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Is your service center too dependent on technology?

Bart Perkins | Oct. 20, 2016
Your customers are unlikely to be happy if second-level human support is nonexistent or just too hard to get to

Service centers have a wide spectrum of goals. At one end are those that emphasize the lowest possible cost per call. They rely on IVR or newer chatbots while making it virtually impossible to talk to a real person. At the other end are those that emphasize customer service. They hire knowledgeable and enthusiastic product evangelists, who then try to persuade internal users to use recently deployed IT services or external customers to purchase additional products.

Given user-provided data, chatbots using natural-language processing can handle many tasks highly efficiently, from resetting passwords to assigning airline seats. But when things go off script — when a user asks a question that isn’t part of the expected interaction or simply has trouble defining the problem — their helpfulness plummets. Over-relying on technology could lead to customer dissatisfaction with your service center.

Here are some other ideas to help you get the most out of your service center:

  • Make self-service attractive. Integrated service centers allow users to interact through their preferred combination of telephone, text, chat, video or website. Fifteen years ago, an agent logged your network problem in the incident-tracking system or moved money from a savings account to a checking account. Today, most people handle these tasks through a PC or smartphone.

Prospective external customers will not stand for cumbersome tools, particularly for routine tasks. They will abandon you in favor of competitors with easier-to-use services. Although internal users cannot avoid the company IT service desk, they will complain bitterly if the tools are not intuitive or if the process is slow — and they will think poorly of IT.

  • Make it easy to access a knowledgeable person. A week ago, I wanted to add a frequent-flier number to a reservation made by a corporate travel agent. The airline’s voice response system was unable to complete the task but required nine additional responses before granting access to an agent. By the time I was able to talk to a representative, I had been reminded why I usually avoid that airline.

Even for help desks internal to the enterprise, wait times should be minimal. A month ago, an IT colleague requested a special-purpose notebook computer from the company service center. After 25 minutes on hold, she was finally able to talk to a customer service rep — and understood why corporate IT at her company was often referred to as “Slow and No.”

  • Deploy concierge service with care. Many organizations offer their best customers special telephone numbers to reach highly knowledgeable service representatives. Problems can arise when the organization makes it difficult to access the concierge service without calling the special phone number. Suppose a frequent flier gets grounded by a major storm and wants to use the concierge service to reroute the trip while avoiding the interminable lines at the ticket counter. If she hasn’t stored the number in her cellphone, she may be doomed to suffer through normal channels. The best service desks collect loyalty information early in the call and then automatically route the caller to the appropriate level of service.

 

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