Over the past two years, the world of work has gone through major changes – many of which have put pressure on customer and field service teams. In fact, 70% of field service businesses are facing a rapidly retiring workforce over the next 5-10 years, and younger service employees have higher expectations for more flexibility, growth, and learning opportunities. At the same time, customers have higher expectations for fast, personalized service. Supply chain disruption has strained customer service teams as they work to manage client expectations and create great customer experiences amidst delays and uncertainty.
These challenges point to a need for businesses agility to drive great employee and customer experiences. One way to do this is through proactive service.
Proactive service can reduce mean time to resolution, bring down costs for service providers and improve the overall experience for both customers and employees – but transitioning into a proactive model is difficult, time consuming, and requires everyone in an organization to evolve. Below is a four-part playbook detailing some of the strategies that top service organizations are using.
Whether customer service is proactive or reactive, customers want choice in the channels they use, and if they have to switch channels, don’t want to share the same information twice.
Today, meeting customers on the channels of their choice is table stakes. Organizations need to take this one step further and utilize technology that connects information from customers on the front-end with the systems and teams involved in solving the issues on the back end. This provides a consolidated view of all customer interactions, including in-person interactions with technicians and agents, to create a better end-to-end experience.
Customers can now move seamlessly from channel to channel as they get help, and agents have the right information to get the customer issue solved early and often.
Integrate Self-Service with Knowledge Management, Optimize with AI
A successful proactive service model empowers customers and agents with self-service solutions such as chatbots and customer portals. Customers can use these tools to find answers and request help on their own, minimizing the burden on customer service agents who are often bogged down by common or simple requests. Through machine learning and natural language processing, AI-powered chatbots can address common questions, book appointments, or direct customers to knowledge articles and live agents when additional help is needed. This is critical given that chatbots are often the first tool customers use to seek help. They need to work seamlessly to leave a positive impression.
When enabled by AI, modern customer portals can interface more deeply with customers, answering questions automatically through Natural Language interactive chat inquiry and response. Additionally, AI can help customer service teams identify similar customers who are likely to encounter an issue that others have experienced, allowing them to proactively take action.
Organizations need to integrate knowledge management into self-service so that customers and agents can easily access information, explore solutions, and ask for help from one platform. When combined with AI-powered search, knowledge management can be transformative. AI-enabled predictive intelligence can identify common words and phrases that make articles easily searchable and identify patterns in search queries, improving time to resolution and reducing customer effort.
It can also help agents find resources when they’re supporting a customer, meaning they can provide help faster with the most relevant information on hand. Giving agents the right tools to find information quickly and easily is key to enabling productivity and ensuring service teams feel supported – something that should be a goal for any organization.
Ask for Customer and Employee Feedback
The best customer experience organizations communicate changes to customers and employees frequently, and regularly collect feedback to understand what is working and what isn’t in the customer service process. This is also true with proactive service.
Surveys are a good place to start. The content of the survey can ask customers for preferred communication methods as well as address general customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score inquiries.
For example, is knowledge content outdated or useful? Where are processes falling short and causing frustration? What types of requests require a human agent? How quickly do customers want to be informed of an issue? Incorporating a mechanism for technicians or customers to leave feedback immediately can help identify service gaps.
Proactive service can also fundamentally change how employees will work with customers, so involving them in the feedback loop is critical. Gathering feedback from everyone throughout the organization whose day-to-day workflow or processes have been changed to allow for a more proactive service model is critical to making sure the shift goes well.
Automate, Optimize and Evolve
The use of technology to automate and optimize processes is critical to bringing proactive customer service to life. Communicating with customers proactively requires teams to both identify problems as soon as they surface (or, even ahead of time), communicate those problems with every relevant internal team, and then work together to communicate with the customer as needed as they work to solve the issue at hand.
If an organization is still bogged down by manual processes, monitoring, communicating and sharing information internally or externally to customers will be slow and inefficient. Digitizing manual processes can help teams quickly deliver updates both internally across departments and to customers.
Automated solutions can flag issues proactively, trigger tasks and connect departments on the back-end, so the right teams have the right information to act with confidence. Automation can also help eliminate repetitive administrative tasks like self-solvable cases, data entry and researching customer activity. Organizations can use AI to automate these tasks, helping agents prioritize and resolve cases quickly, and therefore improving the employee experience.
Amid macroeconomic headwinds, and as customer and employee expectations heighten, organizations have no choice but to transform. Proactive service is one piece of a much larger shift organizations are making to drive employee productivity, improve customer experiences, and respond to the challenges facing them today. And, when combined with customer engagement and operations, it can be truly transformative to the top and bottom line.