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The ultimate guide to customer service

The top three 2022 priorities for Customer Service teams to thrive in this new era of customer experience.

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In just two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of the customer experience (CX) industry, prompting more complex demands and unexpected responsibilities, especially on those in the service profession. 

Traditionally, service representatives helped customers resolve issues while answering questions about productions and solutions. Today, the basic skills of friendliness and product knowledge are no longer enough; front line employees must de-escalate intense interactions, enforce controversial policies (i.e., mask mandates) and deal with angry and volatile customers. 

A recent article by The New York Times claims:

The meanness of the public has forced many public-facing industries to rethink what used to be an article of faith: that the customer is always right. If employees are now having to take on many unexpected roles––therapists, cop, conflict-resolution negotiator––then workplace managers are acting as security guards and bouncers to protect their employees.

With such drastic shifts in customer behavior, it’s no surprise that employee motivation and skills and training are the top two biggest hurdles inhibiting the success of customer experience programs in 2022. 

And because boosting customer loyalty is the #1 priority for customer experience professionals this year, businesses must prioritize empowering Service teams to create better customer relationships. After all, customers will choose a company because of its product, but they’ll leave because of the service.

To reduce churn this year, Customer Service teams must prioritize:

  1. Boosting confidence with de-escalation and conflict resolution

  2. Improving customer loyalty while also navigating unexpected changes 

  3. Cultivating cross-functional partnerships to resolve customer issues 

We’ve partnered with Myra Golden, a long-time customer service and de-escalation expert, to provide you with the ultimate guide to customer service in 2022. Here you’ll find real-world examples and tangible tactics to thrive in this new era of customer experience. Let’s get started.

Part 1

Boost confidence in de-escalation and conflict resolution

Ensuring customer service representatives provide quality experiences—in particular during difficult conversations—is critical to building long-term customer loyalty and reducing churn. Especially when you consider it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than to keep them. 

Service agents are used to managing dissatisfied, frustrated, and angry customers, but in today’s climate, where fractured supply chains and polarized political and social ideologies are rampant, there are significantly more escalating incidents than before the pandemic. 

Long-time customer service and de-escalation expert, Myra Golden, says this trend isn’t slowing down anytime soon. Her client, a Chief Member Experience Officer in the financial industry, recently shared a troublesome story:

We're seeing a higher volume of angry and difficult customers at a higher level of intensity. We've had customers spit on and kick our employees; we were side-swiped. And now, we feel we have to guard and give our employees high-level de-escalation tactics. We have to keep them safe in our current stressful work environment.

Now more than ever, empowering customer service representatives to swiftly and efficiently resolve a variety of customer disputes through de-escalation methods is business-critical.

The importance of service de-escalation tactics 

De-escalation is a conflict-resolution technique that service agents can apply to resolve issues as quickly, efficiently, and safely as possible. 

When de-escalation methods are not employed correctly, Average Handling Times (AHT) increase, which, in turn, extend hold time for customers waiting to speak to a representative. And the longer a customer is on hold, the more frustrated they will become.

Escalated interactions increase the risk of negative customer reviews and company perceptions. Worse still, after more than one bad service experience, 80% of consumers say they would rather do business with a competitor. Moreover, high levels of conflict with customers cause stress on employees, leading to burnout or employee churn. 

De-escalation tactics aren’t a one-size-fits-all solution; methods vary by industry and business type. However, below are some of the most popular de-escalation tactics and tools for your Service team’s consideration.

The 3R Method of de-escalation

Service agents can remain confident and in control during challenging customer interactions by implementing the 3R Method of de-escalation: 

  1. Recognize

  2. Reframe

  3. Resolve 

Let’s walk through each step of the 3R Method.

Step 1: Recognize

When you recognize, you’re empathizing with the customer’s pain point. This makes the customer feel heard and understood, and it begins to move the customer out of right-brain thinking, which tends to be more emotional. Take, for example, this agent’s response to a customer who is upset because they’ve just learned that the shipment of the new table they ordered five their months ago is delayed for another four months because of a company error:

Our error is no more acceptable to us than it is to you.

This response acknowledges the customer's frustration and the company's mistake. 

Step 2: Reframe

To reframe, is to redirect intensity by positioning the issue at hand under a positive light. Let’s use the example above about the frustrated customer who ordered the table. The service agent could say:

We will contact manufacturing about expedited shipping and discuss any concession necessary if we have delays.

