4 Keys to the High-Accountability Support Model: Moving from Hand-Off to Swarming

In the recently-released article, “6 Developing Communications Services Trends to Watch in 2015,” trend #6 was:

“The high-accountability support model emerges. Individual support personnel will retain ownership of the customer experience and use techniques such as collaboration and “swarming” to break down the barriers of the traditional “tiered” support organization. This approach will drive a better experience for customers and ultimately make for more efficient resource utilization in support organizations.”

To elaborate on trend #6 and its likely impact on 2015 service trends, we asked guest blogger Dan Pratt, Avaya’s Director of Strategy and Business Transformation, to expand on that idea and how it relates to evolving the traditional contact center and support services model.

Follow me on Twitter: @Pat_Patterson_V

High Accountability Support Model

The High Accountability Support Model Emerges
By Dan Pratt

“I need fast answers… being on hold takes forever.”
“I have to re-explain my problem.”
“After handoff, the second tech re-did steps I did with the first tech… very frustrating.”
“I am so glad you finally got me to Jack who solved my problem right away. Why did I have to go through so many layers to get to the person who could answer my problem?”

These are just some of the comments and complaints that support agents have received for far too many years. And no wonder: Change requires a shift in the contact center culture embedded with certain characteristics defined long ago:

  • Most contact center managers are accountable for the customer experience and leave technical experts to own only pieces of the resolution
  • Resolution time is one of the greatest contributors of customer satisfaction
  • Passing from one agent to another is ingrained in the cultural DNA

It’s time for change. It’s time to enhance the traditional, 4-tier help desk model and apply it to the types of customers who technical support cares for. To begin, there needs to be an understanding and appreciation of what problems traditional contact center support models face today:

  • Every pass is an opportunity for failure
  • Every pass adds extra time
  • Re-explanation frustrates everyone, but is far too common
  • Every individual is constrained by their “responsibility” box
  • Accountability for the customer experience is shared, leaving room for lack of accountability
  • Rewards knowledge hoarding by agents

To create an even better experience that engages customers, contact center reps and engineers alike, managers should consider transforming to a high-accountability, “concierge”-style service.

In a concierge model, one support individual retains ownership of the customer experience and when necessary, turns to skill area experts that can “swarm” to the customer’s needs. From the beginning, one person (the concierge) is designated as the primary point of contact and either quickly resolves the problem themselves or draws in experts while staying part of the conversation.

Participation in the new concierge model facilitates learning for all participants as collaborators share knowledge in the swarming process. Time is no longer wasted in passes, queuing, and re-communication.

The transformation to the concierge model needs constant reinforcement with continuous feedback from employees, customers, and partners alike. It requires a dramatic paradigm shift from “focus on the product” to “solution support” on the customer’s business problem. Handoffs in a tiered “waterfall” model need to transform to collaborative support and escalation resolution shifts to first-assignment resolution.

There are innumerable benefits to moving to a tierless model. Among the highlights:

  • Ownership and accountability drives focus on the customer’s end-to-end experience, and sense of personalization and concern, customer satisfaction, delight and loyalty
  • A more efficient operating model produces faster results
  • The paradigm shift to collaboration forces people to expose knowledge so it can be captured and put into a knowledge base, which enables better solutions for the whole team efficiently
  • Breaking the paradigm on traditional support creates the culture, measurements and acceptance for real-time swarming with all of its benefits

To successfully move to a concierge-style, high accountability model, the following are required:

  • Organizational alignment: From the beginning, a shared vision and management commitment will ensure success throughout the team structure.
  • Systems enablement: Initial routing and workflow must be built to facilitate swarming. The concierge is responsible for quick resolution of the call, and can captaina call by summoning the experts necessary to ensure quick resolution.
  • Clarity on “how”: A process that is clear from the start will minimize fear, uncertainty and doubt on the parts of service reps whose paradigm must change.
  • Metrics-rewarding behavior: Scorecards and manager dashboards ensure all team members are aligned behind the new model and incentivized to deliver their key performance indicators. An example of behavior rewarding would be incentivizing all agents–whether they’re concierges or experts–to be engaged in publishing solutions immediately to the common knowledge base, which, in turn, enables everyone to be more effective at acting as a concierge and ushering a customer’s resolution through the system.

So what does it all mean? Better customer and business outcomes.

At Avaya, our High Accountability Support model is at the core of our recent customer support transformation. Focusing on the implementation of this new model–in conjunction with other support innovations–has led to the following customer- and business outcomes below:

  • 53 percent improvement in incident resolution time
  • 8.6 percent increase in customer satisfaction
  • 66 percent reduction in cost-per-incident
  • 12 percent increase in employee engagement
  • 91 percent of outages restored in less than 2 hours

What changes will you be making to your support service model in 2015?
How do your results this year compare to your expected results next year?