7 Essential Customer Service Processes
Most books on customer service nowadays will state that it is neither a department in a business nor a cure-all technological solution that will make customers love the products and services they receive; it is a philosophy that must come from the top and permeate every facet of a business. According to "The Top Seven Customer Service Processes, 2008 to 2011," a new study released by Gartner, many businesses are still failing to heed the vital call to make customer service a primary goal.
Customer service is evolving, and while many leading companies have thrived by rethinking their approach in the last decade, myriad others have not, says Michael Maoz, a Gartner vice president and the report's author. "Leading companies get it, but we're talking about the 75 or 80 percent of businesses who still don't understand the primacy of the customer experience, that are still inside-out driven and say, 'What can we do for the customer?' and 'We know best,' " he adds.
Maoz goes on to explain that organizations should incorporate customer service as a wide-ranging business strategy in order to keep up with customer expectations. "In the past, customer service was a department, the place that you called for specific redress of a grievance or information about your bill," he says. "Right now, rather than a function in that department, it is an enterprise strategy. That transition from a department to an enterprise strategy has profound implications on how we design all our processes across all our different communication channels -- how billing bills, how shipping ships, how sales sells, how a product group creates products."
The study identifies seven customer service processes for businesses to consider through 2011:
- collaboration and community management;
- intelligent dialogue built into call center systems;
- better analytical processes across customer service channels and functions;
- optimized agent workforce processes;
- customer self-service processes;
- enterprise feedback management; and
- consistent, multichannel customer service through unified communications.
Of these, Maoz says collaboration and community management
is absolutely essential for businesses that want to dramatically improve customer service. According to the study, a system to support and collaborate with communities must have several components, including discussion boards; chat and instant messaging; content creation and management tools; email, message and document posting; search; blogging; and analytics. "The must-fix is going to be how you become more customer-involving," he says. Customer service processes, he adds, "all come back to the fact that you're working much more from a sense of the customer as part of a community. Today more people -- particularly the new generation of consumers -- are trusting information from their peers more than they trust information from the enterprise."
The key takeaway from the study is extremely basic, Maoz says. "When you look at what's [helping to retain] customers, over time it is not going to be price, product quality, [or even] convenience; people leave suppliers because of an inferior customer experience."
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