The no.1 customer service lesson – you can fix issues but only if you know about them.

  June 25, 2014       Martin Taylor

We’ve all heard time and again the different best practice approaches in delivering great omni-channel customer service. However, wouldn’t it be great if you could understand and learn from your own current service delivery across multiple channels? Well you can! Martin Taylor – our customer engagement specialist thinks the best lessons can be learnt from within your own organisation. Here’s how…

A guide to assessing your contact channels


I am frequently frustrated by service experiences. Results of customer research and perceptions of service have for years highlighted the need to deliver consistent service regardless of the chosen contact channel. Service is a differentiator – no question, so why does this issue not live in the past?

I have tried to do my bit to at least highlight service shortcomings in the belief that if organisations pay heed to the outputs can win customer advocacy, lower the cost to serve, increase the upsell opportunity, build trust and most importantly, sell themselves on the basis of the service experience.

This is an outline of what I have done…

A few years ago, I was asked to help a Local Authority to ‘test’ the level of service across their customer contact channels. They had asked me for two reasons; one was by recommendation (I’d delivered this successfully to a neighbouring Council as a pilot) and two, they wanted some evidence on current performance to inform their new strategy.

The channel assessment, as I termed it, worked and still works very simply. They came up with a set of questions, typical of their day to day, that I could ask across all of the channels – phone (contact centre and back office), e-mail, web, web forms, chat and of course social media.
Seemed straightforward…I’m not sure why everyone doesn’t do this regularly in their own organisation…

The process is as follows:

  1. General observations – look and feel of the web site, type, quantity, accuracy of the telephone numbers, e-mail branding and anything else that the customer may observe.
  2. Test for consistency of service per question and per channel
  3. Capture the responses in terms of timeliness, accuracy of answer, helpfulness and general experience
  4. Score against best practice data and examples
  5. Feedback the findings and make appropriate short, medium and long term recommendations.

So that’s the process outlined – a bit dry but very rigorous…

…now, for the interesting bit.
The findings…clearly, when you run a large, complex organisation, it is really challenging to deliver consistent information in a manner that speaks about your brand and so this was the case…

When scored against best practice, they fell short on all channels apart from the contact centre. The study revealed holes in the web chat function in terms of availability, the e-mail in terms of a ludicrous SLA, back office service failed miserably and the web – wow…

I presented my findings to the senior management team – I was given a 45 minute slot but their questioning and interest converted that to over 5 hours!

The finest moment had to be the revelation that their ‘frequently asked questions’ had at number 5…

“How do I apply for a zoo license?”

Interestingly, the response to this was not – Oh, yes, we are concentrating our efforts in boosting the local economy by becoming the zoo capital of Western Europe….it was clear that the question (along with a couple of others) had been put on the site from its inception and never been checked or changed.

You may say that the public sector is littered with examples of poor practice particularly in how they deliver service but I promise you this is not the case and actually they lead the way in some service delivery initiatives. Don’t be too quick to assume that the private sector exist in a bubble of excellence – they DON’T.

I was recently asked to do a higher level channel assessment on the high street banks and insurance names for one of our sales team to offer some insight into the challenges that customers face in terms of service.

From my findings, they were poor.

The premise of the calls were simply an enquiry about their current accounts – so, I was a potential new customer, asking the right questions – you’d think I’d be ‘looked after’.

I won’t go into too many details just now, but if you’re thinking of changing banks – GOOD LUCK.

Speaking as a long suffering consumer, I’d really like you to accept these take-aways and use them as tools to help support your customer service.

  1. See how you’re listed on the web – how easy is it for a customer to contact you?
  2. Test your phone – how do you personally feel about the experience you receive including the IVR, what messages you hear, the queue time, the responsiveness of the advisor and the result – remember, try different times of the working day and out of hours
  3. Drop a note into your customer service e-mail – what do you get back, are you any the wiser?
  4. Check your web self-service. How was it for you?
  5. Tweet a note and check the response.

If you don’t have the bandwidth and would like a completely independent review, call me and I’ll take a look at your service offer and be candid about the results.

Whatever you decide, in my experience, it needs to be done and redone regularly.

Remember, you can fix some things – but only if you know about them.