As a Customer Service leader, are you feeling constant pressure from every direction? Hiring pressure to make up for talent shortfalls. Pressure to reduce costs and improve experience. A looming recession. Feels kind of overwhelming, doesn’t it?
All this leads us to the main dilemma: how can Service leaders set their strategy and attain budget while fighting against an economic environment that, frankly, isn’t conducive to ambitious strategic roadmaps? The most straightforward way to do that is to understand the strategic priorities of the C-Suite. So let’s explore how peers in other functions are looking to lead their organizations into the near future. Their focus is three-fold: talent, digitization, and growth.
While it may seem that adding talent to your Customer Service organization is uniquely difficult, many other functions are aware of and dealing with their own staffing difficulties in hiring and retention. For example, HR and procurement functions are seeing hyper competition for roles across the enterprise–especially in management and net-new roles.
This has led to a cross-functional effort to evaluate EVPs, role design, and career pathing. With that in mind, Service and Support leaders should align their EVPs with prospective employees’ attraction drivers. Those include:
- Rewards like benefits and vacation
- Opportunities in development and future career advancement
- Organizational strengths like diversity and inclusion, respect, and social responsibility
- People factors like co-worker and manager quality
- Location, work-life balance, flexibility, and innovative work that they will be doing.
Many Customer Service organizations have not re-evaluated their EVPs since the beginning of the 2021 Great Resignation, and with talent scarce, it’s even more important to align to the expectations of prospective hires.
The most common response to outside economic factors is digitization. And across the enterprise, investments in digital functionality are increasing. Generally, CFOs are supportive of digitization efforts, and most are looking to expand investment in this area.
For service leaders, these efforts boil down to improving the digital customer experience. Unaligned digital channels can provide too much choice to customers, which leads to high cost to serve. Optimizing self-service channels for adoption and containment is a must to prevent transactional contact volume from leaking into non- company preferred channels like the phone.
In order to meet digitization demands, Gartner suggests taking three steps:
- Evaluate your current digitization strategy to align with customers’ actual expectations of digital service and future capabilities in automation.
- Ensure your digital channels provide consistent customer experiences, i.e. they should require customers take the same steps to resolve regardless of the channel they select.
- Build out a technology roadmap for service to understand where current gaps in technology exist and evaluate the vendor landscape for alignment with potential use cases.
As organizations reevaluate pricing and budgets in the face of potentially worrisome macroeconomic headwinds, the business imperative continues to be, perhaps surprisingly, aligned to growth.
Like the rest of the business, Customer Service and Support strategy should also prioritize ways to shed the identity of a cost center and become more active in supporting growth. In many conversations with Customer Service and Support leaders, they often associate assisting in growth goals to be strictly operationalizing service-to-sales activities. However, these programs often fail to address growth without harming the customer experience. The good news is, there is another way forward. The most innovative Service organizations today maximize customer interactions by helping customers achieve more with their products and services and/or increasing customer confidence in the company and themselves. These activities boosting existing customer loyalty and growth in the longer-term.
Your Next Steps
While we are living in a world that seems more siloed than ever, functions across the enterprise are more aligned than we may think. So, what should your next steps be? Start by evaluating how deeply these three C-Suite priorities are ingrained in your strategy. Second, integrate yourself in some of the more closely-aligned business functions to understand some of the nuances of your company and build those into some of the broader strokes that were presented to you above.