I just finished reading The Best Service is No Service: How to Liberate Your Customers from Customer Service, Keep Them Happy, and Control Costs and I can’t recommend it too highly.
This is a tremendous book laying out a systematic approach for better customer service. Predicated on the idea that customers want your product to “just work” and that they DON’T want a “relationship” with you, it challenges many of the customer service practices in most companies. The authors lay out a process with a number of steps:
- Challenge demand for service don’t just cope with it. Act smarter so that the amount of support your customers need goes down
- Eliminate “dumb” contacts and stupid repeated contacts through better processes and information
- Create engaging self-service so people can help themselves
- Be Proactive, don’t wait for trouble
- Make it easy to contact you, not difficult
- Fix ownership of problems so that you can fix them, not just blame on them on the customer service group
- Listen to your customers and learn from what they tell you
- Delight your customers when they do need help
The authors lay out a cure for the remote, impersonal organization where no-one in management ever talks to real customers. Any organization that has customer service “issues” could benefit from this book. A number of points stood out for me in the context of customer service and decision management:
- People long for “the good old days” when local businesses knew their customers and here’s how you can deliver extreme personalization and make it feel that way
- Eliminating dumb contacts requires (among other things) smarter systems because Stupid Systems, Bad Customer Service. It also requires first-time resolution of problems and you can use EDM to improve first call resolution
- Engaging self service makes a big difference and self-service means empowering customers to act and that means no manual approvals, no referrals up the chain – those decisions must be automated.
- Be proactive with solutions (and targeted) so use that data you have about your customers to drive proactive and appropriate actions.
- Many organizations have a lot of contact information and if you are going to make it easier to contact yourself (something the book recommends) then you need smarter ways to present the right contact information. For instance you might use a smarter system to present the right phone number, return address or email or replace an overly complex IVR like the example they gave that had options to navigate to one of 1,000 correct numbers! I discussed an example in this story.
- The book makes the point that cross-sell and up-sell in support organizations is hard and requires a balance between customer, offer, agent’s skills and reason for contact. Automated decisions, enhanced by the emotional judgment of an agent, works well here. People advising the system.
- There is a science to how customers behave that can be studied, they say, and that can be embodied in your systems.
- You must integrate channels, staffed and un-staffed, and this requires consistent cross-channel decision making.
- Staff must be empowered to act and, while flexibility is part of the solution, so is decision management that makes it possible for the front line to act with the knowledge and skills of more senior staff (because it is embedded in a system). Liberate the front line
- Proactive alerts were another area where decision management is key – detecting the unexpected, taking action for the customers best interest, retention triggers and more.
- They focus a lot on being clear who owns issues and who takes actions and that these are not always the same. This is another role for decision management – let the decision maker (who designs the decision) be different from the actor (often more junior, maybe not even employed by the same company) who must deliver the decision.
- Let people tell you their preferences but divine them if you can (with data mining) and then let them change them. A clear case for data mining that creates rules that a customer can then change if they want.
- The general power of prediction came up a couple of times so don’t forget to think about how predictive analytics can turn uncertainty into probability.
- The book had a number of examples of the need for sophisticated, not simplistic, decisions like the “are you the customer rules” that get enforced always even if it makes no sense. Making sure you consider the full complexity of a decision is key.
- They note the effectiveness of systems as a key success factor when service is being delivered – Some thoughts on designing customer interactions for a quality experience
- They note the need to use customer segmentation and 1:1 marketing (something that came up in Here’s how to improve your personas with analytics)
I also liked the general comments that you should provide choice and make it easy, but unnecessary, to speak to someone and make it “fast and simple” for the customer.
Two other reviews of the book have caught my eye – Don Peppers described it as a must read and the Return Customer review was just as positive. I would also recommend Chocolates on the Pillow Aren’t Enough: Reinventing The Customer Experience (reviewed here) for more on customer service and our book for more on how to build the kind of systems you need.