• January 31, 2011
  • By Donna Fluss, president, DMG Consulting

Customer Service Initiatives for 2011

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It’s time again to assess our performance of the past year, perhaps write our own performance reviews, and plan in earnest for 2011.
After surviving a couple of tough years, service and contact center managers can breathe a sigh of relief. Senior executives have paid lip service to the importance of the customer experience, while CFOs have cut budgets. Approved projects intended to improve productivity and reduce operating costs were put on hold, and so the process of reapproval begins anew.

The unemployment rate is above 9 percent, which lets companies justify either tiny or no raises, while the best agents and support personnel go elsewhere to get the salaries they deserve. Moreover, the social media juggernaut barrels toward us, and with no one taking the lead, customers are more frustrated than ever.

Moving Beyond the Recession

While I know the story isn’t this bad in every organization, some of this description must resonate with you. Enterprises have to take a critical look at their businesses and figure out what they must do to reinvigorate their customer base and employees. Customer—and employee—loyalty is at an all-time low and must be earned, daily, from customers who have grown cynical.

Like it or not, the responsibility largely rests with the customer service or contact center. This is also the group that should lead enterprise social media efforts but is often stymied by marketing groups with great intentions but no skills or resources to respond to feedback.

Top 10 initiatives

With the 2011 planning cycle in full swing, here is a list of projects and investments that enterprises should consider for their service and contact centers:

1. Renewed interest in traditional quality assurance programs would provide more consistent feedback and coaching to agents.

2. Critical operational assessments must identify activities and systems that need to be updated, including outdated policies and procedures that drive away customers; ineffective and costly systems that need to be enhanced or replaced; and ill-advised human resources policies that contribute to staff attrition.

3. Adoption of a telecommuting program would reduce real estate costs and strengthen contingency plans.

4. Pay-for-performance would better motivate behavior and reward outstanding performance.

5. Voice-of-the-customer initiatives would take a holistic view of customer feedback and apply it quickly. And to obtain customer insights into operational issues and revenue opportunities, speech analytics should be added to service and marketing functions.

6. Creation of empowered and unencumbered inter-departmental teams would fix problems and address opportunities independent of organizational boundaries and politics.

7. Formalization of performance management in customer service and contact centers, such as adding customer service and contact center key performance indicators to the corporate dashboard, would give senior management visibility into employee performance.

8. Investments in workforce management solutions should be geared toward self-service applications and long-term planning.

9. Transformation of cost-oriented service organizations would make them engaging revenue generators.

10. Development and rollout of a corporate social media strategy with defined roles for all internal constituencies would inform managers about the expectations of their departments.

All of those initiatives can deliver quantifiable benefits while dramatically enhancing the customer experience and agent satisfaction. No one can do them all, but customer service or contact center environments should incorporate some into their 2011 plans.

Those are the types of projects that can help reverse customer dissatisfaction while creating a service experience that is outstanding and profitable. We cannot erase the negatives of recent years, but we can overcome them by setting realistic goals and making improvements.

Donna Fluss (donna.fluss@dmgconsult.com) is founder and president of DMG Consulting (www.dmgconsult.com), a leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis, and consulting.

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