User Research and Strategy for Person-to-Person Customer Service Exchange
Case Study: Digital Experience and Mobile
SITUATION & BUSINESS CHALLENGE
An American conglomerate producing tens of thousands of products for the healthcare, automotive, electronics, and manufacturing industries was encountering delays and loss of information during customer-service interactions in its industrial adhesives and tapes division, resulting in lowered customer satisfaction.
Customers purchase products from the division’s vast catalog of solvents and adhesives to solve very specific engineering problems in the manufacturing process. When they need assistance in finding the right solution, they contact the company’s customer support via a web form, email or phone call, and a tier 1 support worker either assembles and sends data sheets to the customer or escalates the issue to a more senior resource. In escalation cases, once a product is selected, the engineer and customer then determine how to apply the product in the manufacturing process.
This support process, however, was laden with pitfalls. The escalation process relied on an email exchange between the customer and the senior resource, forcing additional time to resolution and occasional loss of information during the escalation. It was also difficult for customers to accurately describe the problem they faced with enough detail to be helpful to the engineers. Eventually the issue would be solved, but not without project delays and frustration for the customer.
Contrastingly, the top tier support level involved high-level customer engineers talking directly to high-level peers at the company (or even flying a support engineer to a customer site), which received very high marks in customer satisfaction. The company wanted to find a way to replicate this experience and push it down the stack in terms of customer size so all customers could receive superior support, but in a way that did not over-tax engineering resources.
A video chat software firm presented a marketing video to executive stakeholders for a solution that injected video chat with annotation into the helpdesk system and conversations with engineers. Excited about the possibility, the stakeholders directed customer support managers to implement a video chat solution, but project managers were wary because they believed it would not address all of their needs.
The company needed to conduct additional research to make sure they invested in the right solution for their dilemma. Learning that AIM Consulting has expertise in Digital Experiences, including person-to-person customer service exchanges, they called on AIM to conduct research and develop a strategic solution that would please executive stakeholders but also ultimately satisfy customers.
An AIM team consisting initially of a managing consultant, solution architect and user researcher worked with the client to produce a high-touch interactive experience for all levels of customer service. After initial discovery indicated that a lower-cost solution could be delivered, the solution architect was removed from the project, allowing for more resources to be allocated for research.
AIM Consulting surveyed and interviewed customer support workers and managers to precisely determine the drivers of dissatisfaction and opportunities for improvement. Research revealed that customer satisfaction hinged on driving down the cycle of communications and that this the solution would ultimately need to improve the ability of the customer to describe the problem and the engineer to describe the solution in an efficient and effective way.
AIM worked with the project team to develop a proposal framework to address each area of concern and test different solutions in live customer support interactions. The team looked at numerous ways engineers could talk to end users, what kinds of information and files might be exchanged, and how and where those communications could take place. To test the video chat scenario favored by executives, AIM leveraged existing client implementations of Facetime and Skype for Business. Following this and several other tests, AIM arrived at the following conclusions:
- Customer interest in a video chat solution is low. Capability with video is also a concern.
- Sharing of images between customers and engineers is essential for clear communication and resolution of product questions.
- A virtual whiteboard that allows customers and engineers to annotate images in real-time would be helpful.
- Access to a single repository of product technical data sheets would allow for quicker research by engineers and quicker question response time for customers.
- Staggered engineer support rather than immediate live support would allow engineers to research the customer question, prepare samples, and allow the best expert to respond to the customer.
- A cloud repository would provide better image integration with client systems and enable higher levels of speed, quality and accuracy in issue resolution.
One of the key elements of customer feedback was the willingness and ease of taking a photo of the issue at hand with a phone and sharing it. This was the most valuable form of interaction between the customer and engineer because they both could look at the same picture and discuss the problem in great detail.
AIM Consulting presented its findings to senior leadership and was approved for a second project that involved additional follow-up research and live customer tests of solutions that fit into the photo-share model. The approach invoked a Lean methodology—getting a solution as fast as possible into a prototype product and testing it live. AIM presented data-backed findings to leadership with two recommendations to choose from: (1) A whiteboard-based solution at very minimal cost, or (2) A solution utilizing Box that fits nicely into the client’s technology structure and roadmap. The client chose the Box solution.
As a preferred Partner of Box with specific expertise in Digital Experience and Mobile, AIM Consulting was uniquely suited to deliver a strategy that solved the client’s specific challenge. The client received numerous additional benefits from utilizing the Box platform, including:
- Only light support required from its corporate IT group
- Single sign-on and user access controls
- SalesForce integration
- Secure file sharing and file retention roles
- External users are free
- Audit and analytics capabilities
- Minimal maintenance and upkeep
- Can be used with current customer support channel
The Proposed Solution in Action
When a ticket is issued by a customer support worker to escalate an issue, a Box file store is generated and the link is shared with the escalation engineer and the customer. The customer takes a photo and places it in the Box share. The engineer makes any necessary annotations to the photo and can discuss the issue in detail with the customer while both are viewing the photo. The customer can upload further images and the engineer can post data sheets and other information to the shared folder for the customer to view.
The Box share solution also integrates with the client’s SalesForce CRM so that personnel can access the history of the relationship when recommending future products to the customer.
Executive leadership has approved the solution and plans are being developed for implementation.
The client noted this was the first time it experienced a project that was fully user focused and data driven from the start. The project managers who had the video chat solution picked for them were relieved to have found a more optimal solution at a much lower cost, backed by data and a solid process. This helped them to communicate the benefits to senior leadership with great assurance.
Instead of trying to sell the client on a custom-built video chat solution, AIM recommended a solution that utilized existing technology to solve the customer’s problem. By driving for the best possible outcome irrespective of its own gain, AIM Consulting became a trusted advisor for the client on future projects.