Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Traffic Jammed Customer Service

How many of us have endured endless wait times when calling customer service numbers? Or suffered through long lines at a POS counter? Or even waiting for a website to load and log you in for online self service. All of these are cases of "traffic jams" in the customer services of an organization.

Unfortunately, not many organizations do much about these occurrences... apart from attributing them to high customer load or incoming calls. The typical reaction is to just "add more people" (resources/servers in case of IT). But does that solve the real problem? In my opinion it does not. It may serve to delay or hide the problem, but it does not make it go away. These are just short-term tactics, but does your organization have a real strategy?

Here are a few things I have learnt from sitting in traffic on the road that can help get to the root of the problem and provide some strategies to address it. 

Let me start with a story. One fine morning, on my way to work, I got stuck in traffic. It was due to a few slow merging lanes up ahead. I looked at the car next to mine... the car behind me... well I was in almost stand-still traffic, everyone around me was in the same boat. But what struck my mind was the fact that very few of them were probably going in my direction... or that a few of them may not be going to work... they may be out on other business. Bottom line, I could not tell why someone was on that road with me... but we were all stuck in the same jam.

Doesn't that sound familiar? In a queue, we all are going in one direction, but our reasons for being there are ours only. The next person doesn't know anything about them (usually).

You might be asking yourself, why is this guy talking about traffic jams. Well, here is the thing. With so many cars on the road at any one time (take any average city), the slow traffic is limited to a few hours and that too only on certain pre-defined choke points. How is that? In my opinion, it is the strategy of the Traffic Department (of each respective city) that addresses the smooth movement of traffic. Well, there is something we can learn from them to help with strategies for smooth movement on our customer service channels (think roads). Here are a few:

1. The biggest one... Get out of the way! : How often do you see traffic police? Rules and processes are laid down and everyone knows them. If a small number of people don't follow them, the majority of us still get from point A to point B safely. Similarly, your customers are also intelligent. You have to trust they know what they are doing? Yes, you want to make the experience worth talking about, but is your over policing causing traffic?

2. Create well paved roads: Get rid of speed bumps or pot holes. Your service channels are like roads that take a person from his problem to a solution. Make sure the road is paved well. Your job is to ensure strategies are in place to prevent bumps in the road. Your job is not to know all the possible problems and have solutions ready for them... sound familiar?

3. Have a good network of back-roads: What is the first thing we look for when we get stuck in traffic... "alternate routes"... does your service channel have an alternate route? On the road, not everyone will take the same route to get to their destination. The same is true about customers. They will not take the same way to solve their problem. You have to facilitate the availability of back roads so that the customer can choose to take those when they are stuck.

The next time you face high volume traffic on any of your channels... ask yourself, what strategy do you have to prevent it?

Think about it... share what you have done... I would love to hear your thoughts.

No comments:

Post a Comment