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Declutter For Your Customers

November 11, 2015 - 5 Comments

We’re moving.

After twenty-five years in the same house, my wife and I will soon be living in a new place.

Moving isn’t fun. It’s not just leaving the home where we raised our two boys, but getting rid of all our unneeded items. We’re not hoarders or packrats, but it’s downright astonishing how much stuff (I won’t use the word junk) we gathered over the years.

beverly hillbillies

Businesses can be like that, too, can’t they? As companies grow, evolve, and consolidate, they accumulate “stuff.” Some of it is necessary, but sometimes it’s just junk–like redundant or conflicting processes. This is frustrating enough for employees, but it’s even worse for your customers.

As consumers, we’ve all experienced this. We enter our account number on a mobile device, only to have a customer service agent ask us to repeat it moments later. Why? Sometimes it’s because one company division created the mobile application, while another runs the contact center. Or sometimes we have to wait several minutes while an agent searches for the information to help us, because it’s stored in several places.

How can companies address this problem?

Three Ways to “Declutter” for Your Customers
Address Root Causes— Make every reasonable attempt to consolidate overlapping business functions and processes that impact your customer service. For example, have you combined separate customer databases you may have accumulated through the years? What about billing systems and support centers? Making these kinds of changes can be expensive, so consider the costs versus the benefits. There’s no one correct answer. You need to strike the right balance for your business and your customers.

Help Your Agents Help Your Customers— Customer care agents often need to consult multiple sources to help customers. Can your agents quickly access the information they need from a single desktop “cockpit”? Is their desktop customizable, allowing agent teams to organize for maximum efficiency?

Maintain Context— Today’s consumers interact with businesses over multiple channels like voice, chat, email, and the web. They may do so over a period of hours, days or even weeks. When they speak with one of your customer service representatives, does the agent know what occurred during the previous interactions? Or must your agent ask the caller to repeat what happened before? Cloud-based context services allow you to keep track of key information across time and channels, enabling agents to help consumers more quickly and accurately. This is the promise of “omnichannel” customer care.

I’ll leave you with a challenge. Try out your own company’s customer service to learn what it’s like for your customers. Are you providing a streamlined, omnichannel journey? Or do you need to declutter a bit? Let me know what you find out in the comments section.

I’ve got to go. The movers are here…

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  1. another oner to add: KISS. keep the soln simple to understand. it is more likely to be adopted

  2. The above comment from “Anonymous” was from me. 🙂

  3. Jeff, I particularly appreciate your recognition that this is a systems problem that demands a systems approach. In the same way moving your family is frightening because it is so disruptive to a mind-bending web of interconnected people, processes and data (yep, I’m a nerd), changing business systems is challenging because you still need to sustain business operations while you are in transition. In other words, while recognizing that root cause analysis and customer-centric design is critical, you’ve also recognized that it’s equally important to take advantage of incremental and transitional strategies relying on your customer service representatives, for example. A combined approach may increase overall transition time and cost; however, it is also likely to lower the “activation threshold” which can inhibit change. It works because it lowers the cost of the fist steps, it reduces disruption, it lowers risk, and it allows groups to experience the benefits of customer-centered design incrementally, to build momentum for sustainable change and ultimately to transform their culture. Our new Context Service can also play a key role in that transition, allowing disparate systems to interoperate by exchanging customer “journey” context between legacy and new systems, between cloud and premise-based apps, between automated web and mobile systems and personalized, customer service.

    Nice job!

    • Thanks, Stephen! You raise a great point about needing to sustain critical business processes even while in the midst of transition. How often that deters us from making a necessary change!

  4. Great analogy between decluttering your home as you move and decluttering for customers! Very nice!