Building Agile Customer Service

“As agile organizations, teams and team members, we must constantly question what could be better in order to continually improve”. – Albert Einstein

The word agile, according to the dictionary, means “ability to be quick and graceful”. This ability therefore, is amongst the top requirements for the world of business today. Everything around us today indicates speed and quick turnaround – from technology to fast food. Customers too have fluid and rapidly changing needs, and their expectation is for businesses to keep pace by cultivating agile customer service. They do not have the time to waste or wait for companies to react and respond – it is all about now, all about instant gratification. Companies must comply with these customer demands and the changing markets if they expect to become and remain successful. Customers have a number of choices by way of companies and products, and tend to choose companies that are able to keep pace with their needs and expectations, speedy customer service being among the top such expectations.

In the quest to fulfil the need of customers to be able to connect with companies at any time and through any channel, companies have set up multichannel service. Technology has ably supported this cause with new methods and tools. However, this endeavour would not be successful without agility and being able to provide consistently top class customer experiences. The fact is that irrespective of which channel customers connect with a company, the fact is that for them the interaction is with the company / brand. Customers expect to receive top class and agile customer service regardless of whether they make one purchase or many. Even one instance of slow and poor service would suffice to turn customers away for good. Customers no longer accept anything short of top class service and the best quality products. They would instantly look at switching companies even if the initial interactions with the company were great, but the subsequent interactions prove to be faulty and disastrous.

The fact is that customers have no problem in managing interactions on several devices and channels of communication. A single interaction could move through several channels and devices before the transaction is finally complete, and the expectation from companies is agile customer service. This would mean that customers expect their details and ‘history’ to be captured in the company’s database, such that the single interaction across several channels would be seamless and go through without a hitch. Customers do not have the patience to repeat the information they provide about themselves at the start of the association, and agile customer service would entail the company’s ability to keep the information provided in a central database for easy retrieval and usage by the company’s representatives.

While most companies claim to provide top class service, only very few are able to provide multi-channel service, and even fewer can lay claim to agile customer service across all channels. The reason for so many companies failing at providing the kind of service that customers expect is the fact that their businesses operate in silos, and there is usually no one centralized database that can be accessed and utilized by all to serve customers. Given this haphazard approach, all departments are unable to synchronize their efforts, and inevitably unable to keep pace with each other, much less keep pace with their customer’s demands. It is departmental boundaries, which keep companies from offering agile customer service and leads to a failure in keeping customers happy for too long. Companies need to build internal strength and flexibility into their operations to cater to the rising and ever-changing needs of customers thereby ensuring uniform and agile customer service across all channels.  Any efforts made are sure to yield long lasting and worthwhile rewards. The fact is, companies that make it easy and convenient for customers to do business, and provide enjoyable experiences would have a better chance at gaining the trust and loyalty of customers. Agile customer service allows a company to have a robust yet flexible system in place to adapt – to the changing demands of the market and the dynamic expectations of customers.

Companies with agile customer service would have contracts and agreements with customers that would remain flexible and yet lend surety. They would focus on providing value to the customers beyond the scope of the business agreement – usually a ‘silent expectation’ of customers. With mutually beneficial contracts in place, customers too would feel responsible to contribute to the success of the association, and would provide suggestions on how to build better products and what the company can do to forge ahead of its competitors. When companies and their customers work together, the results are usually extremely beneficial and sustainable for both.

As mentioned, while it is the responsibility of a company to ensure top class quality both in customer service and its offerings, it must seek the help and insights of its best customers. Working together and having a shared understanding would be the first steps towards building a strong, trustworthy, and engaging relationship based on collaboration. Companies must strive to ensure that such relationships are strengthened consistently through great products and agile customer service to meet the changing requirements of their customers. Over time, customers begin to see themselves as partners, and develop an affinity for the company. These customers become loyal brand advocates, and every business owner understands how indispensable such customers are to a business. There is no better way to strengthen and grow a business than having customers as brand ambassadors.

Building agile customer service, teams, and processes will not happen overnight. A company must however, at least start small but with an eye on a long-term vision to create better products and services, provide consistent business value to customers, and retain the trust of its customer base. Even incremental successes to start with would be steps in the right direction. As customers begin to see the efforts of the company, they would be more likely to provide repeat business, and nothing would be more satisfying for the company than having truly engaged customers, eager to drive progress and ensure mutually beneficial results.

When working towards providing agile customer service, a company benefits itself in several ways. Amongst the most important would be the development and stability of its workforce, particularly the teams, dealing directly with customers as part of their job roles. Providing these teams with training and development opportunities and a robust reward and recognition structure, would ensure that these teams work collaboratively to provide the kind of service that customers expect and demand. Collaborative efforts over time, lead to stable teams that would be adept at being agile, such that customers are not affected adversely by sudden changes or fluctuations in the market. These teams would have ready and efficient answers to customer questions, would be able to provide useful information, and would be able to customize solutions depending on the need of an individual customer.

Agile customer service is all about constant innovation in everything a company does for its customers. Customers are quick to perceive genuine efforts from a company, and reciprocate with business, referrals, and testimonials that would benefit the company. A company with happy customers is bound to become and remain successful, which in turn boosts the morale of the employees, and energizes them to provide even better service to the company’s internal and external customers, and remain committed to the cause of the company. Can your company stake claim to agile customer service and innovation?

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