Customer Service Transformation: 10 Steps to Heaven

November 19, 20188min

Now there are three steps to heaven
Just listen and you will plainly see
And as life travels on
And things do go wrong 
Just follow steps one, two and three

The above lyrics come from Three Steps to Heaven, a 1960 chart-topping song recorded by Eddie Cochran. In a similar vein, I believe that organisations thinking about transforming their customer service operations need to take ten steps to deliver a successful and sustainable customer experience and reach their ‘heaven’.

This couldn’t be more important than at a time when customer service teams are struggling to keep pace with customer demand. There are three key reasons why companies should be looking to transform their customer service operations:

  • For every 10 percentage point increase in customer satisfaction, a company can increase revenues two percent to three percent. 
  • A five percent increase in customer loyalty can increase profits by 95 percent
  • 67 percent of companies already compete on the basis of the customer experience, and this figure will increase to 80 percent over the next two years

To achieve this and fully digitally transform customer service, it is necessary to connect departments, workflows, and systems to quickly and proactively resolve customer issues. The ten steps I have developed provide a framework for mapping the overall transformation journey, providing clarity of where in the journey an organisation is at any given point and whether projects are delivering the targeted business benefits.

The ten steps split neatly into two sub-sets:

Steps one-five for all the necessary pre-work, business case, vendor selection, project set-up, approvals, etc.:

  1. Current status
  2. Business Driver(s) (the Turning Point)
  3. Desired Business Outcomes(s)
  4. Research, Assess, Select Solution
  5. Business Case & Approvals

Steps six-ten for the project implementation and value realisation:

  1. Implement Design, Test
  2. Go-Live(s), Roll-out(s)
  3. Stabilisation
  4. Continuous (Incremental) Improvement
  5. Business Value Realisation

Commonly, the steps run in a linear fashion, but after the initial phase, in some circumstances, individual phases can be left out altogether and multiple phases covered at once. But most important, with the pace of change in markets, competition, technology and society, it is vital that change and transformation is a continuous process. Figure 1 lays out some of the typical elements that occur in each step in the process:

The key to success is to recognise that a transformation is required and then to take a holistic view of what business objectives and outcomes your organisation is looking to achieve. Thereafter, it is essential to continuously review these to ensure that the business outcomes are met before moving on to the next phase.

Following this approach, the customer service department can make strategic long-term plans, rather than tactical short-term fixes, because the business is run on an intelligent data backbone and the right technology.

Technology empowers employees to work better, faster and more productively and is the springboard for change and new innovations. Organisations that can harness technology to not simply free up human agent time, but actually augment human agents, will gain the ultimate competitive advantage. The key to this more sophisticated transformation is evolving customer service management, driven by Artificial Intelligence.

Through virtual chat assistants (VCAs) and chatbots, customer service agents will be liberated from repetitive, high-volume tasks and at the same time enable them to identify potential issues before customers are even aware – empowering agents to deliver a new level of customer engagement. In fact, our recent study, The AI revolution: creating a new customer service paradigm, revealed that 50 percent of organisations agree that AI will enable the customer service operation to become more efficient and 42% that AI can be used to provide a higher level of service.

Fundamentally, organisations should take a holistic view of all the business outcomes they are looking to achieve and what will enable the successful delivery of those, and with the ten step model, I have found that organisations are able to set stretching but realistic and achievable goals for their customer service transformation projects.

To paraphrase Eddie Cochran: “Just follow steps one to ten – to reach your own version of customer service heaven…” and future-proof your organisation to take on the continually changing landscape.

Ian Ashby

Ian Ashby

Ian Ashby is a Customer Service Transformation Leader at ServiceNow, and a 2018 UK Business Awards judge.

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