Imagine someone being stranded on a deserted island after surviving an airplane crash. Let’s call him Rob (after Robinson Crusoe).The first few days on this island will be a struggle for survival for Rob. He will put most of his efforts trying to figure out where he can sleep without being someone’s dinner and which non-poisonous food he can consume to make it to the next day. Pure survival mode.

If Rob will actually get out of this mode alive, he’ll start doing other things too. Building a permanent shelter, building a more sustainable way to collect fruits from the trees, crafting his machete, perhaps a raft, improving his well being, and optimising other daily tasks that he performed in the early days so he can do them faster and better (why fishing with a stick when he can build a net?).

Ultimately, he’ll reach a point where he can extract and create good experiences from every challenge he faces (easily make coconut juice from the coconut that almost killed him), and actually have a nice-almost-laid-back life. Perhaps Rob will use his raft to visit other islands, or perhaps he may find himself supporting other people on the island that need help (this metaphor has been hard enough for me so let’s just assume he found some) and improve his social ties and overall quality of life.

This, in a nutshell, is the perfect analogy to the overall evolution of customer service organizations. Not all customer service organizations were born equal. As a matter of fact, every organization has its unique way of operating. Having said that, there are three phases in the evolution of customer service organizations that almost every consumer company goes through.

Day 1: the survival mode

“Thank you for contacting us, how can I assist you today?”

In this phase the customer support organization is trying to accomplish the most basic KPI to survive – killing support tickets. There are X amount of tickets and we need to resolve them ASAP. The north star of organizations at this phase is cost and efficiency above all else. This is when the organisation builds its routing solutions, communication channels, and agent profile while establishing its  end-to-end customer operations.

Moreover, at this phase, the org views customers as support tickets and as “orders”. The Support MO is one-size-fits-all – they are yet to have a notion of who you are as a customer and lack the context of your overall journey with the organization, so all customers are treated the same way. Your #1 KPI here is Average Handling Time (AHT), deriving other metrics such as Mean-Time-To-Response (MTTR), etc.

Day 2: optimizing daily tasks and focusing on  well being

“Hi X! Thank you for contacting us, I see that you called us yesterday regarding your order, which was shipped this morning. How can I assist you today?”

an image showing the process of customer evaluation.

In this phase you have moved from pure Support to Customer Care and you’re probably using customer care tools. Organizations that have managed to overcome the survival mode, will now enter Day 2. In this phase, they will actually review all their operational systems and workflows and try to think how they can do it better – how can they optimize cost yet also start focusing on interactions quality.

These organizations have moved from “orders” and “tickets” to customers, and are now focused on how to create a more delightful experience for their customers – both by knowing who the customer is and what they have been through with us (breaking the one-size-fits-all), and also by segmenting their Customer Care into subject matter expert teams (billing-related, technical support, tier 1 / tier 2). Your top KPIs here are efficiency-oriented (Average Handling Time among others), yet also include quality metrics such as CSAT (Customer Satisfaction).

Day 3 : focus on improving quality of life

“Hi X! How are you? Thank you for contacting us, I see that you called us yesterday regarding your order which was shipped this morning. As a loyal customer, I want to offer you a $20 coupon as compensation for the delivery delay inconvenience. Also, since you have purchased new glasses, I wanted to see whether you’d be interested in purchasing contact lenses as well, in a special Loyalty discount and free shipping! ”

Congrats! This phase is when you truly become a customer experience(CX) organization.

This phase is the holy grail of every customer-facing org. That is to say, the org is mature and optimized enough for the team and its leaders to allocate more resources to support the company’s broader efforts of retention & loyalty (revenue loss prevention), revenue generation (upsell, cross-sell), marketing campaigns introducing new products or services, and improving product stickiness and adoption.

an image showing two young woman demonstrating the customer loyalty as a result of the evaluation of customer service organizations.

The CX organization leverages the fact it is the forefront of the company: the real, human touchpoint of customers with the company, and so by creating a comprehensive view that brings together all the customer context, info and history in real time, it is able not only to ensure phenomenal, personalized customer experience effortlessly (resolving any customer inquiry in a personalized manner), but also to provide tailored offers to their customers and get insights from customers, to create a better ongoing relationship between customers and the company, boosting loyalty and retention which are at the core of every company’s strategy. This is why phase 3 is the holy grail of any consumer company, creating a win-win-win-win situation:

  • customers get a personalized, tailored experience.
  • service agents can focus on fostering better, human relationships with customers instead of just killing tickets as if they were bots
  • CX managers find the perfect balance between efficiency and sky high customer satisfaction, moving from a cost to a profit center
  • the company as a whole benefits from better customer retention and higher Customer Lifetime Value that boosts revenue and skyrockets its brand.

So far, the question you were probably asking yourself is in which phase you are at and where (and how) you’d want to go next? Also, you were probably wondering what it takes to get there… (hint: it has everything to do with your systems).

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