5 stars placed by a hand

With numerous analogue and digital channels and the requirement to be available 24/7, modern service providers are faced with the challenge of bringing digital change and classic expectations of the customer experience together. This is impossible without technical assistance, says our expert Lorenz Haas.

According to the Incite Group’s report „The State of Customer Service“, almost one in three companies has problems in measuring the success or ROI of customer service initiatives.

The three essential service team topics include

  • a successful, effortless customer experience,
  • proactive customer service
  • and a personalized experience.

These results show that customer service knows exactly what is important when it comes to customer focus.

Customer service: Ideal meets reality

According to the SuperOffice „Customer Benchmark„- report, in many cases this approach is not outwardly viable yet. For example, 62 % of the companies surveyed missed responding to customer emails. 90 % do not inform the customer that a service email has been received. 97 % have no follow-up process to ensure that the problem has been resolved for the customer. Moreover, according to the study, the average response time is twelve hours and ten minutes. Only one in five companies is able to answer questions immediately.

There’s been a lot written (on this blog) about what makes good customer service. And for most companies, it’s not an issue to know what makes a good service experience. But without the right tools, even with the right attitude, customer service cannot deliver what is expected.

What helps the modern service employee?

  • Intelligent routing of customer inquiries and the correct classification (prioritization) should reduce the processing time. Important and complex cases can be better prepared and simple cases can be solved automatically without too much time invest.
  • Cooperation with the service department supports sales, especially with existing customers. On the other hand it helps the service department to create customer communication that is personal.
  • KPIs, service level agreements and escalation rules help the service team control their work and know what is essential. That way, service employees also can act „more freely“ within these frameworks.
  • A single, individualized interface helps to keep track of one’s own and general tasks and responsibilities. All information (also from sales) is automatically accessible and other systems/applications (for example social media channels or internal chats) are linked via interfaces.

What can a modern service platform look like?

In the following, I would like to briefly discuss the different functionalities of a service platform. I will refer to Salesforce, because it is one of the most popular CRM platforms and because I work a lot with Salesforce as a consultant in my daily work. Of course, this example does not rule out the possibility that other CRM providers offer similarly complex and diverse platforms. Incidentally, we would also be happy to advise you on this and help you to make the right choice.

For a modern service platform, the customer and their concerns must be the focus of attention. Salesforce’s Service Cloud is an easy-to-use customer service application that delivers satisfaction and efficiency to the end customer and the support team. It is irrelevant how the customer contacts us, whether by email, telephone, social media or other channels. It also does not matter which end device is used. Whether desktop computer, mobile device or any other compatible device, the customer can make their inquiries independent of time or location.

Document and assign customer processes

It is extremely important that the requests from the different channels are transferred into the system as a customer process and are intelligently directed to the right service employee. Customer processes can be automated. For example, they can be generated from an email to a service email address (Email2Case)*.Also inquiries from contact forms, for example from the company website, can lead to the automatic creation of customer cases (Web2Case). But also a manual installation directly in the system is possible, for example through the call center agent.

*Special functions are mentioned in brackets.

When a customer transaction is received, the information is evaluated by the platform and can be forwarded to the right person or queue by defined rules (Case Assignment Rules).

The service employee can thus concentrate on the essential: processing the customer’s process. A process is a data record like a customer problem, an inquiry or a complaint. This data record can be adapted by the service employee and saved in different statuses such as „new“, „in process“, “ closed“.

Central management options

During managing customer processes, it is essential that the processes are organized in a structured manner in one place. In addition, it must be ensured that the right person has access to it at the right time. Queues automatically prioritize the workload of the support team. These queues are lists of customer transactions based on special properties such as, for example country specific queues, or based on thematic areas. The service team specially defined for this purpose can further filter and sort the operations and can take operations from this work list, assign them and process them in a structured manner (Case Ownership).

Customer processes, can also be automatically forwarded to special service employees if, for example, the case was not solved in a certain period of time or a special case exists (Escalation Rules).

All information at a glance

In order to process a customer transaction quickly and efficiently, the system must provide the service employee with all necessary information in a simple and structured manner. For example, Salesforce offers the possibility to customize the data records based on user profiles. Thus, the service employee only sees the information relevant for them and gets a 360° view of the customer (Layouts).