Step 3: Resolve

When you resolve, you’re guiding the customer through the next steps even if you can’t immediately give them what they want. Using the same customer scenario as above, a resolution might look like this:

I certainly understand your frustration. If I were in your shoes, I'd feel the same way. Rest assured, we will urgently work to meet our original timeline. We will be in touch within seventy-two hours with our recovery plan.

What to avoid during escalated interactions

While navigating tough conversations, it’s important to refrain from agitating the customer further. Avoid raising your voice or interrupting the customer while they are speaking. Instead, practice active listening by observing what verbal and non-verbal messages the customer is communicating. More often than not, customers are just eager to be heard and have their experiences validated. 

Below are three key behaviors to avoid: 

Elongating customer wait time 

For instance, when speaking with customers via phone, refrain from putting them on hold or transferring their call unless absolutely necessary. It’s likely that they’ve already waited to speak with a representative from your company and increasing their wait time will only frustrate them more.

Poor body language

If you’re speaking with a customer in person, be cognizant of your body language. Avoid crossing your arms or looking away as they speak. Be patient and listen––this will help create the space for the customer to calm down so they can share valuable details that will help resolve their issue. 

Speaking in absolutes 

Avoid saying “no” to a customer. The more options to a solution you provide, the more likely you are to de-escalate a situation. For instance, a customer walks into a bank with a big check and asks for it to be cashed. However, the bank doesn’t have the capacity to do that. The service representative can say, “We can’t cash your check, but we can deposit it today and put an order for the cash to be ready in two to three working days.” 

Empower service agents to take responsibility 

One of the most critical aspects of conflict resolution is empowering service representatives to take responsibility over the customer’s outcome whenever possible. 

Zappos, the American online shoe and clothing retailer, is exemplary in empowering customer service agents to take the reins. Below are some examples of actions taken by Zappos call center agents (with no approval needed):

  1. Talk with a customer on the phone for 10 hours and 29 minutes

  2. Send get well soon flowers to a customer’s ill mother on the company’s dime

  3. Refund a customer for a defective product, and then send a replacement for free

  4. Send a care package to a soldier in Afghanistan who called to exchange his shoes 

Zappos reduced strict policies and procedures and replaced them with support and robust training. In doing so, agents feel trusted by the company and more invested in the customer’s experience.  

For this approach to work, agents must have the right tools and training at their disposal. The 3R Method is a great resource, but there are many more tools for empowering customer service teams. 

Apply ample monetary amount

Take a look at your customer data to discover the average dollar amount it takes to resolve issues. If you find, for example, that reps can fix 80% of problems with $74.00, empower them to improve the customer’s experience by spending up to $75.00. This will boost the agents’ confidence and significantly reduce escalations.

Prepare two-tier solutions

You can empower your representatives to solve problems on first contact by providing pre-established solutions to each of your top issues and additional resolution options. Identify the top 10 to 50 common problems and map out precisely how reps should handle them. Here's an example:

Issue: A customer complains they waited 45 minutes for the airport shuttle.

Suggested solution: Recognize concern, apologize and apply a credit of $50 or $10%, whichever is less expensive. You can say, "Oh no! That's certainly not our standard. As an apology, I'll take 10% off of your rental immediately when you return the vehicle."

If the customer pushes back on the solution, you can offer up to $70 or 20% off, whichever costs less.

Role-play scenarios

Make a note of escalation trends and periodically sit down with your team to go over your findings. In staff meetings or one-to-one discussions, walk through what employees missed, what supervisors said and did, and together role-play how the frontline can better handle such interactions in the future. 

Technology for automation and efficiency

Customer service agents need technology that provides visibility into real-time customer account data. Providing your agents with a 360° view of the customer’s history––like order history, status, and satisfaction ratings of last interactions––enables agents to identify the best, individual course of action for a particular customer to provide a more efficient experience. 

Integrate your technology––including your CX platform, customer relationship management (CRM), and communication channels, like Slack––to automate processes and help agents save time while also taking the right action to better the experience. For instance, with the right tools, you can set up workflows and automated alerts so high-value tickets are prioritized and routed to the correct teams for faster response time.

Remember that technology for Service teams must be robust and flexible. Customer needs are always evolving, and agents must be able to adapt in real time.

