Perfecting Service Management

Issue #20 Tuesday, June 10, 2003


topical index

Welcome to this edition of the Customer Centricity newsletter, where we explore ways you can improve the performance of your service organization.

In this issue:

Join us at the New England Call Center Forum

The Second Annual New England Call Center Forum Vendor Expo will be held on June 24, 2003 at the Four Points by Sheraton, in Waltham, MA.

Stop by our booth to learn the 10 ways to maximize the performance of your call center, without having to make additional investments in technology, to:

  • Increase customer satisfaction

  • Improve operational efficiencies

  • Increase employee morale

The NorthEast Contact Center Forum (NECCF) is a non-profit organization dedicated to addressing the needs of contact center professionals in the region.

To learn more or register for this event visit the New England Call Center Forum online at:


Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs - Part 5

By Lauren Weiss

This is the 5th article in the series “Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs” covering approaches to reduce operating costs while maintaining customer confidence and increasing customer satisfaction. Topics in this series include:

  • Cease activities that provide no value-add
  • Implement efficient and repeatable processes
  • Focus on existing product quality instead of new features and functions
  • Enabling customers to self-serve
  • Perform elements of the work with lower cost labor
  • Segment the customer base and provide “appropriate” levels of support for each
  • Make informed, not random, cuts
  • Cease big, expensive projects with long-term ROI
  • Renegotiate vendor contracts

In this edition we will cover: Enabling customers to self-serve.

When done properly, one of the most effective ways to increase customer satisfaction while reducing operating costs is that of empowering your customers to self-serve. Customers WANT to have more control, especially if it makes it easier to do business with you. Prior to embarking on this endeavor, however, you are encouraged to make sure that you are not implementing technology in such a way that it becomes an obstacle to the customer getting the support they require. An example of “ineffective” technology (from the customer’s perspective) is that of a phone system with an elaborate “tree” of options.

Self-serve capabilities are best received by the customer-base when made available as an option, and not forced down their throat. And, there should always be an “escape hatch” providing an option for the customer to work with a real-live human-being.

Key technologies that enable you to increase your customers’ ability to self-serve include your phone system and web-site. You can get started by simply making frequently asked questions (FAQs), about your products and services, available on your web-site. From there you can take steps to offer more sophisticated capabilities such as implementing a searchable knowledge base that allows the customer to ask a question (i.e., how do I…) and receive possible solutions (in ranked order) to address their question. A major consideration in implementing a knowledge base, however, is that it does NOT populate itself with useful information. You will need to assign an administrator that is responsible for obtaining common problems and solutions from your customer service system, and loading this information into your knowledge base in a standard and easily retrievable format.

To ease your customers into the online support option have your service personnel co-browse the FAQs or knowledge base with callers so that they become familiar with the content and methods of access.

In addition to having access to FAQs, and a searchable knowledge base, customers also find value in being able to:

  • Enter a problem report or question directly into the customer service system
  • View status of reported problems or questions
  • View and update profile information
  • Place orders and track status
  • View and pay invoices
  • Request a password reset

To determine which of the above “transactions” would provide the most benefit (to your customer and your cost structure) you should perform an analysis to determine the most frequent and/or labor intensive interactions that you have with your customer-base. These should be targeted as opportunities to automate, enabling the customer to self-serve.

The final ingredients to obtain the maximum value (increased customer satisfaction and decreased operating costs) you are encouraged to include the following in your self-serve capabilities:

  • Integration
  • Motivation
  • Security
  • Follow-up

Integration: make sure that you capture data about the customer’s self-serve interaction and that your contact center has access to this information. For transactions where the customer is not required to identify themselves capture general data elements such as what they were viewing, which can be useful for future analysis. When they do identify themselves, capture the customer id, what they were viewing, and how the transaction was completed. By doing so you can pick up where the customer left off (as a continuous thread), if they are not able to get what they needed and decide to call or e-mail for help.

Motivation: offer customers something for using the self-serve option. An example includes putting them at the top of the queue if they end up having to call or e-mail for support, on an item that could not be completed online.

Security: ensure your self-serve site has appropriate security and privacy. Customers need to feel comfortable that no one else can see their information (problem reports, profiles, orders, invoices, etc.)

Follow up: at the end of each self-serve interaction BRIEFLY ask how it went, if they got what they were looking for, and if there is anything that could be improved.

While the above approaches to increase your customers’ ability to self-serve are highly focused on technology, the final comment is that this is NOT a technical problem. Technology is merely the enabler. A major step you will need to take, prior to investing in and implementing technology, is that of ensuring your business processes are designed for data integrity and that the information generated is customer viewable. The last thing you want is someone placing inappropriate comments about a customer into a system and having it show up, online, for customer consumption.

Upcoming newsletter editions will cover additional items on the topic of “Avoiding the Death Spiral While Reducing Operating Costs”.

Previous articles in this series:

Part 1   Part 2   Part 3
Part 4



More About Customer Centricity, Inc.

Customer Centricity is a business consulting firm that partners with companies to improve the performance of their service organizations. We leverage our real-world experience to help our clients manage their customer relationships in more effective and satisfying ways.

Customer Centricity delivers on this promise by optimizing the interaction between people, process and technology to achieve higher levels of customer satisfaction and increased operational efficiencies. We provide:

  1. Comprehensive assessments to identify the actions that will yield the greatest return;
  2. Skills Training to enable customer-facing personnel to deliver exceptional levels of customer service;
  3. Design and Implementation of business process techniques to serve the customer in efficient, effective and consistent manners; and
  4. Identification of the appropriate business processes to automate, enabling companies to get the most from their investments in technology.

In addition to our core practices, we also maintain a network of strategic partnerships to provide end-to-end consulting across your organization with a commitment to seamless execution.

Click on the following link to see what our customers have to say.

To learn more about Customer Centricity:

call: 603.491.7948

send e-mail to: 

or visit our web-site:

In Closing

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Copyright (c) 2003 by Customer Centricity, Inc. All rights reserved.