A dialogue from an old war movie (The Wild Geese) reminds me of the predicament of customer service professionals (CSP) not too long ago. A burly training Sargent walks up to a fatigued officer (played by Roger Moore) lying spreadeagled on the ground. Looms over him and says, “When I tell you to jump, you ask, ‘how high’!” The situation of the officer was much like that of the CSP. They were a controlled and restricted lot, doing only as much as they were told, no questions asked.
In a relatively short span of time, CSPs have gone from being perennial followers to empowered decision-makers. This once reticent group is now sanctioned to take critical decisions and forge directions on behalf of the customer and the business. It is an enviable situation to be in, and the environment in which they have to take these decisions is multifaceted, getting even more complex by the day.
Multichannel Customer Engagement
Businesses now use multiple channels to engage the customer. Each channel has its own nuances. While facebook and twitter require immediate attention, they can be tackled with fewer words. Blogs, a more verbose medium, requires a detailed closure to the expansive tirade of the customer. These are channels that have public witness to customer-company interactions. Other modes of communication online such as the company website and email are less exposed but need to be dealt with as much speed and precision or they can be quickly escalated into a public jamboree. Then there are the conventional channels of a store and call-centre that have direct contact with the customer and proven methods of managing them. Though these are simplistic depictions of the channels, they amply illustrate their diversity.
Understanding these channels individually, and how the customer perceives and uses them, needs intense training and a lot of practice. Only when fully trained, can the CSP begin to attempt making decisions unilaterally.
Focusing the trainings to manage different channels is an aspect that has been predominantly missed out on. In all haste to embrace servitization as a norm, without imparting that vital piece of training, the service team has been entrusted with the sceptre of empowerment. This forced delegation of responsibility has resulted in the deteriorating state of service.
Service failures abound. Customer effort is rising, as customer satisfaction rapidly sinks. Customer experience is in a free-fall. All of this is not from the lack of effort by the CSP, but from the lack of inadequate skills to manage the multichannel environment.
Empowerment cannot be delegated.
The CSP should feel confident to voluntarily accept the responsibility of empowerment. Confidence comes from having sufficient knowledge and expertise. The obligation of up-skilling the service team rests with the organization. Correspondingly, the debacle of service in the absence of this training, is also the onus of the organization.
The Crucial Question
Before empowering the CSP there is one question that you need to ask:
Is your CSP equipped to be empowered with the future of the company’s most prized asset – the customer?
Did you ask, and answer, this question before empowering your customer service team?
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