How have you been treating your customer service function lately? If you’re like most companies, you’re probably making investments in better digital capabilities, including self-service, automation and artificial intelligence tools. You’ve enjoyed some success in driving faster, less expensive and more flexible service. You’re seeing some results and should be proud, but something still nags at you—you’re treating service as a siloed function at the end of the customer lifecycle, capable only of fixing problems when they arise. It’s reactive and transactional, driven by a cost center mindset instead of a value generator mindset.
Now imagine service as a function so essential to your organization that it engages customers at every step of their journey—from learning and purchase to usage and, ultimately, repurchase. It’s integrated, frictionless, and seamlessly embedded into your operations. Every interaction is delightful.
There are companies out there right now making this happen—turning service into a value-creating function responsible for delivering memorable customer experiences. As part of our recent research, “End-to-Endless Customer Service,” we asked customer service executives how leaders within their company perceive the customer service organization. We found that only one in five organizations fully views service as a value center. But here’s the payoff: Those companies achieve 3.5 times more revenue growth than those perceiving service only as a cost center. So, what are they doing right?
Being proactive and predictive
We measured 19 different service experiences to gauge how important they are to B2B and B2C customers. These service experiences ranged from anticipating a potential issue before it becomes one, to advising customers on the best products and services based on their history and usage. We also asked how well their providers deliver those kinds of experiences. We discovered that customers highly value proactive service experiences and communications. These are also the experiences underserved by most organizations. By shifting to a more predictive service model, businesses have an opportunity to provide greater value to customers and drive growth for the organization.
What’s the secret to predictive and proactive service? Accenture Operations research into what we call “future readiness” provides some important insights. To advance toward the highest level of operations maturity, future ready, organizations can manipulate four key levers: technology, process, data and talent. Of those, improving data capabilities has the highest impact: companies are 4.2X more likely to improve operations maturity. The data lever includes the application of data, analytics and artificial intelligence to enhance business performance and stakeholder experiences.
Companies need to accelerate the aggregation of internal and external data and the availability in the cloud to power analytics, data science and AI. They also need to scale analytics that are personalized and available on demand to drive insights and support decision-making.
Truly proactive support requires a deep understanding of customer needs, with predictive capabilities powered by data that anticipate and identify when you’re at risk of not meeting customers' expectations or promised product or service performance. When you take responsibility for proactively understanding, anticipating and meeting customers’ needs, your company becomes an “invisible presence” they know they can trust.
But isn’t proactivity too expensive?
The idea that proactive service is too expensive can be refuted in a couple of ways. First, the high-growth companies in our survey are spending an average of only 50 basis points more of their revenue on customer service. Second, it turns out that customers are willing to pay more for personalized and contextualized service. Compared to those who do not consider proactive service important, customers who do are 30% more likely to pay a premium for proactive service. In fact, younger generations of B2B and B2C customers are more willing to pay a premium for proactive support.
A secret to success: Advanced technology
Lack of adequate technology was the top barrier cited in our study hindering a customer service organization’s ability to deliver growth outcomes. Only 13% of service organizations operate heavily in the cloud (>60% of workloads). But their companies are realizing higher revenue growth compared to those that have not started or just started migrating to the cloud.
Here’s another benefit of advanced technology: It can help deliver dedicated customer support for both B2B and B2C customers via personalized and contextually relevant strategic advice, so they get the most value from their purchase.
As you shift your support model to incorporate more predictive and proactive service, think about the following practical steps:
- Identify when and where to apply proactive capabilities to improve customer journeys.
- Define triggers for predictive problem identification and proactive customer communication.
- Establish analytics processes for consuming and analyzing data in support of proactive trigger identification.
- Invest in the technology capabilities required to enable your proactive customer engagement strategy.
Conclusion: Think big, act big
Our End-to-Endless Customer Service research reveals the untapped potential of service as a growth driver. Transforming your service function from cost center to value creator starts with thinking differently—developing a new mindset about how you deliver value to customers. Then, take action. Collaborate with the teams needed to build and follow a roadmap for turning service into a driver of value for your customers and your organization.