As a member of our Social Strategy Consulting team, I have the unique opportunity to regularly engage with world-class brands around social media trends impacting their business. I recently spent time with one of our global support communities in the midst of a dramatic customer care transformation.
Through consolidations and organizational shifts they had already managed to do some pretty impressive cost cutting, with minimal impact on customer satisfaction. But the real work lay ahead – leveraging crowd-based support across their digital channels to further reduce the volume (and cost) of assisted care.
Combine this with the fact that customers generally don’t want to talk with support agents anyway. A majority (57% in a recent study) makes a web search their first option before thinking about picking up the phone. They prefer self-service support when it is easily available – and effective.
This reality should make the digital leap easier, at least in principle. If consumers don’t really want to talk to you, then diverting resources from the call center is a logical move. The hard part is how to intelligently align your support resources across channels to yield the maximum benefit to the business and the customer.
At Lithium, we have been hard at work partnering with our customers to build an effective call-to-crowd model. It starts with these steps:
1. Understand the current state
Support centers are typically among the most data-driven functions in any company. Every interaction is measured and monitored; supervisors and managers have ready access to dashboards and reports. When assessing the move to crowd-based support, it is critical to know where you are starting from.
We look for data that tells us relative volumes across channels (phone, email, chat, web, social), as well as the per-case cost burden of each. Within each channel, we want to know the issue type mix. We generally see a mix of account / billing issues, product troubleshooting, how-to, and repair. The better we understand the mix, the better we can plan the transformation.
2. Identify issues for deflection
With our baseline in hand, we can start to look for issues that are ripe for transformation. What issues can be moved to self-service or crowd support? What issues require some level of assisted support? Often how-to, troubleshooting and non-repair service issues appear as logical candidates.
In working with customers on this process, we also look to outside sources to inform the strategy, such as social media monitoring data. If a customer community already exists, then this is also a key input. Data from these sources can serve as a reality check on our decisions – are customers already seeking support for these issues via social channels?
3. Set Your Targets
Now we are ready to start envisioning our future state. If we move x% of how-to issues from call to crowd, how does our channel mix change? What are the cost implications? Following through the model, we can start to plan a mix that optimizes the use of digital and community channels.
An important part of this exercise is to focus on achievable goals and a reasonable timeframe for the transition. It may be a goal to reduce call volume to zero – but that’s likely unachievable without unplugging the phones. Consumer behavior can change very quickly, but new initiatives need time to take hold, so consider a minimum six month outlook.
Also keep in mind other business drivers which may influence the support environment. Is a new product in the pipeline? A major change in service? These may drive call volume, or may represent unique opportunities to leverage the crowd.
4. Measure outcomes
The final step is to determine the key performance indicators and metrics that matter. Call volume and cost reduction are important measures of success, but we should also consider how the digital transformation impacts the overall customer experience. Think about the questions we want to answer:
Have we made it easier for a user to get an answer?
Are customers getting the best answer the first time?
Have we improved the overall support experience?
Establish these goals in the planning process and line them up against specific metrics. This exercise will also help highlight areas where good measurement tools or methodologies may not yet exist (and another opportunity for improvement).
Putting it all together
We now have an understanding of the current state, a set of issue types ripe for digital and crowd support, a target channel mix and tools in place to measure our progress – let the transformation begin!
In truth, we’ve only taken the first steps and are ready to turn focus to achieving the goals we’ve set. Now that we know where we are heading, we can begin to map out the strategy we need to get us there. That means examining the social support journey to reduce redundancy and friction points, making sources of self-service content highly visible, and clearly defining escalation paths, along with seeking out every opportunity to leverage our digital and community channels to create a great social customer experience.
Louis Peters is the Director of Social Strategy Consulting at Lithium Technologies. Since joining Lithium in 2011, he has helped dozens of clients to launch successful communities and consulted with established customers on ways to extend and innovate their social customer experience.
Prior to Lithium, Louis held consulting and management positions at leading software companies including Siebel and Oracle. You can follow him on twitter @lpetersjr
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