The Internal Customer Service Suggestion Box
Seems obvious, get your Customer Service employees to feedback their comments to those who are in-charge. Does it happen properly – I think you know the answer. Don’t get me wrong, I am not an expert, but I’ve been around long enough to have learnt a few lessons that I would like to share.
The problem, I think, is that it all gets overly complicated. I’ve seen all manner of similar projects either fail to produce anything as the scope never gets fixed or produce something that is either never used, or find that it gets used so much that the noise becomes unbearable to the intended recipients, things are missed, and everyone ends up frustrated.
The following points may help to setup something simple, clear and workable, so that the most valuable assets (people) produce the most valuable results (service insight information).
- Suggestion Structure. Its important to make sure each suggestion identifies the problem, its precise impact, potential causes and potential solutions. Examples are often valuable. Without these definitions the process can become polluted with less-than-constructive moaning. The structure might also include some fixed fields, where data such as ‘impact’ is chosen from a list of values. Using fixed fields, whilst somewhat inflexible, really helps organize and filter the large amounts of incoming information.
- Buckets. Each suggestion should be associated with one or more category buckets. These containers are important since the recipients looking to make improvements can work out where most of the problems are, and what problems exist in each area. The categories should be carefully predefined, else they spiral out of control when people add their own. This can help control scope also, since it helps focus what areas the suggestions should cover.
- Popularity. This is a hard one. Sometimes a lone voice comes up with a gem of an idea that others don’t really appreciate or understand. On the flip side, the usual process is to gather some feeling of support for an idea to understand if its something that affects many people in the same way. Open voting systems are useful, however there should also be some manual scanning for those hidden gems.
- What’s In It For Me? For Customer Service Reps to take the time to think about how things could be improved, it usually means they’re not doing something else. Hopefully most people are keen to see improvements, however sometimes coaxing the best out requires an incentive. It might not be financial either, and a simple recognition of valuable input (note the emphasis on value not quantity), can go a long way to stimulate input.
- Results. If there is no acknowledgment of suggestions submitted, people will stop using it very quickly. That said when hundreds of suggestions get submitted not everything will get a personalized reply immediately. One way around this is to perform a scheduled cut-off and assessment (e.g. monthly), after which submissions are either archived with a semi-automated reply that explains why, or put into action with a suitable follow-up.
- Throttles. If the suggestions submitted turn out to be not quite what was hoped for, then its should be easy to adjust the submission process. This might include adjusting the Suggestion Structure, by adding or removing fields so that a better filtering or assessment can take place. Building these throttles into the process is essential since its usually impossible to predict how it will go.
Starbucks (with MyStarbucksIdea), Dell computers (with IdeaStorm), and many other companies use an online suggestion box to get valuable insights from not only their employees, but also from their customers. Yes the ‘noise’ of poor suggestions can be horrendous (both have >10k suggestions), but some true gems will be hidden in there somewhere.
Hopefully fresh insights and improvements will ensue, and please comment on your experiences and add any more tips-and-tricks below.