Across all industries, guaranteeing
the highest possible customer satisfaction levels is at the forefront of
business thinking, playing an increasingly large role in decisions consumers
make regarding which companies they use.
The first port of contact for
customers requiring after sales service is of course a contact centre.
The initial call is logged and whenever possible, resolved.
But are customers really satisfied
with service calls? What’s the impact if
the problem is not rectified within the agreed time or if the service supply
chain is too disjointed to efficiently resolve the problem?
customer interaction is vital
Carolyn Wilson, services director of
technology support specialist Centrex Services, believes the contact centre
process is outdated and ineffective for today’s technology support.
She says, “It is clear that the role
of the contact centre within the service supply chain has evolved rapidly;
moving from simply offering support to becoming the driving force behind
customer satisfaction. There must be control over the entire journey of the
repair, not just an automated process to raise a service ticket. Service
companies are now at the forefront of customer service, this unrequited
lip-service is no longer just an afterthought.”
This view is shared by businesses
across numerous industries, as highlighted in a recent study by the Aberdeen
Group which showed 96 per cent of businesses viewed improving customer service
results as their primary goal.
Carolyn explains, “There are two major
factors which directly affect the success of customer interactions, namely
triage (problem identification) and the ability of the control team to resolve
any issues as efficiently as possible.
“Equipping the staff to intelligently
diagnose hardware problems over the phone and enabling them to take
responsibility for the entire service process results in a huge increase in
satisfaction levels, as invariably customers are contacting businesses to gain
resolution as quickly as possible.”
This starts with the control
representative ascertaining not only the nature of the call, but where the part
is located and when the correctly skilled engineer can be scheduled to visit
Inefficient control results in
dissatisfied customers, and worryingly a recent report by The Service Council
found only nine per cent of engineers dispatched had the part required to fix
Instead, businesses favoured a system where engineers operate in territories
and will therefore immediately be called out if the customer’s address falls
within their patch; regardless of the parts they have to hand.
Carolyn says, “If a customer’s problem
revolves around a part being sourced and fitted by an engineer, for the traditional
contact centre to dispatch an engineer closer to the customer because it is
more convenient, is unacceptable. This just shows it’s vital that changes are
made to the way businesses view their own contact centres and move to adopt
better control throughout the process.”
With technological development
accelerating every year, it is surprising that the vast majority of companies
have failed to apply additional layers of intelligence and responsibility to
their contact centres. Instead, outsourcing this is still a popular choice,
although as Carolyn points out, this is not an effective method and is often cited
as poor customer service.
“When contact centres are outsourced,
businesses always run the risk of providing a service where staff processing
customer calls have little knowledge related to the logistics of the service
supply chain. Unsurprisingly, triage is inefficient and service level
agreements (SLA) are often missed.
“I remain astonished that businesses
continue to offer contracts which allow for a certain level of failure when it
comes to meeting SLA’s, which is often the bar used to measure customer satisfaction.
“The current systems in place across
the after sales service supply chain are not fit for purpose and the time for
change is upon us. There will of course be resistance from those who believe
the traditionalist approach works, but accepting failure is intolerable and should
not be accepted by business leaders or their customers.”
Centrex has redesigned its service
processes, commencing with increased responsibility within its ‘control’ centre
to create a service which is valuable to the company while offering best
practice to the consumer.
intelligence: the control centre
Carolyn believes offering a customer
support service hosted under the same roof as the other elements of the after
sales service supply chain must become the norm across all industries to drive
“The current approach to after sales
is a siloed one, contact centres often pass the customer onto the next silo if
they are unable to resolve the problem themselves; washing their hands of the
problem at the first opportunity.
“A control centre provides true added
value to the customer, utilising a legitimate knowledge-base to not only resolve
a high quantity of issues during triage, but controlling each step of the
process from opening the call to booking the correct engineer, with the right
part or loan product. The result; the SLA failure is eradicated.”
An example of this controlled service
is evident in the repair service Centrex Services provides Fellowes, a globally
recognised manufacturer and marketer of business machines, shredders and office
accessories, aimed at enhancing the quality, efficiency and productivity of the
Thomas is the Centrex representative
responsible for the Fellowes service. He oversees both in and out of warranty calls,
determining the type of call and controlling the entire process. From the
outset, Thomas liaises directly with the customer, from confirmation of the
type of support required; identifying the correct engineer and ensuring either
a new machine (in warranty) or a loan machine (out of warranty) is available
for the next day. Thomas personally phones the customer to confirm the
engineer’s call time and is responsible for ensuring the engineer is on site at
the agreed time. This controlled process is only complete after a replacement
or loan machine has been installed on the customer site and the customer has
been contacted to confirm they are happy with the outcome.
This consumer first approach to after
sales support completely changes the way hardware issues are dealt with. Global
business machine manufacturer Fellowes is already reaping the rewards of such a
system, explains the business’ EU after sales manager, Neil Cosgrove.
“Our partnership with Centrex Services
ensures our consumers receive a seamless experience from the second a Fellowes
shredder is purchased, and offers them total peace of mind through industry
leading support service in the unlikely event they should require hassle free
in and out of warranty support,” he says.
“On the occasions when it is not
possible to source a replacement part the next day, Centrex has implemented a
system which enables loan equipment to be made available the next day.”
customer must come first
Thinking outside the box, offering a
loan service combined with the control centre representative, demonstrates a
new way of thinking and approach to service delivery. By asking the right
questions, the control centre is able to give the customer realistic
expectations while guaranteeing whatever the problem is, the consumer will not
be left without a vital piece of hardware overnight.
Carolyn says, “The loan service we
offer shows the importance of listening to the needs of our customers. After an
issue has been resolved following the deployment of a field engineer, the control
centre sends a short questionnaire to gain an insight into how service can be
“We found that supplying loan
machinery during those periods where the malfunctioning machine is in need of
in-depth maintenance was a highly sought after service. We have improved our
after sales service due to the intelligence of the control centre and there is
no reason why other businesses can not follow suit.”
It is clear that by creating a system
where the customer’s needs are viewed as the most important element of after
sales support, control centres can offer continuously high customer service
Ensuring triage is effective and
efficient so issue resolution is reached as promptly as possible, while offering
short-term hardware loans when required, creates a supply chain in which customer
satisfaction is guaranteed and brand loyalty continues to grow.
Data taken from “Contact Center Optimization” report by Aberdeen Group, July
 Data obtained from “Achieving the
Perfect Workday: Intelligent Field Service Management” webinar, 27 July 2013.