Everyone has a story or two about outrageous customer service. If your company doesn’t want to become the source of such customer support horrors, you may want an idea for improvement. And this improvement means making your customer service the driver of your company’s progress, rather than an obstacle to it.
To get you going, we suggest an approach based on two seemingly simple stages:
- Inspecting and redesigning your customer service process.
- Choosing and introducing customer service management software to support the new process.
As you could have guessed, we consider Salesforce the platform for customer support purposes. And it’s neither a promo nor a guess: you will see it for yourself below.
- The basic customer service process
- How general Salesforce functionality supports it
- What enhanced Salesforce features complement it
First thing’s first. Before examining Salesforce, let’s see what the basic customer service process looks like.
Doesn’t look too difficult, does it?
There are 5 main phases of the customer service process:
- Reaching out. For your customers to easily reach out to your support, it needs to be actively present across multiple channels: phone, web, email, social media, SMS. But bear in mind: the more channels, the more management difficulties.
- Starting a case. As soon as a case is created, it needs to be assigned to an agent or an agent group. Assignment mechanisms have to be in place not to drag this phase out.
- Searching for a solution. Rather than asking tech people for help, it would be nice to have a knowledge base where knowledge articles would be evaluated for effectiveness.
- Escalating a case. If a case hasn’t been closed within the period set by your time-based rules, it needs to be escalated or reassigned (sometimes, to a higher tier agent). The difficulty here is managing various types of customer service levels without mixing them up.
- Closing a case. Try to make sure your agents don’t close cases before actually solving the problem.
You are right to notice that we haven’t mentioned the mysterious Phase (0) called ‘proactive support.’ To cut to the chase, things don’t stop at simply working cases. To win customer loyalty, your company should work ‘ahead.’ You need to see what customers may experience what problems before they contact your support. You may achieve it by keeping in touch with your customers and contributing to it enough of your agents’ time.
How Salesforce complements the basic customer service process
Salesforce Service Cloud supports this customer service process (as well as other possible versions of it) with, let’s say, two kinds of functionality: the general one that embodies the process itself and the specific one that delivers extra capabilities.
1. Omni-Channel – Phase (1)
To handle the horrors of using multiple communication channels in parallel, Salesforce offers a feature called Omni-Channel. It allows delivering customer service across phone, email, web forms, web and in-app mobile chats, social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, and Sino Weibo), community sites, and video chats. And the beauty about it is that all channels are ‘funneled’ into Salesforce and agents simply work from there. There’s even a possibility to create a Salesforce Einstein Bot for your community or another website, where customers can request passwords resets, see order status, and ask other simple questions. It will take some load off your agents and give them more time to work on difficult cases.
However, if the above list of communication channels doesn’t suffice and you want, say, LinkedIn and Reddit, you’ll need Salesforce customization.
2. Case Management – Phases (2), (4), and (5)
Service Cloud is basically, but not exclusively, built around Case Management. It enables the whole case lifecycle: creation, assignment, escalation, reassignment, and closure.
When a case is created, Salesforce uses its info as well as pre-defined assignment rules to route the case to the available agent qualified to solve the case. If there’s no one available, it’ll wait for a window to open (all within time limits, of course).
If assignment rules don’t direct the case to a specific agent but address it to an agent group, you can set up case queues. Each agent tied to the queue will be notified when a new case comes in.
Besides, when a new customer inquiry comes into the system (let’s say, through email), Service Cloud can send a personalized auto-response to the customer. It will assure them their problem is acknowledged and will be soon solved.
Also, Service Cloud enables managing various service levels for different types of customers (in Salesforce’s terms, it’s called entitlement management). So, if Jon buys only phone support, while Jack pays for first-class support across all channels, the ways they will be ‘customer-served’ won’t get mixed. Jack will get a prompt answer regardless of the contact means, while Jon can get a polite request to contact support over the phone if he emails instead. And besides setting clear service level boundaries, Service Cloud can apply different escalation rules based on different entitlements.
As a bonus, Service Cloud can notify service agents about various events, for instance, that a case is about to escalate or that first-response time on a certain case will soon exceed its limits. Also, Salesforce allows managers to set case capacity levels (for agents not to get overloaded).
3. Service Console – Phases (0) and (3)
Service Console is a ‘space’ where agents work. It supports all the phases of the customer service process but specifically helps the ones numbered 0 and 3.
Phase (3). Service Console is a help desk for agents, which gives them a more comprehensive view of both case records and account/contact details. And that’s not all: using it, agents can also see relevant knowledge base articles right in the case record. It makes case resolution much faster if compared to looking for knowledge articles and customer details elsewhere, say, in another tab or even in another system.