Technology also improves the ability to personalize the customer experience at scale. And many CX teams are taking note. Since the onset of COVID-19, 73% of CX professionals have increased their efforts in delivering a personalized experience to customers as a method to help boost loyalty. 

Mental health resources 

Resources aren’t limited to training and technology. Companies, especially in today’s climate, need to prioritize their Service teams’ mental health. 

When companies encourage mental health in the workplace, employees are more likely to say they have “higher job satisfaction and intentions to stay at their company.” 

A Momentive study found that stress was the number one reason that people are quitting their jobs. More importantly, 22% of people planning to quit have explicitly stated that it’s because they “need to focus on mental health.”

There are many ways businesses can support the mental health of service agents, such as: providing mental health coverage in healthcare plans; granting subscriptions to virtual wellness services like Ginger and Headspace; and building flexibility into agents’ workflows whenever possible to enable people to take time when they need it. 

Some Service teams have taken an even more creative route, establishing Slack “scream channels,” where agents can vent with their peers about unpleasant customer interactions (keeping the customer anonymous). For more ideas, read: Pandemic rage: how to support your customer-facing employees

And if you’re looking for more resources to improve the wellness of your agents, check out this Human Resources toolkit.

A few words about language and cultural differences 

In such a diverse world, service representatives will engage with customers who don’t share our native language, or whose accents might be challenging to understand. In these scenarios, it's essential to demonstrate extra care, so customers from diverse backgrounds feel respected. Here are two tips to guide you.

Be fully present and engaged

Often, a complete focus on the customer helps you overcome language challenges. Lean in (on the phone and in-person) and listen with the intent to understand.

Put things on your shoulders

When you struggle to understand a customer, put things on your shoulders rather than making them feel they aren't communicating well. You can say, "I'm sorry, it’s very loud in here. Can you repeat that for me?" Or, "Can you please spell out your last name for me?"

Now that you’re equipped with tools and tactics for de-escalation, let’s discuss how your Service team can measure the success of its efforts to boost customer loyalty. 

Part 2

Improve customer loyalty while navigating unexpected changes

According to McKinsey, customers are switching brands at an unprecedented rate––75% of shoppers tried a new retailer, brand, or behavior during the pandemic, with up to 83% expecting that trend to continue post-pandemic. 

Though people may choose a company based on its product, they won’t hesitate to leave if the service experience is poor. Great customer relationships are founded on great customer service and support. 

Customer service boosts customer loyalty by making experiences effortless. However, this has become increasingly difficult. Customers are more agitated due to the disconnect between their expectations and the reality of the situation––supply chain issues are a great example. In turn, service representatives are becoming resentful toward these customers, making it harder to remain customer-centric within the organization.  

It is possible to cultivate customer loyalty while navigating unexpected changes by instilling confidence in service agents and empowering them with proper conflict resolution methods (see Part 1 of this guide). The key is to measure the efficiency and scalability of your service team’s efforts in real time. In doing so, you’ll be able to pivot quickly and hone in on the areas that require improvement. 

There are two main CX metric categories for customer service: customer satisfaction and customer effort. Both include a variety of metrics to choose from––use what is most relevant to your company’s goals.

How to measure customer satisfaction 

When you consistently measure customer loyalty, you earn executive buy-in: 83% of CX leaders say that executive leadership finds customer experience data extremely valuable. 

The top satisfaction metrics for service teams to take into account are Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), Star Ratings, Net Promoter Score® (NPS), and Value Enhancement Score (VES). Let’s dive into each metric.

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) 

The Customer Satisfaction Score is assessed by asking customers: “How would you rate your overall satisfaction?” with your company and its products, services, and interactions. 

A five-point scale is most commonly used, with options ranging very unsatisfied, unsatisfied, neutral, satisfied, and very satisfied.  

Customer service teams should use a CSAT survey throughout their support channels—email, live chat, SMS, communities, and knowledge base—to identify problem areas that need immediate attention in real time. 

The most popular CSAT use case is case-closed. This survey helps service teams monitor how well issues are resolved in real time. Once a customer provides feedback, your team can set up workflows and automated alerts for ticket support, so high-value customers are escalated directly to the right team and resolved immediately. 

quickly-take-action-graphic - csat

YETI, an American manufacturer specializing in outdoor products, uses GetFeedback to collect Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT), combining it with other data to ensure the right agent is assigned to the right customer. The gathered data includes customer issue type and efficiency stats about individual service reps, such as handle time. This way, problems are handled quickly, which leads to greater satisfaction. Read their full case study here

The CSAT metric can also help you optimize support content for self-service. Identify what help center content is fulfilling customer issues and what areas need improvement, and you’ll minimize your caseload.

