Success is something that is not often easily defined in business because it can mean so many different things. Success to one organization is completely different from another, and often determined by measurable goals, metrics, and slew of numbers that line up exactly where we want them.
It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure. Bill Gates
Even then, when the jackpot bars line up like a slot machine and coins are raining, you’re celebrating the idea of success and the feeling.
Truthfully, knowing whether or not you’re successful doesn’t come from the numbers. It comes from the customers. That’s why customer service is such a significant piece of the foundation of strong businesses.
Comcast is a massive organization in scale as well as revenue. But given what we know about their customer service and how their customers react to the brand – would you consider them successful?
Where Business Processes Fail the Customer
Where a lot of businesses fail, or start on the path that prevents true success, is when they get stuck doing what they think they should be doing, and they are not measuring any of their actions against how their customers will respond to the change.
Case in point; Cyclops Vapor is an e-liquid manufacturer for the electronic cigarette industry. Their customer grew accustomed to purchasing their product in glass bottles that contained dropper tops – a standard packaging method for the industry. Those tops were used to siphon the e-liquid from the bottle and place it inside the vaping device.
The company decided in 2015 that it would switch from dropper tops to flat caps and deployed the changed product out into the market. The customer response was less than stellar and many customers were upset, wondering how they were supposed to get the product out of the bottle.
Despite those complaints, the company ordered the manufacture of automated machinery designed to work with the flat caps and did not make a backward change to restore the use of dropper tops even though many customers demanded it.
That is just one example of how critical it is to look to customers, listen, and judge their reactions in order to measure whether or not your practices are leading to success or driving you away from it.
Adapting Customer Service and Improving Processes
This same kind of failure often happens in customer service divisions as well. Every day your agents are working with customers to resolve issues and attempting to delight your audience. Success doesn’t come from just resolving issues though. You cannot grow and find success from being reactive.
Success requires that you be proactive. For customer service that means looking at your customers, judging their responses to your customer service, and measuring whether or not your processes are adequately contributing to the success of your company.
When you run your business based on customer service and delighting the customers, and you’re looking at your service in this manner, you’ll begin to see opportunities for improvement. You have access to instant feedback that will allow you to improve your processes and reduce customer churn through better case management.
The Crumbling Infrastructure of Dated Customer Service
By and large, customer service can be rather unpredictable. Because service inquiries are so diverse your agents need to draw on an equally diverse set of resources in order to resolve what is before them. As a result, your team may not be fully prepared to resolve issues effectively or efficiently.
It can seem difficult to generate workflows for these situations because of the diversity of inquiries and what often comes of this chaos is agents copying and pasting information across multiple platforms and handling situations offline to try to and source a resolution from multiple individuals.
In the meantime, customers are left waiting as call times and hold times increase. The manual sorting also creates the potential for the inaccurate handling of customer cases and the potential for error.
One of the most effective ways to proactively counter that chaos is through the implementation of adaptive case management.
When you understand the variety of customer cases and effectively monitor the processes you’ve put in place you can take a more adaptive approach that allows you to be more flexible and provide a more personalized customer experience.
An adaptive case management system with effective (not just efficient) processes will allow your team to more effectively route customer issues and develop targeted resolutions.
Creating a More Adaptive Customer Service Environment
Traditionally workflows tend to be very rigid and businesses often make the mistake of utilizing a workflow like a set of instructions for teams to follow. But workflows aren’t detailed processes. When employee activities are dictated by poorly-detailed workflows then they feel locked into a very rigid structure.
That leaves little room for finding a resolution outside of their simple workflow that says customer issue A goes to Inside Team B, Customer issue B goes to Inside Team C and so on. There’s nothing adaptive about handling cases in that manner and it will quickly stagnate whatever relationships you have with your customers.
This is where an adaptive case management approach can transform your business and put you on the path to success.
Achieving Customer Delight through Adaptive Case Management and Employee Autonomy
Customer service is about more than just having fluid, highly efficient processes that streamline your support. While that’s important, the only way to truly delight your customers and grow is to take a fully adaptive approach to case management.
