Create a Customer Experience Powerhouse: The Role of Customer Service

What a time to be alive as a service professional! Whereas many service departments have been viewed as reactive cost centers in the past, the customer experience revolution has changed everything. Service is now one of the most critical and strategic touchpoints inside of the customer journey. If customer experience is the hand, then customer service is the thumb. It’s the service pros who are uniquely capable of grabbing a tool and fixing the problems as they happen. The real fun begins, however, when we move beyond the “break-fix” mentality and design fantastic experiences upstream.

But before we unwrap that burrito, take a look at these definitions of customer service and customer experience from the CX Accelerator Glossary of Customer Experience Terms:

  • Customer Service. The function of a company responsible for assisting the customer when they experience issues related to a product or service.
  • Customer Experience (CX). “How customers perceive their interactions with your company” (Forrester)

While related, CX is quite different from customer service. Service is just one of many aspects a customer experience professional must coordinate, while CX brings the entire organization together under the banner of customer success.

The exciting reality is that customer service and service desk professionals are perfect candidates to drive CX. We know the customers as well as the products and services better than anyone else. We already default to viewing problems through the lens of the customer and can visualize the impact decisions will have on customers down the road. These acquired gifts, when combined with natural empathy and a desire to help, make the service desk a wonderfully fertile ground in which to plant CX initiatives.

My own journey over the past three years has validated the power of this transition. Having run a technical support center for much of my career, I volunteered to kick-off a brand new customer experience program. The results have been incredibly exciting. We have made massive improvements in our ability to learn from customer feedback, reduced calls, engaged agents on exciting new projects that develop their skills, improved cross-departmental collaboration, and so much more. When you re-focus customer service to play a strategic role in the larger customer experience, the benefits to both are tremendous.

Hopefully the “why” is now clear. Let’s talk about “how” to morph your service desk into a CX engine. If you are lucky enough to have a centralized, coordinated customer experience program in your organization, it may be as simple as becoming more actively involved. Be sure these leaders know how uniquely positioned customer service is to drive CX and identify meaningful priorities. If you are not yet so fortunate to have an established program, consider these tips to interject a customer experience mentality into a customer service function.

Start a CX Program from Scratch

We are starting with the full enchilada on this one. If you’ve been nodding your head along with this entire post and wishing you had a customer experience program, it may be time to start one yourself! Some of the best programs have started with essentially no budget and no full time CX staff. The graphic below will help you to get started with three key areas to consider when beginning a program: employee experience, voice of the customer, and experience engineering.

customer experience

Break the Survey Mentality

One great bridge between customer experience and customer service is in the area of voice of the customer.  Many organizations are only capable of capturing feedback if it comes to them in the form of a survey. This is only a fraction of the feedback received when you consider all the unstructured, organic feedback that happens every day. Much of this feedback comes in through the service department. Create a channel to capture this unstructured feedback and learn from the customer journey. This channel could be a custom form inside of your business intelligence / survey tool, a spot inside of your CRM such as a tab on the ticket for special feedback, or even just an email address people can send organic feedback to. Once collected, you can either compare this against your survey data for another perspective, or depending on your toolset, you can combine them for a broader view. Once you’ve been successful in implementing this new feedback channel within the service desk, you can guide the rest of the organization in doing the same thing!

Solve the Knowledge Problem

The flow of knowledge through a company is such a critical part of both the customer and the employee experience. When people can access the information they need quickly and easily, it frees everyone up to focus on high-value tasks. With the evolution of self-service in recent years, customer service often is best equipped with the skills required to manage knowledge well. Take the same wonderful principles we learn from KCS® (Knowledge-Centered Service) and inspire better knowledge management across the entire organization.

Develop a “Customer Health” Score

This is a great way to collaborate between customer service and sales while making a huge impact on Net Promotor Score. Establish a new score that personifies the health of the customers you serve. Work with sales to list the attributes and criteria that show a highly engaged, successful customer. Some of these characteristics will be more visible on the sales side, others within customer service. Examples would include average use of the product, number of calls to support, use of advanced features, attendance at webinars or user conferences, strength of main POC relationship, and more. The cumulative assigned point values associated with these criteria would result in that customer’s score. If you can’t do this for every account, start with the top 100. Once you’ve identified those customers who are low on the engagement scale, brainstorm the best ways to engage that relationship. When these steps are taken as a partnership between sales and support, the chances of making a positive difference are greatly enhanced.

Map the Employee Experience

Journey mapping is very popular as a customer experience tool, but it can also be a great way to enhance the employee experience. Here is an excellent and simple guide that will walk you through the process of creating the map. Your “personas” are the various internal job roles and the “touchpoints” are the key stages in their employment experience. Onboarding is a great place to start. Eliminating barriers to success for your employees will have a significant positive impact on the customer experience.

Continue the CX Journey

I hope these ideas have inspired you to take your customer experience efforts to the next level!  When we think about the role of service beyond just firefighting, but instead as experience designers, everyone wins. Please allow me to be a resource if I can share anything that may help you on your journey!

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