Help center survey

Once a touchpoint has improved, validate that with your customers by comparing CSAT before and after those improvements roll out. Over time, your satisfaction score can demonstrate the ROI of your service team’s efforts. Refer to our free CSAT calculator

Here is a 5-minute video demonstrating how to prove the ROI of customer satisfaction: 

To learn more, take our free 4-week CSAT email course.

Star Ratings 

Accelerating digital transformation efforts is the top CX strategy in 2022 due to the pandemic. Companies that are not already collecting feedback from key digital channels like email, website, and in-app, are planning to do so this year.  

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Star Ratings, also known as Emotional Ratings, are great for capturing feedback on websites and applications for self-service content and after a digital interaction with a service agent. The question is simple: “How would you rate your experience with [agent’s name]?” Users rate the experience from one to five stars or smiley faces, per the below.

star ratings mobile chat survey

This is a simple metric to learn how customers feel about a recent digital interaction with a service agent; it can also be used to gauge which self-service content pieces are helpful and which are not. Be sure to include an open-end question so the customer can provide some detail behind the rating.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

Net Promoter Score (NPS) asks the question: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” 

The respondent ranks their likelihood on a scale of 0 to 10—0 being highly unlikely, 10 being extremely likely. On the rating system, people who select 9 or 10 on the NPS survey are considered Promoters, people who select 7 or 8 are Passives, and people who select 6 or below are Detractors. 

Whereas CSAT is a touchpoint metric, Net Promoter Score is considered a relationship metric, which means it’s best used to evaluate the overall customer relationship and end-to-end experience.

GetFeedback NPS survey

Customer service teams should be aware that this metric can be influenced by factors beyond service, including the quality, usability, and cost of the actual product or service. As such, NPS should be used very consistently (every 90 days or so) and communicated throughout the company (see Part 3 for more on cross-collaboration).

The American professional basketball team, the Golden State Warriors, believes in elevating the fan experience beyond a simple transaction. To ensure their enthusiastic fan base experiences the optimal customer journey, they turned to Momentive’s customer experience management solutions: Using SurveyMonkey Enterprise to interact with existing customers and GetFeedback to measure digital experience, the Warriors got an end-to-end understanding of their customer experience, from the moment a potential buyer visits their website until they exit the arena post-game, resulting in a 19% increase in their Net Promoter Score. Read the Warrior case study here

It's no longer just anecdotal feedback of, 'we think changing this layout leads to a better experience. We can actually look at the numbers and say NPS or our rating scores went up or down after this change. And that's really powerful because that directional guidance helps you make decisions and affirm those decisions as you go. – Charles Gao, Warrior’s senior manager of business strategy and analytics

Use NPS surveys to identify at-risk customers and problematic experiences. Integrate your NPS data with your CRM (like Salesforce) to provide your customer service representatives with real-time insight into the customer they’re engaging with; if the customer recently rated your company poorly, they can adjust their approach accordingly. Integrating your customer experience solution with Salesforce also allows you to automatically alert the right service agents about Detractors at key accounts. 

Take our free 4-week NPS email course if you want to learn more. 

Value Enhancement Score (VES)

The Value Enhancement Score (VES) is a newer customer service metric created by Gartner. Through a study of over 6,000 global customers, Gartner found that when it comes to influencing customer loyalty, it’s less about the quality of the service interaction itself and more about the impact that service interaction has on customers’ perceptions of themselves and the product.

VES is calculated through a two-question, post-transaction survey in which the customer has to rate their agreement with the following statements on a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) through 7 (strongly agree):

  • After the customer service interaction, I can achieve more with the product 

  • After the customer service interaction, my confidence in purchasing the product is higher

The higher the combined score, the more value the customer places on your product or service and the stronger the customer loyalty.

Measuring customer satisfaction for in-person interactions

Customer satisfaction is more difficult to measure for in-person interactions. In restaurants, for instance, many unhappy customers won’t make a verbal complaint, or if they do, it might not get officially logged by the waiter on the receiving end. Same goes for a brick-and-mortar store––if someone is unhappy with the experience they’ve received, they’ll often wait till they have left the store to communicate their grievances to a friend or on social media. 

