Providing excellent service is only part of the entire customer journey – but as many business owners will testify, it’s one of the most crucial.
However, it’s also one of the most challenging. Businesses often have to grapple with the question: How can they provide a customer service experience that’s informed not only by the ability to solve a problem in the moment, but provide information proactively to stop those problems from happening again?
Booktopia founder Tony Nash makes an acute observation: when it comes to customer service, many businesses don’t think of it as something that can be influenced by good decisions made in other areas.
“The return on investment needs to be tempered to where your business is,” says Nash, who heads up the online bookseller – the joint winner of the Community Hero Award in this year’s Smart50 Awards – which turns over nearly $100 million a year.
“Of course you want to throw more and more people in, and at times our customer service team might be under the pump and burning themselves out.”
“So you need to create a sustainable customer service team,” says Nash.
How do you create a sustainable customer service team?
According to Nash, businesses hoping to inspire their customer service need to invest in all areas of the business that matter.
“The people in customer service need to have energy, and the way you do that is having more product in stock ready to go. The proportional relationship between if a product is shipped and ready to go, to calls in the call centre … it’s directly related.”
Of course, this approach works for inventory-based businesses. But how can service-based organisations create positive customer experiences?
Julie Millias, solution lead at the University of Western Australia, had a problem.
Many of the university’s students were receiving different pieces of advice from multiple areas of the campus. However, because many of those departments weren’t communicating sometimes the advice provided did not line up with previous advice.
Even more of a problem was the fact there was no central system dedicated to recording any of those interactions, so student advisers couldn’t look up what advice a student had been given over time.
Solving that problem took a combination of reorganising the communication structure across the business, and implementing new technology.
“The confusion came from a student not understanding what they were told,” she says.
“They might get a number of steps, and sometimes don’t understand what they’re being told – so they forget it, and because it wasn’t reported in a centralised system they couldn’t retrieve it.”
To mitigate future issues, the university implemented an Oracle Service Cloud that allowed staff to keep a record of all customer service interactions. Integrated into a CRM, student advisers are now able to look at the entire history of a particular student’s interactions and see exactly what advice they were given, and when.
From little things …
Simply recording the interactions gave the university another benefit: the ability to track when customer service inquiries would peak.
“In the past departments would say they were really busy, but they couldn’t quantify it. Now we can report back and show them where the peaks and troughs are, when they can expect higher call volumes, and that can influence staffing levels,” Millias says.
Both approaches at Booktopia and the University of Western Australia demonstrate how even the smallest of customer service changes can make a massive impact on how a user walks away from any interaction. But they also demonstrate how decisions made – whether they be technology purchases or inventory management – can vastly influence customer service and experience in massive ways.
Alex Huntley, customer service experience manager at Booktopia, says businesses need to ensure their customer service experience is viewed as part of the entire customer journey, and use it to inform other areas of the business as much as it is an “end-point” for a problem.
“We find good customer service isn’t just a transactional-based thing, it’s leaving the customer with a good feeling about the experience they’ve had.”
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