I spoke to Kate Leggett, who serves as the VP Principal Analyst Serving Application Development and Delivery Professionals at Forrester Research. She is a leading expert on customer relationship management (CRM) and customer service strategies, maturity, benchmarking, governance, and ROI. She is an accomplished public speaker and frequently presents at industry events such as CRM Evolution. She has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Forbes magazine, and industry publications such as CRM Magazine, KM World, and Destination CRM. In the following brief interview, Leggett talks about how customer service issues are handled at the companies that she focuses on, how they track customer complaints and handles larger scale customer issues, and more.
Dan Schawbel: Based on all the companies that you work with, including your own, how are customer service issues handled from start to finish?
Kate Leggett: An inquiry comes in, it gets routed to an agent dependent on that agent’s skillset, workload and channel type (email, chat, voice etc), and gets worked on. If the agent is not able to resolve the issue, the agent will escalate the issue to a more skilled agent – a higher tier of agent – for resolution. The agent taps into back end systems, customer databases, knowledge bases to get an answer to the question. The agent communicates the answer to the question to the customer.
Schawbel: How do you track customer complaints to resolution?
Leggett: Every service request has an audit trail – when the issue was first received by the call center, how long it took to route to the right agent, to connect to an agent, and then to resolve. This entire time can be captured and reported on. There are reporting packages and analytics that track time to resolution for complaints for all communication channels used.
Schawbel: Do you have certain ways of handling larger scale customer issues compared to smaller ones?
Leggett: I am an analyst covering the customer service space. We do not handle large or small scale customer issues. However, most companies have a tiered support model, based on level of support purchased, severity and priority of issue submitted.
Schawbel: Can you explain the tiered customer service model that companies are using and what the benefits are?
Leggett: A tiered model allows customer service reps to deeply focus on a part of their business. Tier 1 agents are generalists, but don’t go deep into troubleshooting. Tier 2,3 agents have deeper product, industry expertise and can troubleshoot issues faster, with a higher rate of resolution. Tier 4 agents are highly specialized agents with deep technical chops. Not all industries have the need for Tier 4 agents.
Schawbel: What are some customer service innovations that you see in the near future? Why do you think they will be important for businesses to remain competitive?
Leggett: Here is my report for my vision of the future of customer service. Innovations are centered around (1) making interactions more frictionless (or pain-free) to help improve customer satisfaction and loyalty (2) making engagements more proactive, and even pre-emptive; (3) making engagements personalized and contextualized to their situation. My report summarizes the top technology trends to be able to do this.
Schawbel: What typical customer service mistakes do companies make and why do they continue to make them?
Leggett: The main mistake that companies make is treating the contact center solely as a cost center. Companies, instead need to look at offering differentiated engagement in a way that entices customer satisfaction and loyalty, which ultimately leads to increased revenue.
Read Kate's blog on Forrester's Top Trends for Customer Service in 2015.