But there are steps you can take to measure the level of customer satisfaction for in-person interactions. Retailers can send a customer a quick CSAT survey via SMS or email shortly after they’ve made a purchase to gauge the quality of service they experienced. User friendly survey designs and incentives like, “Tell us about your experience and automatically enter to win a $100 gift card,” can improve response rate. 

Beyond surveys, brick-and-mortar establishments can track other customer-related metrics like, speed, effort, customer complaints, immediacy of issue resolution, customer satisfaction with issue resolution, and employee turnover. 

How to measure customer effort 

The main effort metrics for service teams to take into consideration are Customer Effort Score (CES), Goal Completion Rate (GCR), First Response Time (FRT), Average Speed of Answer (ASA), Average Handle Time (AHT), and First Contact Resolution (FCR). 

Customer Effort Score (CES) 

The Customer Effort Score (CES) asks the customer to score the level of effort involved with a specific interaction. CES is best used in customer service or other routine experiences where low effort is the main loyalty driver.

The CES survey asks customers to agree or disagree with the statement: “[Placeholder for company name] made it easy for me to handle my issue.” 

You should also include an open-ended follow-up question that asks for feedback on the response. The respondent can choose from 7 answer choices ranging from strongly disagree (score 1) to strongly agree (score 7). 

CES-SNUCK survey

Survey customers after a service interaction to better understand the process of getting an issue resolved. In doing so, you can collect valuable insights that help your teams make data-driven decisions that inform organizational change. Track and segment your CES to easily spot aspects of the customer service experience that should improve. In other words, identify the areas that require too much effort from the customer. 

To reduce customer effort, your customer service team should focus on these questions:

  • How many steps or different touchpoints did your customers and/or your agents have to go to find an answer? And how long did it take for them to go through each leg of the journey? 

  • Was the issue resolved after one interaction with the agent? Or did the same customer have to reach out again to customer service about the same problem? 

  • What were the obstacles that got in the way of reaching a resolution?

  • What were the resources, processes, or skills that aided in a resolution?

  • Do your agents believe they have all the tools they need to provide solutions to customers? 

  • How is your customer service team tracking and implementing customer and employee feedback? And how is this insight being communicated throughout the organization on a regular basis? 

If you receive a poor CES score, it’s a great opportunity for service recovery. Set up an alert for your CES survey so that when a customer shares a frustration and dissatisfaction due to high effort (pick a certain threshold, like a CES score of 2), the appropriate service agent receives a notification and can follow up promptly. 

To learn more, take our free 4-week CES email course.

Goal Completion Rate (GCR)

Whereas a CES survey asks, “How hard was it to achieve your goal?”, the Goal Completion Rate metric poses the question, “Were you able to achieve your goal?” 

GCR measures the number of customers that complete a specific goal, such as signing up for a trial, completing a purchase, or fixing an issue. It can be measured in various ways, including via customer feedback. For example, after a ticket is closed, survey your customers on whether the service agent was able to resolve their issue. Similarly, you can use a simple “thumbs up/thumbs down” or “yes/no” survey at the end of a self-service content piece to see whether it was helpful in answering a particular question. 

You can report the data as a single percentage of a period of time. For example, the GCR for week 2 was 15%––meaning 15% of customers calling into our service team said “Yes, my interaction with the service agent helped me reach my goal”). Over time, you can report on trends, such as whether there is a low GCR in regards to a particular issue that needs immediate attention. 

First Response Time (FRT)

First Response Time measures the number of minutes, hours, or days that it takes for a service agent to respond to a customer’s first request or ticket submission. It can be calculated in business hours or general hours, depending on the company’s priorities and goals. 

FRT is measured by calculating the average first response time based on a sum of all first response times divided by the number of resolved tickets. 

The first response to a customer is crucial to establishing trust and a positive rapport. Though each company has its own goals, here are a few benchmarks to consider:

When it comes to SMS and live chat channels, the response should be immediate. It doesn’t mean it must come from a human; plenty of Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions are available to enable better customer service. According to a Momentive study, AI-powered communication is designed to enable 24/7 service and improve relationship management. People are taking notice, with 88% saying that AI has the potential to improve customer service.

Average Speed of Answer (ASA)

Average Speed of Answer (ASA) measures how quickly service agents respond to customer calls. In simple terms, ASA tells you how long customers must wait for help. The longer it takes to support customers, the lower the customer satisfaction.  

