The 3 dimensions of customer service conversations
Organizations today receive a growing number of incoming emails and social media messages from consumers. At the same time the range and scope of these interactions is also expanding – essentially consumers today want to be able to have conversations with brands, on their channel of choice, in order to find out information, solve problems and to give feedback.
This leads to issues for companies – they only have finite resources and want to provide a good service to all consumers, across all channels, but the sheer volume of interactions can be overwhelming.
How can they cope? A good way is to adopt lessons from the medical profession. In emergency situations, with limited resources, doctors use triage to decide the order of who will be treated first. They begin by checking the patient’s vital signs through a quick inspection and then prioritize accordingly. Therefore, those with life-threatening, urgent injuries get treated ahead of those with superficial wounds.
Urgency, complexity and emotional importance
Thankfully, customer service isn’t normally a matter of life or death, but understanding the urgency of a request helps prioritize it if queue volumes are high. Is it stopping the customer from buying? Or, even worse, are they threatening to leave if their problem is not sorted out quickly? Analyzing the language used within a digital interaction provides the ability to triage effectively and save the most at risk customers.
However, customer service isn’t just about urgency – there are two further dimensions that need to be taken into account:
- The complexity of the request
- The emotional importance to the consumer
These three dimensions interrelate. For example, you can have an interaction with a low complexity, low emotional importance and low urgency, such as a request for a brochure early in the buying process. Alternatively, someone might want to check that a bill has been paid (high urgency, low complexity and low emotional importance). Think about how you can apply this model to the interactions you commonly receive.
There are major advantages to adopting this 3x3 grid as a way of categorizing interactions:
- It gives a clear focus to agents in order to prioritize the most important interactions both for customers and the business.
- It lessens the pressure on resources as customer service teams are not continually firefighting to stay on top of high volumes of interactions, many of which are not urgent.
- It avoids cherry picking, where teams naturally choose to answer less complex queries first, irrespective of the urgency or emotional needs of the customer.
- It helps the customer experience by ensuring that consumers have meaningful conversations that engage them with the brand, building empathy and solving their problems.
- It helps with designing overall channel strategy. For example, if you receive a large number of urgent requests that are neither complex nor emotionally important, you can aim to deflect these to self-service systems that can give answers 24 hours a day.
Of course, all interactions are important and need to be handled within a reasonable timeframe – even with low urgency, low involvement requests customers expect an answer in ever-shortening timeframes. However, adopting this triage method for incoming interactions helps teams better manage workloads and ensure that all conversations are meaningful, whatever channel they occur on.