SupportWorld, Jan/Feb 2013

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Aligning with the Company's Customer Experience Strategy In fairness, the typical service desk agent's day has become increasingly more complex over the past several decades. Today's consumers are more empowered than ever. They have a wealth of information at their disposal, they are extremely knowledgeable about any company's products and services, and they demand a higher level of service. Often, after customers have exhausted their self-service options, the last stop is the service desk and, more times than not, they're frustrated and their issues are complex. It's at this point that service desk agents hold your brand—and the customer's loyalty— in their hands. It's make-or-break time, and everybody knows it. As the volume of complex inquiries coming into the service desk has increased, this pressure has led many companies to adjust their customer experience strategies to make sure that frontline agents are equipped to deliver personalized customer service and support. But the volume and complexity of calls isn't the only problem. Another issue is the expanding number of interaction points a customer now has with your company. While some customers prefer to interact through social media, others want to send an email or talk to an agent on the phone. Still other customer interactions are cross-channel, with customers moving from one channel to the next and expecting continuity between the touch points—an element that is missing in many enterprise strategies. Each of these channels provides another opportunity for agents to either build loyalty or drive customers away. 14 | Suppor tWorld January / February 2013 Brand-conscious companies have responded by trying to align the service desk with the company's overall customer experience strategy, even hiring executives specifically dedicated to this task. But providing a consistently outstanding customer experience is still a challenge for most service and support organizations. Part of the challenge is that training time hasn't increased at the same rate as call complexity. Finding time to train and coach agents so they're equipped to handle complex customer issues is of paramount importance, but—as we all know—time is the service desk's most precious resource. Overstaffing and Personal Trainers Even the best-run desks have peaks and valleys in call volume. However, staffing to peaks leads to unproductive valleys when call volume tapers off. Most desks typically staff to peaks of 80 percent, because this is what has been widely accepted as tolerable to customers. However, as customer expectations increase, this is beginning to change. In a staff of dozens or even hundreds of agents, there will be a wide range of knowledge and experience. On top of that, each individual agent will have different strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in knowledge, making it difficult to ensure that everyone will deliver accurate answers to customers. Together with time constraints, these factors make it difficult to deliver cost-effective speed and accuracy. However, if service desks continue to operate in this way, we will fail to meet customer expectations, which will, in turn, affect

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