It is calculated by the total wait time that callers are in the queue, divided by the number of voice calls handled. It includes calls handled by an interactive voice response (IVR) system and live analysts. 

Let’s say, for example, that in a month, a service call center accepts 1,000 live voice calls, and the total time in queue for these callers was 100,000 seconds. The ASA for this month was 100 seconds (100,000 seconds ÷ 1,000 calls accepted). You should know that abandoned calls are not included in ASA.  

Regarding digital channels, like chat, SMS, and email, ASA is referred to as Average Reply Time (ART). Average Reply Time (ART) measures the time elapsed between a customer messaging support and an agent replying to it. Unlike First Response Time, ART includes any time a customer has to wait for a reply versus just the first touch. This metric is measured exactly as ASA. 

Average Handle Time (AHT)

Average Handle Time measures the average length of a customer’s call with a service agent. This metric is used to assess the efficiency of individual agents and the customer service team. It accounts for: 

  • Total talk time

  • Total hold time

  • Number of calls handled

Here is the formula: 

[Talk + hold + follow up] ÷ calls = AHT (calculated in minutes or seconds)

For example, there are 50 calls that average out to 1,000 minutes, with a hold time of 100 minutes, plus follow up time of 500 minutes. 

[1,000 + 100 + 500] ÷ 50 = AHT of 32 minutes

According to Call Centre Magazine, an Average Handle Time of 32 minutes is way over the industry standard of 6 minutes and 10 seconds.

Average Handle Time is a great benchmarking tool to assess the efficiency of customer phone calls versus other channels, such as the duration of a live chat or SMS. 

However, don’t pressure agents to quickly close interactions (over the phone, chat, email, or SMS) at the risk of missing details or not delivering the best possible experience. If customers need more support, representatives must be empowered to take the time to ensure customer understanding and satisfaction. 

First Contact Resolution (FCR) 

Another popular metric within contact centers is First Contact Resolution (FCR). This metric looks at the percentage of incoming service calls or requests resolved during the first interaction with the customer. 

Knowing if your customer service agents can resolve customer issues the first time around can indicate the amount of effort your customers experience. FCR can be calculated on the overall level or at an agent and product level. 

A typical calculation is using the total number of customer contacts resolved on the first attempt for a given time divided by the total number of customer contacts in that same period.

Here is the formula: 

[Tickets resolved on first contact ÷ All incoming tickets x 100] 

Speed of resolution can significantly increase customer loyalty. In fact, 32% of customers will leave a brand after one negative experience, like long hold times or poor customer service. 

Identify which customer satisfaction and effort metrics are most aligned with your company’s business goals. Measure them in tandem to gather the best holistic view of your customer’s experience. Then, establish a process for sharing your findings across departments to optimize the customer experience across all touchpoints. We’ll guide you through this next in Part 3.

Part 3

Cultivate cross-functional partnerships to resolve customer issues

Cross-functional collaboration happens when varying teams or operational functions throughout an organization work together to complete a project or achieve a common goal. Collaboration can range from day-to-day responsibilities, or one-off projects to large, organization-wide initiatives. 

A cross-functional CX program operates across business units and departments with the common goal of delivering the best customer experience possible. 

According to our guide, How to run a cross-functional CX program (written in partnership with CX expert, Annette Franz), four key elements contribute to the success of a collaborative program: 

  • A charter 

  • Governance: structure

  • Governance: operational model 

  • Talent & skillsets

Each one plays a critical role individually and collectively. With cross-functional leadership, operations, and governance, you will break down silos, work through inefficiencies, and create a cohesive and seamless experience for customers and employees.

Resolving issues that affect the entire customer journey is an ongoing challenge for CX professionals—and it’s only increased since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Service teams, in particular, are seeing an increase in complaints. And often, these agents have little visibility into topical challenges like supply chain and delivery issues. 

Now, more than ever before, Service teams need to work with business units across the organization to address pain points and bolster the customer experience proactively.

Why cross-collaboration is valuable 

Customer service professionals are often the first employees to discover an issue with their company’s products or services. The information they collect can sometimes be an early warning sign of a more significant problem—not for one customer but many. 

Customers will tell you what they want and what is not working with the right teams and tools in place. Therefore, service professionals should be empowered to communicate customer trends and leverage critical data (as discussed in Part 2) to inform the organization before a minor issue becomes a major concern—such as a product recall or missed opportunity for innovation. 