The service employee can quickly access the customer’s data and view linked records, such as orders or even older customer transactions that help them to process the current case. This information linkage also ensures that the right level of customer support and prioritization is provided to each customer based on the service agreement (Entitlement Management).

A knowledge database also provides support in solving the process. This enables the employee to find, share and store information about customer transactions, product information, FAQ in article form. The system suggests suitable articles for the current case to the employee based on interests, needs and expertise. This allows customer processes to be processed and closed more quickly (Knowledge).

Provide feedback options

The main task of the service employee, which is the most time-consuming, is to provide the customer with an appropriate response to the respective request. Salesforce supports the service representative with a variety of options. Based on the inquiry, the system suggests an email template to the service employee, which automatically fills the basic information of the customer incident. This can save a lot of time. The messages are sent to the customer in a standardized way with predefined header and footer from the customer process.

Template fields like address, first and last name or the customer ID can be stored in the email template and are automatically filled in from the corresponding process. Text modules can also be defined and support the service employee with standardized answers such as greetings, answers to common questions, or short notes. This saves time and standardizes communication with the customer. Of course, the employee still has the option of adding or changing the answer with free text (QuickText).

The service representative is also supported by Salesforce in performing recurring tasks such as the automatic sending of a reply via email to the customer, or the creation of a follow-up task in the system. These steps can be easily defined and executed trough the push of a button (Macros).

Enable cooperation

A further essential point of a modern service platform is the cooperation and the exchange of information between the different service employees among themselves but also across departments. Salesforce offers the possibility to store messages, images or files, similar to social networks, directly at the customer process in a structured and real-time way. This enables information exchange between different users directly at the customer incident. Certain groups or individual users can be linked to the message. This saves time and supports team work on a customer incident (Chatter).

Reporting and evaluations

Salesforce provides an instantaneous execution of important key indices. This means that information about customer operations can be directly evaluated as service metrics to give service employees an overview of their customer operations.He can also view the figures globally, for example to measure response times or the general service status of the company. By evaluating this data, strengths and weaknesses in the service processes can be identified. The service employee can react quickly to provide a better and faster service to the customer (Report & Dashboards).

Use Case: Franziska clarifies a customer problem

Franziska plans her Monday by logging into the service platform. She looks at an overview of her appointments and tasks for the day. The dashboard shows the most important KPIs and gets an overview of the last used/processed customer transactions and customer data. In an overview, she can also see open customer transactions and filter them according to various criteria. In the detail view, all details, interactions, attachments, etc. are displayed and can be updated and completed by Franziska. This includes, for example, images of damaged products that customers have sent as email attachments. Via the detailed view, Franziska can view customer calls and emails and directly arrange appointments or write emails.

Each new customer contact is automatically created as a new entry and forwarded to the service employee, including Franziska, based on specific criteria. Because Franziska is responsible for customer inquiries from Germany, a new entry is added to Franziska’s overview for the Germany-list. If the request is received from an existing customer, it is linked to the existing account so that she can see directly whether the contact is new or whether there have been previous interactions. She can then go directly to the existing customer and view the master data.

Individual customer histories

This enables her to respond to a current request from an existing customer to make an individual telephone call about a specific problem. In the detailed view of the account, she sees that the customer currently has another open service request. Via a linked chat system, Franziska can write directly to a colleague about the case and receives a quick reply.

This gives her all the information she needs to process the customer transaction. Franziska makes an appointment with the customer and can immediately give an update on the support problem. During the conversation, Franziska can enter notes and assign tasks to herself. That way, the customer can receive promptly requested information afterwards.

The customer is satisfied and Franziska can close the ticket. At the end of the day, Franziska checks if the most urgent tasks have been completed. She updates the accounts she worked on today and looks forward to the next day.

Find out more about the right service platform for you company and how we can help you in optimizing and/or implementing it. 

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Lorenz HaasLorenz Haas M.Sc. studied Information Engineering and Management at KIT in Karlsruhe and currently works as a consultant at ec4u. He advises customers on business and technology issues in the CRM environment. He also provides support in the provision, configuration and development of customized solutions with a focus on Salesforce.

Kontakt: LinkedIn / Xing