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What’s going wrong with your customer service?

Christian Schacht
17 Oct 2022

Everyone loves great customer service. As a business, you know that service excellence builds brand loyalty and advocacy.

As customers, we’ve all had that warm feeling when someone in a call center or physical store gives us an amazing customer experience. And the concept of customer service is nothing new, dating back hundreds of years.
So, when you consider this longevity and broad recognition of its value, why does customer service repeatedly fail to deliver on customer expectations? Indeed, according to one source, 97% of consumers surveyed said bad customer service had changed their buying behavior. In this article, I look at a number of the customer service issues causing this negative experience and pave the way for a deeper dive into each issue in a series of follow-up blogs.

Prioritizing cost

The answer to the ‘why is customer service failing’ question lies, to a certain extent, in how companies view it in the first place. Is customer service perceived as a cost center or value add? Sadly, for many organizations, the emphasis is on cutting costs.

Of course, pressure on budgets and the bottom line is intense, and in a recent survey of customer service organizations’ priorities for 2022, reducing costs was ranked as a top priority. While brand recognition, net promoter score and top line growth were also priorities, it is ‘cost’ that sets off alarm bells for me. That’s because it’s a business case that simply doesn’t add up at various levels.

Research tells us that consumers happily make additional purchases from a company after a positive customer service experience. And in one survey we discover that 77% of consumers have chosen, recommended, or paid for a brand that provides a personalized service or experience. Yet still, cost remains a key focus rather than making customers happy, and this will ultimately be detrimental to the brand

A new outsourcing KPI is needed

The need to ‘do more with less’ has seen many companies outsourcing their customer service to a call center operations team to save on labor costs. That’s not always good news for the end customer. For example, we have empirical evidence that reducing call handling times as a means to bringing down costs has seen agents simply hanging up after accepting a call. Why? To ensure they’ve met operational KPIs for reducing call handling times. This has led some companies to take back control of such an important business function.

There is also often an expectation that the customer service channel should be turned into a sales organization. However, if this is done badly, it simply leads to frustrated customers who feel their service needs are ignored in favor of a company that just wants to sell more.

The end-to-end customer journey

Another barrier to the provision of a great customer experience is that companies are failing to look at the end-to-end customer journey. This means that they miss out on an opportunity to offer a truly personalized service. For example, as a customer, you’ve contacted a service line and the first question you’re asked in a service request form is the model and serial number of the product. Panic! You don’t have that information to hand. Wouldn’t that experience be a much happier one if, on giving your personal information, the agent has immediate access to the serial number and any other relevant information?

Some companies are already getting this right. They’re collecting the product information in the early stages of the customer journey, such as directly after the purchase with a request for the customer to register the product on a website. They’re then able to provide a fast, more tailored service when customers come knocking.

Departmental siloes

Let me turn to another stumbling block in the delivery of a great customer service — that of siloed service departments. There’s a tendency for businesses to have different departments for different requests. So, for example, one might be responsible for consumer products, while another is concerned with business products, and another for invoicing, etc. But customers are uninterested in a company’s routing procedures; they just want their problems solved as quickly as possible. However, they are often forced to endure the lengthy process of an interactive voice response (IVR) system, asking, “if you need help understanding your invoice, press 2.” While a set of automated questions online or over the phone may help a company direct customer requests/complaints to the right agent, it’s inconvenient for the customer, and creates a bad experience. This is borne out by 75% of customers in one survey who said it took too long to reach a live agent.

Getting the data story right

These departmental siloes are echoed in the siloed approach to data that I see time and again on the customer journey. Companies underestimate the role of data in delivering customer service excellence and, either intentionally or unintentionally, often keep multiple instances of the same customer data. They may have put a lot of effort and investment in their processes, systems, new data platforms and mechanisms, such as call routing via IVR. And they might have a lot of proprietary and legacy systems for product and order management, and for the handling of customer data. Unfortunately, data integration between all these components is a common problem so the information captured remains unconnected. Unsurprisingly, this is costly, leads to data inconsistency, and doesn’t give a single view of the customer. The biggest challenge in this scenario is knowing how to turn data into insights, then activating those insights in the customer journey in real time.

Start with your customer

The above outlines the key issues that many organizations must address with a complete customer service transformation. What it comes down to is a three-fold ambition: make the customer experience friendly and efficient; ensure service agents have everything needed to serve customers well; and establish the most cost-effective, easiest way to get it done. And the starting point must always be the customer. When you look at customer service from a customer’s perspective, there’s every likelihood that you’ll discover a more convenient and faster solution than the one you’re currently using.

In this series of blogs, I will be looking at the ways in which a customer service transformation can help you build loyalty with every interaction as you address the issues described above. This might see your existing processes augmented with new tech, such as AI and chatbots, or your agents being equipped with real-time, relevant data at their fingertips. Whichever way you plan to transform your customer service, it’s worth noting that, in a recent survey, 71% of organizations cited customer experience as a competitive differentiator — there’s a reason for that!

Find out more

To discover how Capgemini’s Augmented Service offer can help you create and maximize value for your customers and your brand, visit our website here


Christian Schacht

Vice President, Global Offer Lead Augmented Service; Head of Digital and ERP Financial Services
“I have over 18 years of experience for strategy, concept, design and execution, delivering innovative Digital Transformation solutions for multiple industries. I help clients connect with customers, partners and employees and create great experiences across digital and traditional channels.”