“In history, a great volume is unrolled for our instruction, drawing the materials of future wisdom from the past errors and infirmities of mankind.” - Edmund Burke, Irish writer, politician, journalist and philosopher

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” - George Santayana, Spanish philosopher and novelist

Are you a fan of history?

If you work in customer service or support, then I believe you should be.

I don’t mean the sort of history that involves things like wars, empires and social strife.

The sort of history I believe you should be interested in is your own, or, more specifically, your team’s customer service or support history.

Why, you ask?

Well, industry and customer research shows that, on average, around 60% of all calls or support requests into a contact center or support desk happen because customers can’t find the answers that they are looking for on the company’s website. Meanwhile, other research has found that between 25% and 40% of calls or support requests are avoidable.

Those numbers suggest that there are lots of opportunities to learn from past performances about what could be done to improve service and support for customers.

Many companies are starting to embrace this type of approach, and they’ve begun by delving into their historical data and analytics to identify the repeating or regular customer problems and questions.

But, that is not necessarily the best, cheapest, quickest, or most effective way to get results.

Consider these two examples:

Example 1:

A large UK financial services organization recently went through a process of redesigning their mortgages. To help identify problems within their existing mortgage process, they assembled a data analysis team to sift through their customer and operational data.

Meanwhile, whilst the data team was busy gathering its data and doing its analysis, one bright spark of a manager gathered a group of contact center agents together, without the presence of any their managers, provided them with tea, coffee and doughnuts, and asked them to help identify the top problems that they thought customers historically faced with their processes. It took the agents around 30 minutes to agree on a list of the top 10 problems.

The data and analysis team returned after 6 weeks of analyzing all of the customer and operational data and concluded that the agents were 80% accurate.

Example 2:

A large UK mobile business employed a simple improvement strategy: Listen to customers and frontline staff, and fix what they say is broken. Over a two year period, they fixed 81% of the issues that were highlighted by their frontline agents, and, in doing so, they reduced their customers propensity to call by 88%. Almost all of the issues they fixed required little or no involvement from IT. Their efforts helped increase their NPS and eNPS scores by 21 and 57 points respectively over a similar period.

So, what does all of this mean for support teams, particularly as we approach high demand times? And what can be done to quickly help improve service and support?

Here are some suggested steps:

  1. Ask your support team to list out the top problems that your customers face.
  2. Have them rank these problems in terms of their impact on the customer’s experience and how easy they are to solve.
  3. Identify all of the problems that are ranked as low effort and high impact and ask your team to help you identify what would be the quickest, best, and most cost-effective solution to each problem.
  4. Pick one, and ask your team to help you come up with a solution.
  5. Implement the solution.
  6. Monitor results to see what works and what needs adjusting.
  7. Repeat.

Even if you have limited time, this is a process worth going through even if you only implement one idea. The very process will start a conversation around shared problems and every little change that you can make will both improve your customer’s experience and make the job of your support team a little bit easier.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe

Adrian is the author of the best-selling book, How to Wow: 68 Effortless Ways to Make Every Customer Experience Amazing. He’s a fan of organizations that do great things for their customers and helps many to achieve their own level of greatness via consulting, writing, speaking, and workshops.