This text presents a comprehensive and forward-looking view of late-20th century customer care practices as they pertain to the elements of process, technology and content.
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Michael Cusack is a consultant who specializes in evaluating call center operations and implementing best practice principles in the areas of process improvement, systems design, and content management. His client list includes companies such as General Electric, Novo Nordisk, CitiBank, Kemper Insurance, Yellow Freight System, The University of Pennsylvania, and AT&T. Cusack's background includes several years in the telecommunications industry, principally as a management consultant with the Bell Laboratories Customer Care Group. He was also employed as a human factors engineer with the AT&T Artificial Intelligence/Knowledge Systems Unit, and has been involved in the planning and reengineering of call centers for more than a decade. He is an experienced communicator, and has presented customer care strategies to decision-makers from several multinational corporations, as well as initiating educational forums on worldwide customer care involving representatives from countries such as Holland and Ireland. Cusack has lived and worked in six countries. He received his Master of Arts in Corporate and Organizational Communication from Fairleigh-Dickinson University in the United States. He can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Chapter 6 - Defining Customer Care Processes (Excerpt)
As discussed previously, there are several contingencies relevant to meeting customer expectations through business processes. These contingencies drive processes which may be organizational, supportive, or customer-facing. At this point, one may assume that management have developed a product or service which satisfies what is believed to be a customer need. Marketing have subsequently compounded that need in the targeted market. As a result of these endeavors, the company expects to receive many contacts from customers. Based on contact volume forecasts, the company has budgeted a customer care offering to answer customer inquiries and problems, gather market intelligence, and perhaps cross-sell other products and services. In order to achieve this goal, customer care will have established a baseline for existent processes. This baseline may require a "best in class" comparison with other customer care operations, identification of the features, functions and technologies of the ideal customer care environment, and observation and tracking of contact types, lengths, follow-ups, and other post-contact activities.
The following list represents a potential high-level grouping of some typical customer care processes:
* New Product/Service Support/Marketing Activity Notification * Disaster Recovery (Loss of Telephone or Computer Network) * Customer Contact Root Cause Data Gathering & Analysis * Customer Satisfaction Data Gathering & Analysis * Facilities Management * Screening and Hiring * Partnership and Service Agreements * Customer Care Quality Analysis & Improvement * Agent Appeals * Agent Rewards and Recognition.
* Agent Shift Preference * Agent Vacation Scheduling - Initial Choice Process * Agent Vacation Scheduling - Change Processes * Agent Time-off Scheduling * Agent Closed Time Scheduling.
* Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Customer Script Maintenance * Initial and Continuation Training * Methods & Procedures Information for Customer Contact Handling * Agent Help System Support (For Customer Care Systems) * Agent Script Development and Maintenance * Content Development for New Product/Service ("How To" Instructions) * Content Maintenance for Existing Product/Service ("How To" Instructions) * Problem-solving Support for New and Existing Product/Service * (Knowledge Acquisition/Engineering).
Systems Development & Maintenance
* Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Functional Improvements * Systems Change Request - Prioritization and Implementation * New Systems Definition, Prioritization and Implementation * Database Administration * Systems Administration.
Routing Inbound Customer Calls to Appropriate agents
Classifying, Routing and Responding to:
* E-mail Messages * Fax Messages * Postal Correspondence * Voice Mail Requests * Web-site Communications.
Opening a Customer Contact - Agent Tasks
Handling Customer Account Maintenance, such as:
* Change customer address * Change pricing plan * Responding to returned mail * Renew or cancel contracts * Modify credit limit * Change billing responsibility * Record customer comments
Resolving Pre-sales Requests, such as:
* Pricing Inquiries (non-customer) * Feature Availability * Nearest Branch/Store Location.
Handling Customer Orders and Reservations, such as:
* Inventory location * Credit approval * Price negotiation.
Resolving Billing Inquiries, including:
* Pricing Inquiries (customer) * Request for Invoice Copy * Change Billing Cycles * Explain first bill * Explain feature charges * Create revised bill * Explain taxes * Produce on-demand bill
Handling Collections, including:
* Response to late notice * Response to treatment report * Response to non-pay deactivation
Handling Customer Complaints
Handling Misdirected Calls
Online Escalation of Customer Calls
Customer agent Callback Commitment Handling
Handling Customer Initiated Callbacks
Closing a Customer Contact - Agent Tasks.
Regardless of whether or not customer care management decides to document processes, there obviously has to be some sort of process understanding in order for the operation to exist at all. This common knowledge may have been conveyed verbally during training, or informally by peers and managers. It is not unusual for a manager in a small call center to verbally convey a change in process or policy for all those who were within earshot on a particular day. Often, there appears to be presumption that any agents who were absent for that announcement will adhere to the change by some sort of osmosis. Given that inconsistency in dealing with the customer is one of the primary reasons why call centers experience repeat calls, it is remarkable how many managers exacerbate the problem through failure to ensure rigorous communication and adherence practices. In some cases, the agent may come across a method and procedure which explains what to do in a certain situation. How consistently the process is applied and how effectively it works can only be determined by formal measurements. The critical question applied to these customer care environments becomes "how many of our processes will break when we start getting a lot of customer contacts?" If that question is not addressed, even hiring two hundred new agents to handle increased volume will not have the desired effect. (End of excerpt)
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