That means giving employees autonomy – not just autonomy to choose from one of the several pre-determined paths but actual autonomy to listen to the customer and create a resolution that is custom tailored.
When you pair that autonomy with your improved processes and automation in ticket management then, and only then, will your team be able to move a customer quickly through to a resolution without errors and inaccuracy.
There is a tremendous amount of evidence suggesting that autonomy and giving employees more freedom makes them happier and more productive. It gives the right employees, in the right roles, the feeling of ownership in the resolutions they find. That simple change of allowing employees to act on intuition and use their creativity not only improves case management but it can transform your entire department.
There is no better example of how this kind of approach can delight customers than in the service provided by The Ritz-Carlton. In a Forbes article, professional leadership and corporate communication coach Carmine Gallo shared a story about the autonomy employees at the Ritz-Carlton. There, employees are trained to anticipate the unexpressed wishes of their guests. In a room-service visit, it’s not uncommon for a waiter to tilt the TV in the direction of the guest and place the remote control on the service tray. During one stay the receptionist called me and said, “We see that you are scheduled to leave very early tomorrow. Can we leave a pot of fresh, hot coffee outside your door?”
Customer service like that shows two things; autonomy that allows employees to tend to the needs of the customer, and knowledge of customer interactions that allows employees to adapt to the situation.
When you pay close attention to and audit your customer service processes, you’ll have a clear picture about the most pressing needs of your customers and how they’ll reach out to your team. This will allow you to build more automated, refined and effective processes based on adaptive case management.
Your employees can more effectively route and manage cases based on defined scenarios, thus reducing call times, holds times and the time to resolution. For situations that are unique, you’ll have established the autonomy that allows your customer service team to adapt to the case at hand and develop a resolution.
How to Establish Employee Autonomy to Support Adaptive Case Management
While you want to give your team the freedom to delight your customers, you can’t give them an all-access pass to do whatever they want. There are a few things to keep in mind when you’re establishing autonomy among your teams.
1. Set Parameters First
It’s important to have parameters or guidelines in place in how the most common cases should be handled. This is where automated processes can take over and streamline the entire customer service experience.
This way you’re not forcing employees to lean on their autonomy with every case. Instead, the majority of your customer cases can be routed and resolved automatically through established processes and guidelines.
Anything that comes in outside of those parameters is where you can grant autonomy to your team.
2. Reward The Thinkers
Even when granted autonomy to be more adaptive in customer cases, one or more of your team members may have difficulty adjusting. For those who immediately start grinding away and thinking on their feet, make sure you reward them. This produces a positive feedback system where reward the team members who delight your customers. Other team members will seek that same reward and recognition and will be encouraged to exercise their autonomy.
3. Relax the Environment
Grinding non-stop in a customer service position for a full day can wear on employees. Burnout can greatly impair cognitive function make it more difficult for your team to generate resolutions that delight your customers. That strict control over your department isn’t necessary. It doesn’t lend to your success, all it does it establish control and it could actually be hurting your customer service efforts.
Give your team the freedom to take breaks, to pause, to breathe and to refresh. Relinquish the hard 9 to 5 and introduce more flexibility in scheduling.
4. Invest in Company Culture
If you want to introduce more adaptive case management and create really effective customer service teams then you need to invest in your people and your culture. Unify them and inspire them to work together to seek a resolution to customer issues by creating company rituals that bond all employees – even if they work in multiple states or remotely.
This can include company outings, contests, group activities, extra perks and rewards, introduction of pet policies in the workplace, free movie passes, competitive games, providing drinks to team members on the clock – there are countless ways to invest in your employees that improve morale, bonding, and keep your employees excited about delighting your customers.
Introducing adaptive case management goes far deeper than changing service platforms or introducing refined processes. It requires a greater analysis of the processes as well as the people involved and how they can all be refined to provide the best experience to the customer, based specifically on the needs of those customers.
It’s only when improvement takes place based on customer needs that you’ll be able to claim real success.