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Customer Experience

Service design: breaking the rules of customer contact centres

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Mark Adams, Member Services Director at Pure Planet, discusses how service design contributes to the experience you want to deliver to your teams, customers and members.

What is a service design mindset?

A service design mindset is about being conscious of the experience you want to deliver to your people, teams, and your customers, rather than being haphazard.

Consistency is key too. I’ve always looked to develop a set of design principles around service. But keep in mind, the ideal principles change from organisation to organisation because you’ve got different teams of people, different business challenges, different technology, different routes, different channels.

So, there’s no one size fits all – it needs to be based on what your people want and what your customers want.

And your service design doesn’t need to be all-consuming. Regardless of the size of your organisation, a long list of principles is rarely necessary. They just need to be clear, accurate to your ethos, and effective.

For instance, at Pure Planet, one of our key service design principles is to never ask a member for any information that we already hold about them. We achieve this through storing member information in an app that we can access before interacting. This simple yet effective principle helps inform the team and allow them to work more efficiently, and it provides members with a more streamlined service.

Breaking the rules of customer contact centres
Don’t be afraid of changing strategy

Every nine months, I redesign our strategy and service design. Changes and developments occur thick and fast in our business, and in the industry generally, so I’m always redesigning and reconsidering principles.

But, if you do make regular changes, it’s important that everyone is on board with new principles and procedures – you need cohesion. Whenever I redesign our strategy, I take it to the management team. Once finalised, I present it to my entire team. The design principles are then shared across the tech, service and marketing teams.

Step back and trust in your community

If you build a community, trust in that community. At Pure Planet, we have a digital community of over 30,000 members. We have a community manager and two people that manage and curate all the content, but apart from that, we step back and trust in the community to support itself and members to support one another.

It’s difficult to sit on your hands, especially to begin with, but if you show faith, you’ll be repaid. Over 80% of the questions asked in our community are answered correctly by somebody else in the community.

Build your own team structure – even if that means a lack of structure!

We don’t have team leaders. Our service team is one whole – not broken down into individual teams. We have two people that manage that group, but I didn’t want to call them team leaders, because I think that hard-worn label has some negative connotations.

We opted for ‘Guv’nors’. Essentially, this choice was made as a nudge to say, if you join Pure Planet, we don’t want you weighed down by any leadership preconceptions from previous organisations. Our management style is our own.

Rotate and share responsibilities to maximise skill sharing

I have a permanent guv’nor, but other guv’nors rotate every six months. Always rotating people around builds the overall strength of the team. It gives everyone a chance to challenge and test out. Even if the outcome for some individuals is, ‘I don’t think I like managing people’, that’s fine. They’ve been given the opportunity to explore and decide.

This sharing of responsibilities and roles means I get challenged, the rest of my team get challenged, and it results in a more collaborative and transparent environment where we’re always looking at how changes and improvements can be made.

Be clear about your work ethic – and understand it may not be for everybody

We make it clear how flexible we need our people to be, and the ways that we will support them, right from the first conversation. We talk about employing adults – we always have a conversation with everybody during an interview process about employing people that know what it means to contribute to work – knowing when they’ve done a good job and when they’ve contributed to the team and the company.

We start with these types of conversations straight away because our environment may not be for everyone, and that’s ok. It also ensures people have the opportunity to ask us questions about it, test us on what life’s like with us. It helps to make sure we’re on the same page from day one.

Only set targets if you have to – and make them relevant

We don’t have targets, at least, not in a purely traditional sense.

We measure; we always know how we’re performing, and the whole team has a stand up every morning. We did when there were five people in my team, and we do with our current team of 70. We talk about what went well yesterday, what didn’t work, what our collective goal is and what we want to achieve today.

So, we do have numbers we look at, but I’m always conscious that, in a contact centre especially, there’s a temptation to measure everything rather than what’s important at that point in time.

In some organisations it’s difficult to get rid of targets en masse, but trying to adapt them or reduce them should always be possible.

Revise your targets, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find. From new invigorating conversations to your staff becoming more introspective around understanding what is and isn’t working.

Don’t use all the tools, use the right tools

Just because there’s a new tool or one that a competitor is using, that doesn’t mean it will necessarily be right for your set up. You don’t need all the channels just because everyone else has them; think more about what you want your outcome to be.

I always have something I’m trying to solve or something that I’m trying to enhance when I’m choosing technology. And I’m a fan of proof of concept, so I actually rarely buy a solution and then go full-on with it. My priority is, what will best equip the team for them to do their job and respond well to our members.

Article adapted from an episode of Sabio’s The CX Chat, a podcast series focusing on customer experience.

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