Impact Learning Systems


Triaging Customer Service Peggy Carlaw


smarttag triagetag Triaging Customer ServiceTriage is a med­ical term that can be applied to cus­tomer ser­vice. Every cus­tomer is not cre­ated equal and your ser­vice deliv­ery should not be equal either. To wow your cus­tomers (and your share­hold­ers), seg­ment your cus­tomer base and deploy your most valu­able resources to your most valu­able customers.

Big banks do this. So do air­lines. Ever won­der why you have to enter your credit card num­ber or your fre­quent flyer num­ber when you call? The best cus­tomers (you with the Plat­inum credit cards, and you pre­mium fly­ers) get in the short­est queues and are han­dled by the best, most expe­ri­enced agents. The rest of the world waits on hold and when finally con­nected, speaks with the per­son who just got out of train­ing an hour ago. These suc­cess­ful com­pa­nies know they can't afford to ser­vice all cus­tomers equally so they put their efforts where they'll get the biggest return.

It's easy for big com­pa­nies to triage their customers…technology han­dles it all. But if you can't afford the tech­nol­ogy or are too small to really need it, there are still steps you can take.

  1. Review your cus­tomer base to deter­mine which cus­tomers pro­vide the most rev­enue or profit. Add to this the cus­tomers with the poten­tial to be in this group. These are your "A" cus­tomers. Based on the Pareto prin­ci­ple, this will prob­a­bly be the 20% or so of the cus­tomers who pro­vide 80% of your revenue.
  2. Deter­mine the cus­tomers that pro­vide the low­est rev­enue or profit. They order small amounts less fre­quently. These are your "C" cus­tomers and typ­i­cally rep­re­sent 30–40% of your cus­tomer base.
  3. The rest are your "B" cus­tomers. They order on a con­sis­tent basis but in not the same vol­ume as your "A" customers.

Now assign resources accordingly.

  • Direct calls so that your A cus­tomers route to your best, most expe­ri­enced agents. No ACD? Then assign your A cus­tomers their own pri­vate cus­tomer ser­vice rep­re­sen­ta­tive. How nice would it be as a cus­tomer to get a per­sonal call or a real, old fash­ioned let­ter let­ting you know that you're such a val­ued cus­tomer, you're get­ting your very own cus­tomer ser­vice rep, one of the company's best. Be sure these cus­tomers don't have a long wait time for ser­vice, and see if you can smooth your poli­cies and pro­ce­dures to make it eas­ier for them to do busi­ness with you.
  • Direct your B cus­tomers to reps who con­sis­tently meet call qual­ity stan­dards but who may not have the same depth of expe­ri­ence as those han­dling your A accounts. If you don't have an ACD, con­sider cre­at­ing small teams to han­dle groups of B cus­tomers. That way cus­tomers have 2–3 rep­re­sen­ta­tives famil­iar with their accounts.
  • Let the C cus­tomer come through the gen­eral queue. Even though these may be your low­est value cus­tomers, they still deserve top-notch treat­ment because, well, that's just who you are as a com­pany, right? You value all your cus­tomers! So while new hires may work with this group of cus­tomers, they need close mon­i­tor­ing to be sure cus­tomers receive good ser­vice while the new reps learn the ropes. Assign each new trainee a con­tact from the B group that he or she can call on for help while learn­ing. This will min­i­mize esca­la­tions and callbacks—two things that make cus­tomer very unhappy.

If you're one of those lucky com­pa­nies that can afford to pro­vide A qual­ity ser­vice to all of your cus­tomers, that's fan­tas­tic! We wish all our cus­tomers could be so lucky. But if you have to watch your call cen­ter pen­nies, there's a bet­ter option than offer­ing luck-of-the-draw ser­vice to all your cus­tomers. Triag­ing cus­tomer ser­vice allows you to wrap your very best cus­tomers in a blan­ket of care while still pro­vid­ing great ser­vice to the rest of the cus­tomer base.


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