Luckily, teamwork and cross-collaboration are considered top strengths among CX professionals in both the U.S. and Europe, according to The 2022 State of CX Report. The organizational units they report collaborating with most often include Customer Support, Customer Experience, IT, Customer Success, and Sales.

The report also shows that cross-collaboration drives more revenue. Organizations that significantly collaborate cross-functionally are 27% more likely to have a “high” or “very high” return on investment (ROI) for their CX program. Of the companies that reported significant collaboration between business units, 72% reported “very high” ROI.

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How to break down silos between departments

Interdepartmental silos cause unintended consequences that make collaboration more challenging, including:

  • Loss of trust between departments

  • Competition for budget and resources

  • Increased employee turnover

  • Apathy towards the company mission

When teams operate independently, they aren’t sharing valuable insights to improve the customer experience. Misalignment between go-to-market and customer-facing teams increases customer effort.

In a previous example in this guide, we discussed a company error that caused a significant delivery delay for a customer. In this scenario, the customer service representative noticed the problem and immediately reached out to the customer, offering a solution the customer found unacceptable.

The unhappy customer reached out to her sales rep, who knew nothing of the issue. The result was an awkward position for the sales rep, and the company had to back-track to offer a suitable concession for the colossal mishap. 

In said example, Customer Service and Sales operated as silos and spent more time resolving the problem after presenting a sloppy first response.

Organizations must eliminate misalignment between teams to avoid problems that create customer friction. And Service teams are poised to take the lead. Here’s how.

Align and share goals organization-wide 

Silos are created when teams across the organization have different priorities and overlook company goals. Of course, Engineering and Customer Success will have their own responsibilities and priorities. However, those goals should be aligned to the larger company mission and to the holistic customer experience. 

By aligning on a shared company-wide customer experience strategy, each department is empowered to support them. For example, the organization may set a goal to improve NPS. The Customer Service department may set a goal to reduce Average Handle Time, while the engineering team may fix an in-product bug that’s causing customer confusion.

Foster a culture of collaboration

Building a customer-centric culture should be at the core of an organization's identity. Activities supporting a customer-first mindset must be woven into every aspect of the business.

Ensure CX cross-collaboration is a company value and is communicated often, particularly during all-hands and department meetings. This shared vision will bolster a team mentality. Rather than only focusing on departmental goals, communicate each team's progress in achieving company-wide CX priorities.

Build custom and centralized CX performance dashboards

Centralize customer feedback and data into one location, such as an online dashboard, and provide easily accessible insights to leaders throughout the organization. This way, leadership can work cross-functionally to address issues across the customer journey, not just at specific touchpoints under their domain. 

For example, a centralized customer view helps Customer Service leaders share feedback directly with Product Development, so their partners can better understand what issues are driving customer support interactions.

Leverage collaboration tools & technology 

A top obstacle to CX program success is remote work environments and reduced face-to-face time with customers. Transparency is crucial, with nearly 60% of CX professionals working remotely or a mix of in-person and remote work.

The term technology and tools casts a wide net, including everything from the right CX management solution and a robust tech stack, to internal resources like training and education, all made available to empower employees at taking the right, strategic action to better your organization’s approach to delivering superb customer experience.

Such tools reduce employee effort, create team visibility into project status, and make it easier to work together to achieve a common goal.

Meet regularly with governance team  

Service team supervisors should also meet with team leaders across the company regularly to share common customer pain points and find solutions to those challenges.

For instance, after a new product launch, service agents receive an influx of calls relating to implementation best practices. Rather than operate in silos, the Service and Marketing teams can work together to build in-app “how-to” videos that help users put the new feature to use.

Create team-building exercises and training

Team building events shouldn’t be limited by business unit. Instead, build organization-wide training initiatives and events that bring together departments. Team building activities allow all employees to understand each other’s roles better and work together effectively. 

For example, consider an organization that aims to improve its customer service. Departments ranging from customer success to IT to Sales would benefit from understanding how their role and other departments contribute to the larger goal.

Collaboration in practice

Bridging the gap between departments may seem like a lofty goal, but it isn’t impossible. Let’s say your organization sets out to improve Net Promoter Score. Here’s a quick overview you can use to boost awareness of your goal across departments and enact change. 

Finance: Finance colleagues might not see the connection between NPS and increasing revenue on their own. But after tracking the metric for a while, finance leaders might see how NPS increases lead to more sales.

