The imperative of designing and building agility in customer service


Last week I was involved in two events for cloud-based contact centre application company IPScape, facilitating a media luncheon and hosting a customer event where I did the keynote and moderated a panel of experts.

An article in Computerworld titled Companies ‘still grappling’ with basics of customer service: IPscape reviewed some of the content at the events. The article notes:

IPscape CEO Simon Burke said that “the vast majority of organisations are still grappling with the absolute basics” of customer service, including how to minimise how much time customers spend on hold or being routed through automated telephone systems. Other companies are recording conversations for training purposes but have a difficult time accessing the recordings afterward.

“Fear of change” has held back many companies from enhancing customer service, Burke said. Even if a call centre agent recognises improvements, the agent may not tell upper management because of a perceived unwillingness to change, he said.

It is somewhat frightening that still in 2012 companies are getting the fundamentals of effective customer service in place. It is of course not nearly as easy as we would like to imagine to get even the basics right, yet the bar continues to rise. The article later notes:

Increasing consumerisation of IT is forcing companies to change, said entrepreneur Ross Dawson, chairman of Advanced Human Technologies. “As the world becomes more and more complex, the only organisations that will succeed will be the ones that have as much flexibility and are agile enough to cope with the pace of change and seize … opportunities as they come up.”

The need for flexibility and agility is a fundamental truth applying to every facet of organizations.

However customer service is right at the point of the issue. Ultimately, value is created at the intersection of the organization and its customers, and for consumer-facing organizations this is in customer service.

Cloud-based applications provide an important technical platform for agility in customer service. However ultimately it is about the organization as a whole, including its strategy, processes, workflow, staff, and culture. The challenge – and priority – is to design an organization that is agile, responsive, and truly excellent in customer service.