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Jul 05 2016

140 years later, what do we know about customer service?

Twitter: @rhodo_odysseos

The more you know about the past, the better prepared you are for the future.” Theodore Roosevelt

Imagine a world in which you had to go to a company, in person, to make a complaint about a product or service!  That was the norm of course, until it all changed with the 1876 invention of the telephone — a device that allowed people to voice their concerns to the companies that were selling them products. However, it wasn’t that easy; the original telephones were sold in pairs and only connected two people.

To allow the telephone to connect more than just the original two people who bought the pair, the telephone switchboard was created in 1894; suddenly, anyone wealthy enough to own a telephone could call up a business at any time to seek assistance.

The inventions of the telephone and the telephone switchboard were the extent of customer service for the better part of the first half of the 20th century, until suddenly companies started realizing the impact of customer service on their businesses. This became especially relevant in the 1960s, with rapid technological innovations allowing competitive businesses to pop up regularly. Proactive companies got the better of their competition by investing large amounts of money in employees whose sole purpose was to answer customer calls and resolve their problems. Thus, the 1960s saw the creation of call centers.

Is your call center a cost center?

More recently, call centers have been seen as “cost centers” and as a result, companies are keen to make the most out of their customer service investment. Through a variety of KPIs and metrics, outsourcing, Six Sigma practices and more, companies aimed to cut costs in an area that was seen as adding little value. This ideology continued until the Net Promoter Score became relevant and important, and therefore so did the customer experience. Now companies are faced with a dilemma: how to boost customer satisfaction, without investing too much money in the process?

Customer service representatives (CSRs) are a big part of this process. But as device and network complexity have increased, so too has the need for  CSRs to learn new and updated methods and procedures. Even still, service providers face the issue that CSRs may not be following the correct steps when troubleshooting. This issue leads to monitored calls and guided troubleshooting. Although an improvement, it is still expensive and difficult to make adjustments and change procedures. At this point, the main issue is that the focus is on the offer of troubleshooting to the customer, but not the accuracy and process of troubleshooting itself.

Troubleshooting is doing the right things in the right order. When this done incorrectly, whether the wrong things, or the right things in the wrong order, it becomes very expensive for the service provider.

In order to know what changes to make. We turn to the numbers: everything an agent does, from the time of the call, the process they used, and more. A system is needed to track this data and detect inefficiencies, and then make necessary changes and improve the workflow.

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What about data-tracking when customers want DIY solutions?

And now, there is one caveat — the recent customer demand for self-care. When customers help themselves, not all data can be captured and recorded as it could be  with a CSR. Therefore, measurements that can be captured from the self-help process are critical to maintain efficient and accurate workflows.

Customer service has certainly come a long way, and the basic tenet remains: customers want the type of help they need, exactly when they want it,  and it should be easily accessible and accurate.

Are you getting the most out of your customer service investments? Is your call center still a “cost center”?

Nokia Service Management Platform (SMP) software will address these customer care/management issues. Our holistic approach to customer experience management means  solutions  address the inefficiencies of the past, the demands of the present and flexibility to build upon in the future.

Watch this channel for my next blog, where I’ll take a deeper dive into what you can do with SMP with case examples.

Did you know?: Nokia Networks is one of the top 15 software companies in the world, providing care services support for over 600 customers.

See our website for more on Nokia Customer Experience Management.

Share your thoughts on this topic by replying below – or join the Twitter discussion with @nokianetworks using #CEM #CSPCX

About Rhodo Odysseos

Rhodo is a true telecom OSS/BSS veteran and a dedicated customer experience evangelist. Ask her anything about customer care solutions in all facets of call center, self help and proactive care. Rhodo holds an MSc. in Computer Science from the Electrotechnical University of Prague and can provide remarkable service in English, Portuguese, Greek and Czech.

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