A smart approach to service supply chains (part one)

Feb 03, 2014 • Featuresoutsourcingcentrexservice supply chainUncategorizedParts Pricing and Logistics

No matter which industry you are involved in, it is almost certain that at the very forefront of your business strategy is the goal to guarantee the very best levels of customer satisfaction.

It absolutely needs to be as in todays climate, where access to a huge array of information about you and your competitors is readily available, customer satisfaction plays an enormous role in the way consumers choose which companies get their business. 

For customers requiring after sales service, more often than not the first port of call is of course a contact centre.  Here, the initial call is logged and whenever possible, resolved.

But do service calls really provide customer satisfaction?  What happens when the problem is not rectified within the agreed time or if the service supply chain is too disjointed to efficiently resolve the problem? What impact can this have on your customers overall satisfaction with your company's ability to deliver the product or service they expect?

Successful customer interaction is vital

Carolyn Wilson, services director of technology support specialist Centrex Services, believes the contact centre process is becoming both outdated and ineffective for today’s technology support.

“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.” she comments

She is certainly not alone in this view either. In fact a recent study by the Aberdeen Group showed that an incredible 96% of businesses viewed improving customer service results as their primary goal[1].

Carolyn explains further, “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 begins with the control representative understanding not only the nature of the call, but being able to identify where the part is located and accurately outline when a correctly skilled engineer can be sent to remedy the problem. In short, they need complete visibility of the service supply chain.

An inefficient control centre, can have a knock on effect across the whole of the service supply chain and will always result ultimately in dissatisfied customers.

An alarming statistic uncovered recently by The Service Council was that less than ten percent of field engineers dispatched had the part required to fix the hardware[2]. Clear evidence of a disjointed, fragmented and simply inefficient service supply chain. 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, or the personal skill-sets at their disposal.

Addressing this issue Carolyn added, “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.”

Why accept failure in your service supply chain?

Technology is evolving every year, indeed at an often bewildering rate. So it comes as a huge surprise and disappointment to learn that the vast majority of organisation are failing to apply the available and required layers of intelligence and responsibility to their contact centres. Layers which can provide the level of insight into the service supply chain that is so badly needed. Instead, we see that outsourcing this process remains a highly popular solution, even though as Carolyn points out, this is an ineffective method that is all too often cited as being the major factor in why poor service is being delivered.

“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.” she concludes. 

Centrex, who have redesigned their service processes, began with increasing responsibility within its ‘control’ centre to create a service which is both valuable to the company while offering best practice to the consumer. It put's the 'control' centre at the heart of the service supply chain not a distant cousin looking on from afar. It is a sensible yet breathtakingly simple concept that hopefully others may follow.

Look out for the second part of this feature where we look at why bringing all elements of the service supply chain , including customer support centres, all under one roof is an essential aspect of the Centrex philosophy. 

[1] Data taken from “Contact Center Optimization” report by Aberdeen Group, July 2013

[2] Data obtained from “Achieving the Perfect Workday: Intelligent Field Service Management” webinar, 27 July 2013.