Operations: Measuring the lead time of a software update for customers can be compared to the NPS of the customers who have requested that feature. Does the Net Promoter Score decrease if the wait time for customers is delayed or is too long? Operations can help adjust the dashboards and reports to serve leaders throughout the organization better.

Human Resources: Best practices in customer experience, like journey mapping and leveraging measurements like Net Promoters Score, can be applied to employee experience management. The employee journey can be measured in similar ways to the customer journey. Comparing the Employee Net Promoter Score (E-NPS) with the customer NPS will highlight how, as one improves, the other does too.

Building a collaborative customer journey

Each company’s customer journey will look different based on industry, geographic area, customer demographics, and more. When done right, Customer journey mapping gives you insight into what your customers need and any parts of your brand, product or process that aren’t meeting expectations.  

Therefore, it’s critical that every team across the organization is aligned on their contribution to the customer’s journey. Below is an example of journey collaboration might look like in practice. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll refer to the five most popular customer lifecycle stages.

Stage 1: Awareness 

The awareness stage is where the customer begins their journey with your business. They are only a prospective buyer, and they’re not exactly sure what they’re looking for yet; they’ve just become aware of your brand, products, or services through one or more channels (e.g. social media, search engine results, emails, apps, blogs, word of mouth, affiliate marketing, or more). 

How to collaborate: Marketing works closely with the Customer Success team to understand common challenges that customers face. From there, they build a campaign showcasing how these common pain points can be resolved using their products or services.

Stage 2: Consideration 

In the consideration stage, prospects begin to research your products or services. They’ve found something they might want or need, but they’re still weighing their options. Prospects might visit your website, sign up for a free trial, request a product demo, or ask questions via chatbots, etc. 

How to collaborate: Engineering, Web-Development, and Customer Service teams collaborate to ensure chatbots are launched effectively and benefit the end-user.

Stage 3: Purchase 

This stage is where a prospect becomes a customer. In the ecommerce space, for instance, they’re taking this step via your site, adding products to their cart, and finishing the checkout process. What is important about this stage isn’t just that the customer made a purchase, but that they have taken a committed step in their relationship with your business. 

How to collaborate: Customer Success and Customer Service teams work closely to understand the common challenges customers face. From there, the two teams create an onboarding email course that empowers customers to get the most out of the organization’s products and services.

Stage 4: Experience 

The customer has trusted you with their money and time, and they want to see the results. Touchpoints in this stage may include the shipping and delivery process, product or service guarantees, order tracking, help center service, FAQs or product instructions, onboarding, and more. 

How to collaborate: In this stage of the customer journey, IT, Customer Service, and Product teams often work together to ensure FAQs are easily accessible onsite.

Stage 5: Loyalty 

If you don’t want to have an endless parade of one-time customers, the loyalty stage is every bit as vital as the others. Tactics like loyalty programs, personalized rewards, social media interaction and engagement, and newsletters keep customers in the loop and thinking of the brand. 

While there’s certainly plenty of value in these tactics, the new approach to customer loyalty also focuses on creating an emotional connection with the customer. Buyers want to have personalized experiences with brands, instead of feeling like just another transaction. Customers also need to receive the value they expect from your goods and services, and the support they deserve when they encounter an issue.

How to collaborate: The Customer Marketing team works in close collaboration with Customer Success to build a robust advocacy program with the goal of driving loyalty and repeat purchases.

Increase cross-collaboration for more business impact

Organizations that keep a steady pulse on the voice of the customer across all touchpoints are the ones that can turn the always-evolving customer expectations into extraordinary experiences. Familiarize yourself more on collaborative journey mapping with our Customer journey map guide [examples & free template].

Conclusion

Taking on customer service with newfound confidence

Despite the many challenges, there are also exciting opportunities for Service teams to drive significant change in their organizations’ approach to customer experience. Professionals in the service industry are agile and adaptable by nature; they thrive in change when given the right tools and insights.

As you forge forward, leverage the three keys you’ve learned from this guide: confidence in de-escalation, measurement and boosting of customer loyalty, and cultivation of collaboration across teams. 

Learn how GetFeedback can help your Service team exceed customer expectations—start your free trial today.

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*Net Promoter, Net Promoter System, Net Promoter Score, NPS and the NPS-related emoticons are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Fred Reichheld and Satmetrix Systems, Inc.