Turning Customer Service from a Cost Centre into a Value Centre

21 Jul 2023

6 min read

One of the key concerns we hear from our customers and contacts in the customer service (CS) industry is that they want to turn customer service from a cost centre into a value centre. Another way it’s been expressed to us is going from “Customer Service” to “Customer Experience” – a more holistic, and proactive approach to helping customers. 

Our partners at Dixa have expressed this well in an article in Forbes: that a cost centre is anything that is deemed to be essential but non-profitable. At a glance, customer service is one of those departments. There is no direct revenue attached to it but there are costs – staffing equipment, and technology being three of the main ones.

Also in the case of customer service, they are processing returns and requesting refunds. These are obvious costs, but often that’s not customer service which has ultimately created these costs. 

Customer happiness should be a goal in of itself for a business, which customer service plays a huge part in. However, tangible and provable value can be a tricky thing to pin down. Here are our steps to turn Customer Service from a Cost Centre to a Value Centre

Step 1: Tracking the impact of customer service on customer retention

There is clearly indirect revenue attached to good customer service. Zendesk reported that 97% of consumers they surveyed say that bad customer service changes buying behaviour (which is no great surprise), and that 87% say good customer service changes buying behaviour. Moreover, if customers have a good customer service interaction, 54% say they buy or use more services from that company. 

What people say and what they do are different things, so how can retailers prove this. One method could be use a CDP (customer data platform) to tag every customer who interacts with customer service and track these cohorts across a period of time.

Do they order more often than customers who don’t interact with CS at all? Is there any connection to their CSAT (Customer satisfaction) scores and how often they shop. 

If you find that customers who speak to CS and leave a high CSAT score come back and buy more, then you’ve already started to prove the value that customer service has. 

On the other hand, if the data doesn’t paint such a positive picture, is inconclusive, or you’re just not able to ascertain the data, then you may have to think about other tactics. 

Step 2: Giving your agents more time

Do you find that your team is being overwhelmed with inbound tickets that you are struggling to get through? How about during peak periods? 

This is one of the main issues we see with retail customer service teams: they are so bogged down dealing with the backlog from the night before that they are just trying to stay on top of it. This means agents are rushing to resolve each ticket in order to move on to the next one to clear the mountain before the end of the day. 

If agents are rushing between different cases then the opportunities to provide added value to customers are slim. So how can retailers help their agents to get more time for each case they handle?

One way is through automating repetitive and trivial tasks for agents. For example, for one retailer, it can take 10 to 15 minutes for an agent to generate a return label. Copying and pasting data into fields on a carrier website takes agents time and is something that could be automated. 

Another is to use AI automation to completely automate responses to these repetitive questions. Using AI to detect what customers are asking can then trigger workflows that can answer questions in full. For instance, if a customer needs a tracking link, then through integrations with carriers, an AI can find the tracking link and provide it back. 

Step 3: Deflect and resolve tickets before they reach agents 

Step 2 was about solving tickets faster, but what if you could reduce the number of cases your agents have to deal with every day? 

One of the main reasons that customers will get in touch with you is because they can’t solve the issue themselves. Take returning an item for instance: if customers can easily find a way to organise a return for their order, they are less likely to reach out to you. If you have a self-service portal to generate a return label or a collection, then customers don’t need to speak to you as much.

The best place to start is by categorising the tickets that you currently receive – this will show you the most common reasons for customers to reach out, allowing you to look into which topics are causing the most work for your team, and thus are ripe for deflection tactics.

If categorising tickets is too big a job, there are automatic solutions. Like our DigitalGenius Automation Analysis, which does this automatically by analysing the intent in every customer ticket. 

If self-service is not an option for you, then you may want to look into how you can use automation to help deflect and resolve these cases instead. 

Step 4: Proactive customer service 

One way to become value-generating for your business is to do proactive customer service, or outbound customer service. As McKinsey put it, customers don’t just want personalisation - they demand it! Nothing is more personalised than getting dedicated outreach from a customer service rep to ensure that you have everything that you need. 

This could be a call or an email to check that everything is satisfactory with the items purchased, that the ordering process was smooth, and to seek any further useful feedback. You could even see if the customer needs to place another order – and if so the agent could process that order on their behalf. 

If you have a loyalty program, you could issue loyalty points for anyone who takes a call, or you could even use referral discount codes to thank customers for their order. The possibilities are endless: what would you ask your agents to do if they had time to reach out to customers? 

Step 5: Upsells and cross-sells 

If you have managed to reduce your backlog, having a more active customer service team on site is a real possibility for your business. Implementing live chat can allow you to help customers to find the products, make recommendations, or answer important questions related to product details. All of which can help increase your average order value, and allow you to convert more customers. Some suggest that adding live chat can increase conversions by up to 20%. 

From this point, you can start to directly attribute revenue to your customer service team and measure how much they are driving the bottom line. 

Conclusion – measure the impact of customer service

In turning CS from a Cost Centre into a Value Centre, remember that this is about proving that Customer Service generates value to the business. There will always be the intangibles that can be hard to ascertain, and it may appear that CS costs more than it drives in revenue. That’s OK – the first step is understanding what your baseline is and then working on ways to improve it.

To discuss how automation can help free up your agents to drive more value to customers, get in touch with the DigitalGenius team today