However, that’s not all information agents may need. You may want Service Console to display a ‘news board’ where your production/operations/sales reps or anyone else you need could place news. Such a piece of news could read “feature XYZ is out on Sun, Sep 30. Installation and configuration issues are possible” and also have some relevant knowledge article attached to it. This way, you keep your agents informed and prepared for upcoming cases. However, it’s not an out-of-the-box feature, which is why you may need to turn to Salesforce consulting to get it.
Phase (0). Customer data needed to provide proactive support is available in Service Console, as well as in Sales Cloud if your company uses it. An example of how such a proactive service could go: a service agent sees that a certain customer may face the same issue again in 3 months. They set a notification in Salesforce to get back to the customer around 3-month time and check if the customer needs any help. This way, agents can also identify new selling opportunities. However, if you want a more extended tool to manage proactive customer service, you’ll need customizations.
4. Salesforce Service Analytics + Einstein Discovery – Phases (0) through (5)
To start with, Salesforce provides reports and dashboards available to every user. So, both managers and agents can track department performance and individual agent performance.
To dig deeper, there’s Service Analytics. With it, managers can see service backlog, live chat wait times, knowledge articles usage, channels usage, and so on. All this info can prove useful to tune your customer service.
To go even deeper, there’s Einstein Discovery that gives even more insights. For example, you can see how a certain case influences a major deal. Or check predictions on customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores after the case closes as well as see recommendations on how to improve CSAT.
However, if your task is to measure the value of customer service in your company, it may be challenging. You will need to have customer retention and brand image analytics set up in Marketing or Sales Cloud since Service Cloud doesn’t have all the needed information to provide these reports.
1. Field Service and more – Phase (3)
Cases don’t always get solved in a few clicks. Sometimes, you need serious measures, like cooperating with other departments.
Salesforce offers an opportunity for service agents to work tightly with maintenance workers using the Field Service app. Example: a hotel guest says the deposit box in his room was locked by the previous guests, so he can’t use it. The service agent (= the receptionist) creates a case in Service Cloud, but that’s not enough. Using Field Service, the receptionist also creates a work order right in the case record for the hotel’s maintenance workers to fix the deposit box. However, merely using Field Service for seeing and managing work orders would be too little a benefit for the hotel. Besides that, the feature allows optimizing workers’ schedules and resource consumption and increasing first-time fix rates thus ensuring a better and more cost-effective service.
However, Salesforce doesn’t encourage such cooperation with other departments whose participation may also be required. For instance, to solve cases connected with delivery or payment issues, service availability or provisioning failures and so on. Without established cooperation supported by a customer service management tool, how does an airlines’ service agent search for lost luggage? Or restores the downed website for customers to be able to use it again? They can’t do it on their own. And it’s rather inefficient just to call people. This problem can be solved in different ways, for example:
- If some of your departments use specific solutions (say, IT service management systems like Jira or ServiceNow) and want to settle cases in them, you need to get ready for possible integrations of such systems with your Service Cloud.
- For some companies, it can make sense to develop their own Salesforce apps for departments with whom service agents need to work on cases most often. For example, a Delivery Service app.
- Another scenario is possible if other deparments’ employees are also Service Cloud users. This way, service agents can cooperate with them by using Salesforce tasks directed to the employees responsible for cases connected with their department. Here, time-to-resolution limits and ‘sanctions’ for their breaches need to be in place, as well as case escalation mechanisms. Otherwise, cases can be left hanging.
2. Agent routine automation – Phases (2), (3), and (5)
Service Console provides all the info agents need and Einstein Bots take some load off agents, but Salesforce can offer some more possibilities to optimize agents’ work. For instance, self-service customer portals and communities created using Lightning Community Builder. These self-service websites, in some way, ‘disburden’ agents, because customers can either find solutions on their own or ask fellow customers.
The Macros feature is designed to save ‘unneeded clicks.’ It means that instead of doing repetitive tasks by themselves (like logging calls or closing a case), agents can run a macro that will perform the task automatically. So, instead of 10 clicks, they do 3. On a single repetitive action. Imagine how much time it saves a month.
Besides, whenever an agent communicates with a customer, Salesforce allows choosing a pre-written text with the help of either Email Templates or Quick Text. In addition to saving time, it helps to standardize all customer communications in the company.
Things to recall
If your company’s customer service is experiencing some dark ages, the first step to improvement will be the reorganization of your customer service process. It should consist of 5 main phases (reaching out, starting a case, searching for a solution, escalating a case and closing a case) and one recurrent procedure (proactive support).
The next step will be to find, evaluate, customize, and introduce the right customer service software. And given all of Salesforce’s capabilities (especially Service Console, Omni-Channel, Field Service, and Case Management), its offering does deserve the title “take-my-money good.”