It’s Time to Renovate Your Customer Service Operations

Mary Lou Joseph May 2, 2023

I have a confession to make. I’m addicted to home renovation shows: “Fixer Upper,” “My First Flip,” “Home Town,” and so many more. And the buyers all want the same thing—an open concept. They want sight lines from the kitchen to the family room and living room.

The problem is older homes weren’t built that way. Whether it’s an 1890s farmhouse, or a 1920s bungalow, or a 1940s ranch, these houses had lots of walls creating small, single-purpose rooms. And, of course, the wall you want to remove will be load bearing, and there’s an HVAC duct that will need re-routing, and …  sorry, I digress. Here’s my point.

It’s the same with today’s customer service operations. Customers want a seamless, frictionless customer journey. To meet the expectations of today’s customers, organizations need to break down the functional, system and data silos of the past and create unified workflows across channels and departments.

It’s time to renovate your customer service operations.

There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to breaking down silos. So, I’m going to break this down into three blogs. This first blog focuses on functional silos.  The next one will focus on system or application silos, and the last one on data silos.

Let’s get started.

Breaking Down the Walls Between the Front, Middle, and Back Office

In the always-on era, you need to be more flexible and responsive to meet the growing expectations for faster service and greater transparency. Many customer journeys are not a one-and-done interaction. They involve multiple touchpoints with different support functions. Smoothly transitioning work across channels, teams and functions is challenging when these groups are managed separately.  For example:

  • Front office can encompass your contact center, stores or branches, as well as direct sales and service personnel—and each area can have a different director or VP.
  • Middle office is typically made up of staff who engage in both customer-facing activities as well as back-end processing functions. For example, in insurance, claims adjustors could be considered middle office. They visit clients and gather information via phone to complete reports that are passed on to underwriting for review.
  • Back office is where customer goods and service requests are processed. Back-office customer support groups are often made up of different teams and functions, each executing their step(s) of the process.

The challenge is tracking work across all these touchpoints to ensure accuracy and fast turnaround times to meet your customer expectations.

Operational Silos Can Negatively Affect the Customer Journey

To understand how the front, middle and back offices can work together—or fail to communicate properly—in the customer journey, consider Jane’s story. Jane is a customer who wants to get cable services for her home. She calls the company and reaches a contact center agent, who takes her order.  The order is then passed on to the back office, where her installation request is processed. All is in good order and Jane’s cable is installed.

Cable company customer frustrated with service and back-office inefficiencies.

One day, her cable service stops working. Jane calls the company to let them know about the issue and how she won’t pay her bill until it’s fixed. The work order is sent to the back office, but there is a huge backlog. Several employees are on vacation and the department was hit with the flu.

Jane’s order gets lost, and no one comes to her house to fix the problem. After month-end, her account is automatically sent to collections for lack of payment.

A member of the collections team (middle office) reaches out to Jane concerning her past-due bill. As you can imagine, Jane is now even more annoyed with the company for its lack of responsiveness and her perception that they are only after her money.

Jane is now shopping for a new cable provider.

How could the cable company have avoided this issue? Let’s be real: if you don’t have the people there to process the work, you don’t have the people, right?

Let’s explore one solution to this problem.

One Workforce Can Make Every Employee a Customer Care Representative

As we’ve seen in Jane’s example, many organizations operate in silos. Why not break down the separating walls and cross-train your current employees to perform tasks in other functions when needed? We call this One Workforce—a framework that enables the entire workforce to engage with customers in the right way, at the right time to increase capacity, flexibility and agility.

To implement a One Workforce framework, you need four key capabilities.

  • A single pane dashboard for accessing customer data and handling customer interactions effectively, whether they contact you via phone, email, social channel, text, or mail.
  • A robust knowledge management repository that presents contextual, relevant information to the employee, and enables easy, intuitive search to help employees deliver consistent, accurate information to the customer—regardless of where the employee sits and including your at-home/remote employees.
  • The ability to monitor, measure and improve the quality of customer interactions and continually give employees constructive feedback on their performance and where they can improve.
  • Accurate and comprehensive capacity and hiring plans so you know how many resources, with what skills, you need to meet demand across channels and functions. This also requires a means to allocate work to the resource with the right skills and availability to be responsive and meet your customer service goals.

By connecting as One Workforce, businesses can quickly identify opportunities to drive process efficiencies and elevate the customer experience. A One Workforce approach makes data visible across the enterprise to analyze customer journeys and take corrective action where needed.

Nationale Nederlanden Increases Capacity and Responsiveness

Nationale Nederlanden (NN), the largest insurer in the Netherlands, had a broad variety of job positions and titles across their customer service operations—all with the same goal: customer care.  NN let go of the roles and titles and started looking at skillsets instead.  NN analyzed the types of tasks and work they had and identified the skills needed to complete that work—then they identified all employees with those skills.

This enabled them to scale up whenever a change in demand took place. Now, they no longer allocate the work to a specific team—it goes to whomever has the skills for it and, most importantly, the time.

Verint Operations Manager is a purpose-built solution for customer service operations with complex, multi-touch, multi-step work.  Operations Manager integrates the skills inventory with work forecasts, capacity plans, and work allocation capabilities in one solution.  With this solution, NN was able to overhaul their team structure.  They can allocate work to whomever has the skills and availability to do the work, not just within a specialized team.

Now they are equipped to answer customer questions and requests promptly—and NN is now more agile and can adapt to market changes faster.

NN was able to:

  • Increase their effectiveness from 75% to 105%. Effectiveness refers to the amount of work that one expects to be able to do in the time available, compared to what was done. So, 105% effective means they are now over-achieving their production goals.
  • Increase their efficiency from 50% to 70%. Efficiency refers to how much time out of the number of paid hours in a given day is spent handling customer inquiries.

Learn more about NN’s journey

Silos Have a Time and Place, Just Not in Your Customer Service Operations

While silos serve a purpose for farmers and for Fixer Upper’s Chip and Joanna Gaines, to cost effectively meet rising customer expectations, organizations need to tear down their silos (sorry Chip and Joanna) and unify the workforce with a single platform for managing the One Workforce.

Keep an eye out for the next blog in this series on breaking down system and/or application silos.

Still want to learn more? Attend Verint’s Customer Engagement Conference, Engage23 – The Art of Innovation—to hear customers share their stories of breaking down functional, system and data silos to increase capacity and provide fast, exceptional customer service.

In one session, Commerce Bank and Navy Federal Credit Union will be sharing their stories of how they are leveraging branch personnel to support their contact center and digital channels, and back-office specialists to support contact center calls related to mortgages and lending.

Learn more about Engage23!