Four Keys to Unified Customer Service Governance

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When it comes to customer service, many vastly different elements, from employees to computer software, come into play. Each of these pieces can probably work in isolation, but they function much better together, with a common, unified governance structure that sets clear guidelines for the establishment and continuous monitoring of policies and processes by corporate leadership.

In fact, a unified governance model for customer service delivery is no longer a nice-to-have; it’s a business imperative, according to Ian Jacobs, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.

Companies that fail to steer their customer experience efforts with the proper governance stand to suffer increased costs, inefficiencies, and disjointed experiences that all threaten their competitive positions, Jacobs says.

Today, too many companies still have departmental silos that are thwarting any kind of comprehensive customer view, he laments.

Jacobs points out that when car rental company Hertz started its social media efforts, it failed to coordinate with both the marketing and customer service departments, leaving marketing rather than customer service to often handle customer complaints coming in via social media.

That wouldn’t have happened with a unified governance model, Jacobs says. He recommends further that contact center pros should lead the charge toward governance models that limit bad customer experiences.

Those models, he says, should include four critical elements: a cross-functional governance board, technology governance, process governance, and data governance.

To avoid problems like those experienced by Hertz, several companies have moved from isolated improvement projects to broader customer-centric programs. This not only avoids the issue of governance siloed by department, but also governance siloed by applications or touchpoints.

As a result, many departments within the organization are involved, meaning they need to align technology purchases, data usage, and diverse data inputs, Jacobs says. A cross-functional governance program helps clarify the roles, responsibilities, and escalation pathways, while also measuring the success of any efforts to improve customer service.

Technology purchases also need to be coordinated across the enterprise, not handled by siloed departments, according to Jacobs. Without coordinated technology purchases, companies can wind up with technologies that don’t communicate with one another.

This step often starts by thoroughly auditing all similar technologies already in place before purchasing new ones for customer service initiatives.

One problem with this is that many large organizations have grown by mergers and acquisitions, resulting in legacy technologies that need to be integrated.

Technology governance also means understanding how to maximize the value of a technology investment, Jacobs adds. A chatbot, for example, is only as good as the data fed into it, and it needs to integrate with other parts of the company if it has any hope of doing little more than answering a few frequently asked questions.

When it comes to processes, customer service leaders often can’t enforce consistent processes across disconnected sources of information and knowledge, according to Jacobs. Customer service must define and implement consistent agent-facing and customer-facing processes that govern the flow of data, information, and contextual knowledge during service interactions. Consistent processes benefit customer service by improving agent efficiency, reducing agent training times, driving policy compliance, and personalizing service, Jacobs says.

Data, the last piece in the governance puzzle, must also be consistent, accurate, and up to date across communication channels and touchpoints, Jacobs says.

“A few companies have taken a few baby steps to break down the silos in some governance areas,” Jacobs says, adding that governance for data might be ahead of some other areas because the value of sharing knowledge is a lot clearer.

Even though he sees unified governance for customer service not yet hitting its stride, Jacobs expects some companies to move swiftly because they increasingly recognize the value of customer service in revenue and profits.

“They see customer service as the top driver of a quality customer experience,” he says. “Brands are starting to see excellent customer service as more critical and less aspirational.” 

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