What’s wrong with customer service? Solving the service perception problem

For decades, service has been relegated to the end of the customer lifecycle. It was reactive, transitional, transactional and traditional. A “fix something gone wrong” function, blocked at the end of the customer experience. But it’s time we got honest about the value of customer service and asked ourselves if this traditional approach overlooks a broader, more strategic role better served by customers and businesses. I recently spoke with Dr. Edwin Van der Ouderaa, Global Head of Sales and Service at Accenture Song, to better understand how organizations can rethink their perception of service to drive growth in an increasingly challenging market and competitive.

Gary Drenik: We talk about customer service which has a problem of perception… but is it more than that? Is it the reality of service as a function that needs to be rethought?

Edwin Van der Oudera: Until recently, service was something that happened after the fact – after the sale. Companies have developed cost-cutting service strategies that have relegated customer interactions to cost drivers. This was to reduce calls, direct people to FAQs, and encourage them to download an app for more information. But it has allowed companies to offload the complexity of their products and customer issues onto the customer to solve it themselves.

It’s time to reinvent that. Today, thanks to the abundance of customer data, analytics and new technologies – coupled with a move from the classic linear funnel to buy something with minimal consideration to infuse service to a constant cycle of points of contact between the customer and the brand – service interactions become an essential opportunity to generate shared value.

There is a real need for a complete shift in the organizational mindset of companies around customer service – from treating it as a problem solving function and a cost center to a model that is seamlessly integrated across all aspects of the business, continually transforming customer interactions into predictive insights and meaningful actions that engender trust and drive growth. In fact, our End-to-Endless Customer Service study found that companies that view customer service as a value center, rather than a cost center, achieve 3.5 times greater revenue growth than those that maintain a traditional view of customer service.

Drenik: How is the definition of customer service expanding?

Van der Ouderaa: For many companies, customer service can be what separates the leaders from the laggards. The pandemic has rapidly accelerated e-commerce behaviors, intensifying the need for efficient, seamless, end-to-end customer service. Even with the pandemic behind us, consumers have new shopping preferences, and according to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics, nearly half of adults (47%) believe these behaviors have now become “habits” that they intend to keep.

In today’s era of compressed transformation, it is essential that companies do not ignore this change and instead view it as an opportunity to reinvent their service function, with the goal of making service not only efficient but exceptional, to meet increased user expectations. and deliver memorable customer experiences.

I truly believe this is the evolution of customer service that organizations need now to grow – moving from a reactive function to a regenerative function. Many of the challenges facing businesses today – whether it’s a lack of the right technology, which we believe remains a major barrier preventing businesses from achieving growth results; an organization’s struggle to enable service information; or the lack of a systemized process to capture valuable consumer data and insights in the first place – can be addressed with a more proactive, end-to-end customer service function.

In addition to organizational challenges posed by external forces, consumer behaviors and purchasing decisions are changing rapidly, and businesses will need to change just as quickly if they are to remain relevant. By asking existential questions such as “How will we stay purposeful in a rapidly changing world?” “Who are our customers in the future and what do they value?” or “How do we communicate, sell and serve our stakeholders?” we can start redefining customer service.

Drenik: What is the place of customer service in an organization? What kind of role does it play and what stages of the customer journey should they prioritize service?

Van der Ouderaa: For an organization to maximize its opportunities to create value and prepare for the future, service must be integrated into every function, at every stage. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, people highly value features such as low prices (85%), free shipping (84%), a user-friendly website (80.7%), and a privacy policy. flexible return (75.6%) – things that happen at different points in the customer journey. Businesses need to focus on unifying the front office, which in many cases is still siloed, leading to friction in the customer service experience and hindering organizational growth.

Imagine a service that engages customers at every stage of their journey – from education and purchase to use and ultimately redemption. When the service is integrated into a company’s operations, it not only contributes to growth, loyalty and trust, but it also serves as a driver for continuous innovation.

Drenik: Why is it important for organizations to be proactive rather than reactive with their customers?

Van der Ouderaa: Once again, we are in an era of compressed transformation. To survive, companies must anticipate the upheavals they are facing and reinvent themselves and their service function around values ​​shared with their customers.

The key to a successful customer service strategy is using your data and information to enable your business to anticipate customer needs and ensure that all interactions add value to the customer experience. Customers’ perception of service is often strongly determined by their worst experiences, not the average. But thanks to advances in data and AI, there’s a lot we can do to avoid these pitfalls in the first place.

Drenik: What are some critical actions that service function employees can take now to begin their transformation?

Van der Ouderaa: At the end of the day, a true end-to-end customer service function will require strategic and technology investments supported by a reimagined service experience. We have identified three key opportunities for organizations to begin their transformation from a cost center to a foundation for growth and value creation:

  • Develop trust with a proactive and predictive service. Service organizations can use data and artificial intelligence capabilities to increase their ability to predict issues that will arise and then optimize the service desk accordingly, applying insights to prevent such issues for the customer by first place.
  • Increase utilization by helping customers get more value. Customer service agents can become trusted advisors to maximize the value delivered to customers by providing personalized and contextually relevant strategic advice on how to get the most out of their purchases.
  • Increase the possibility of having an impact. Enabling service insights in the front office can unlock significant growth. In fact, companies see their revenue increase 10 times the more their service organization is involved in new product development.

It is not about looking back, analyzing the past and inferring the future. It is about creating the future FROM the future.

Drenik: Thank you Edwin, for offering your unique perspective on the need to rethink the role of customer service, and for sharing some critical actions that organizations can use to begin this transformation of their service center function. costs to a value creator. It was a pleasure talking with you.

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