Published: October 13, 2015 | Comments
For any of us that have worked in customer service for any amount of time, it’s no surprise when stuff breaks. That’s part of the reason we’re here, right?
Tell me if my experience is familiar. From the point of view of the front line agent, there’s some bug in the system that customers are calling about. The most recent call they took about that bug was the fifth of the day and the issue has been going on for a couple weeks. They turn to a colleague and complain that they’re tired of this issue and the colleague confirms they’ve also taken ten calls on the same issue.
So the next step in the process is to tell their manager who responds with something like “Your feedback is extremely important to me. Let me see what I can do about this.” The manager then goes to someone in IT or upper management to fix the bug and one of two things happens. Either it gets thrown on the back end of queue of thousands of bugs, scheduled to be addressed in the year 2030, or if they’re lucky, they say something like, “My team is occupied with these critical projects. Prove to me that your request is more important.”
The manager responds with something like, “Well we’re getting lots of calls about this and my team is super frustrated right now. In fact, I’ve even heard of customers canceling because of it.” For those companies with IT staffs who aren’t busy, that might be enough to convince them to fix the issue. For the rest of us, IT is fighting to keep up with the demands of a growing business and therefore must be smart about any work they take on.
So this leaves the manager with a couple options. The first is to go against their nature as a customer service professional and yell at someone to GET IT DONE. While this might be an effective short term strategy, I don’t recommend it as a good career move. The second is to instead go back to the drawing board and build a case, backed by data, to prove that this is an important bug to fix.
This is a journey I’ve been on for the past several years and here are a handful of key things I aim to consider when building my case.
Understand The Issue Completely
It is essential to have complete understanding of the issue. In some cases, you might only be aware of a few symptoms. Quick surveys, email polls, or focus groups with the colleagues that have encountered the bug can help you build a complete picture of what’s actually going on. I’ve seen programmers fix the wrong things simply because the description I gave wasn’t good enough.
If a customer reported the issue, don’t be afraid to call that customer to learn about their experience. Customers love this. I have yet to find a customer who refused to tell me more about an issue they reported.
Quantify The Issue With Data
My rule of thumb is that the more data you can provide to illustrate the impact of the issue, the better. If you’re like me, this may require some creativity. Here are a few places to look:
- Ask your front line customer service representatives to keep a tally for a day or two and total up how many contacts they handle on a particular issue. Combine all of that data. If it’s a significant number of contacts in an hour, you should dial up the urgency.
- Search through your cancellation reasons, after call notes, or any other searchable text for any mentions of the issue. This is where many companies are building strong cases for text and speech analytics software.
- Create a tag in your ticket system or a disposition in your phone system specifically for that issue. You may also be able to look at your current dispositions for abnormal increases in the likely categories.
- Highlight any abnormal increase in contact volumes because of the issue.
Think In Terms Of Dollars
It’s a great idea to have an idea of your cost per contact. It doesn’t have to be exact. With that data, you can take the number of contacts regarding that issue and multiply that by the cost to get a total cost of the issue. I recommend projecting this out over the course of a month or more so the decision makers can see the real impact of deferring attention to this issue.
Also, if you know how many people might potentially cancel because of the issue, someone on your marketing team can likely tell you how much it would cost to replace that customer that left. Don’t forget to include lost revenue from the customers that already cancelled or might cancel, and the total amount of credits your team has handed out because of the issue.
Communicate Often And Close The Loop
Throughout this process, never lose sight of your colleagues on the front lines. A key to them staying engaged and feeling empowered is knowing that their voice is heard and that someone is working tirelessly to put their feedback into action. Involve them in the process as much as you can and celebrate with them when the issue is fixed.