Digitalization has the potential to significantly reduce costs and improve customer service. But where exactly and how should you go digital? And how can you ensure you maintain or improve your offering so your customer remains satisfied despite potentially reducing interaction with a real person? Drawing on her experiences working on customer service transformation projects, Elena Hoogen has identified six key steps to help you go digital in a way that satisfies everyone from the customer to your employees, the boardroom and beyond.
By Elena Hoogen, Consultant, DHL Consulting
Digital transformation holds the potential to significantly reduce the costs of a company’s customer service offering through a combination of digitization and automating processes – in some cases by as much as 30%. However, doing so is a delicate balancing act.
Today’s customer requires fast resolutions and high-quality services such as 24/7 availability, direct responses, and individually tailored answers. This isn’t because today’s customer is impatient or demanding but rather the consequence of over 250 years of technological innovation and globalization that have gradually shrunk the gap between service provider and customer.
On paper, the idea that one can improve customer service by cutting costs and reducing the amount of interaction with a real person seems unrealistic but it is possible. Technology exists nowadays that can significantly improve the efficiency of customer service agents and satisfy the customer; these include chatbots robotic process automation, smart workflow automation and machine learning. The key is to automate and digitize processes intelligently. In this way, digital transformation becomes a useful tool to assist both customer and agent, as opposed to being a blockade, which ultimately causes frustration and discourages repeat custom.
My own experience working on customer service digital transformation projects has led me to identify six key learnings for this process:
1. START WITH THE CUSTOMER
It’s important to think from the perspective of the customer, to understand their journey with your organization and identify the most convenient processes from their point of view.
A good starting point is to put yourself in their shoes, to formulate and answer questions such as, “If I were the customer, how would I like my problem to be solved?” or “What would be the easiest way to submit a customer request?” By starting like this, companies can focus on optimizing existing processes, eliminating unnecessary processes, and encouraging their teams to think outside the box.
2. GET BACK TO BASICS
The next thing to do is complete an as-is analysis of current customer service processes before you start your analysis of potential digitization improvements. It is essential to interview the agents responsible for fulfilling the new digitized processes. Otherwise, there is a risk that when new processes are digitized, new inefficiencies are also generated because of other misalignments.
3. PICK A PROCESS BUT PRESERVE THE BIG PICTURE
Best practice indicates that companies should prioritize the digitization of processes that can deliver the greatest savings or support the highest volume of customer requests. Therefore, you should use agile project management to implement your ideas systematically before spending too much time getting whole process landscape ready at once.
At the same time, it is essential to maintain an overview of the entire process landscape. Eventually, you will want to expand digitization beyond prioritized processes to all customer service processes.
4. MANAGE TWO THINGS AT ONCE: DIGITALIZATION AND CHANGE
Digital transformation should be accompanied by appropriate change management initiatives. After all, it is not just agents in the customer service center who will be affected but various people working throughout the organization – at the headquarters, in branch offices, and at remote sites.
Companies should recognize the high potential for insecurity as some employees will fear for their jobs and others could feel lost with digitization buzzwords. Training may be required to correct misperceptions. For example, instead of thinking digital initiatives are merely for paperwork avoidance, personnel should come to understand the potential to improve as-is processes and seize the competitive edge.
5. HARMONIZE THE OLD WITH THE NEW
Another essential digitization step is to harmonize the new digitalization initiatives with already existing projects. It is important to generate a single, overarching roadmap for the company to leverage synergies. This also avoids running two or more projects to solve the same problem using different technologies.
6. BUILD A NEW ORGANIZATIONAL MINDSET
Agile project management will be required, as companies should anticipate roadmap instability and the need for many adjustments. In addition, some ideas and technologies are likely to fail, and new ones will arise unexpectedly.
Handling all this may necessitate building a new organizational mindset, accommodating changes to corporate culture, new working practices, and even a morphing role for the project manager. It may be a good idea to implement a digitalization board and focus on achieving customer service goals collaboratively across the organization.
By establishing these six steps, the digital transformation of customer service is much more likely to succeed. If done correctly, it is possible to save money and improve quality.
By embracing new technologies in a mindful way, human agents will be able to work with new tools to enable substantial cost reductions, provide superior customer service and receive invaluable training that will empower them to seek out innovative solutions in the future.