channels however the path is trickier than expected and many strategies remain immature.

What should a holistic digital customer service strategy include and how can new technologies be deployed effectively within contact centers to improve customer experience?

“More than 50% of companies surveyed said
digital transformation is one of their top 3 priorities.”


A Company-wide and Department Specific Strategy

Strategy may begin as a C-level issue but cannot remain there. If the focus remains on the 30,000-foot view, individual departments are left without a concrete roadmap for implementation. This creates confusion, slows change and may lead to worsening service. Customer service departments deal directly with people daily meaning any change will immediately begin affecting your customers.

Whether you use external consultants, internal people or both, you must:

  • Develop an overall digital strategy
  • Develop department-specific strategies
  • Clearly define your goals
  • Provide a concrete roadmap for implementation and time horizon

It is crucial to find experts who don’t just develop a strategy, but also convert it into initial implementation scenarios.


Consider Internal & External KPIs

According to American Express’ Global Customer Service Barometer, the three top traits of customer service are: efficient, empathetic and empowered. Specifically, that means answering customer questions quickly and without having to transfer the call or make customers wait.

Any digital customer service strategy will aim to improve classic KPIs like First Contact Resolution Rate (FCR), Average Handling Time (AHT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS). While these all have a positive effect on the customer, agents should not be forgotten. Happy agents make happy customers, even when they have a problem.

Cranky or impatient agents can still deliver a bad customer experience even if they ultimately solve the problem.

Trader Joe’s, for example, is famous for treating employees well. The difference is instantly apparent upon entering a store and when interacting with their workers. Whether or not you find what you need, liked the prices or even if you accidentally broke something, you’ll walk out a little happier than when you left (assuming you found a parking spot).

As agents will need to manage issues across more channels, making their jobs simultaneously easier will reduce turnover and improve the KPIs bosses care about. Here are a few options:

  • Rotate agents between calls and chat/messaging to reduce stress.
  • Centralize your information to make finding answers quicker and easier for agents
  • Introduce self-service to deflect tickets and reduce calls

Use interactive decision trees and guided chats to make calls easier and more consistent between agents.

Automate, but Slowly

Like any company, we love to talk about AI and chatbots. But as with any technology, it is important to phase it in with a constant cycle of feedback, analysis and adjustment.

Chatbots can often handle routine support requests and reduce first level inquiries. However, they must be able to quickly pass customers to an agent for example, not leave them unable to escape the chat like the automated phone systems we all hate.

Automation and AI must also be rolled out slowly. Customers can often frame complaints in ways confusing for machines such as “The product I just bought broke already, but the salesperson was really nice.”  Mixing both positive and negative can initially trip up bots and in an example like this, you don’t want the bot’s first answer to be “That’s great.”

AI can indeed deliver great things over time, but it too must learn as agents had to.

Centralize, Simplify and Take Advantage of your Knowledge

According to a recent study,
nearly 2.5 quintillion bytes of data are created daily.

In order for agents to stay on top of things like product information, return policies, subscriber plans, sales, and internal guidelines, they need to be able to easily find them. With growing information overload, the solution is implementing a knowledge base to centralize your company’s internal information, reduce duplication and create concrete editorial, review and approval workflows.

Building a Digital Customer Service StrategyOver 90% of companies we recently surveyed said that introducing a knowledge base is a very important part of their digital strategy. Service speed is the most important ingredient of good service from a customer point of view. Reducing agents’ time spent searching means less customers on hold, faster answers and shorter handling times.

Consider Future Plans to Expand Service

Finally, when evaluating software solutions, it is important to avoid lock-in which may limit your ability to extend the system or integrate new technologies. Pure CRMs or ticketing systems for example, excel at specific tasks but are simply incapable of the rest.

Most companies in our latest study planned to implement some or all of the following in the future:

  • Chatbots
  • Voice assistants
  • More social media channels
  • Both an internal and external knowledge base
  • Dynamic FAQs on their website

Each one of these requires an accurate and up-to-date source of data. Dynamic FAQs are generated from a knowledge base relative to where the user is on the website. Chatbots should similarly rely on the same knowledge base or your company will be stuck maintaining multiple databases which leads to inconsistent and inaccurate information for agents and bots.

Download the full study here

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