By Burkhardt Prigge, Kepner-Tregoe

Successful companies know the importance customer support plays in overall customer satisfaction and the likelihood of repeat business. When a customer has an issue (either before the sale or after), providing them the right answer the first time is critical. First call resolution is cheaper, makes customers happier and frees up valuable capacity in your organization. 

Your frontline support team is one of your lowest cost resource pools and most efficient processes, making it the cheapest place to resolve customer issues. Whether you handle frontline support yourself or utilize an outsourcing partner, frontline support operations are optimized to leverage economies of scale to keep costs low by leveraging repeatable processes to resolve requests quickly and efficiently. When frontline support resolves a customer issue, they save your company the cost of the callback (and subsequent interactions), the overhead of coordinating an escalation process, and they enable (more expensive) subject matter experts to focus their attention on higher value activities.

Resolving the issue the first time the customer contacts your company not only provides them with immediate gratification but helps instill confidence in your company and leaves the customer feeling like they (and their issue) are a priority for you. Nothing is more frustrating for a customer than contacting your company and being told they must wait for someone to get back to them. This sends the message that your staff’s time is more valuable than the customer’s time. It also tells the customer that you are trying to cut costs (and maybe cutting corners) in customer support by using un-qualified frontline agents. Conversely, by having knowledgeable frontline staff able to resolve their issue, you send the message that the customer is valued and you care about their time and experience (not just the sale).

If you look at your frontline operations today, you may find some opportunities for improvement. Here are 3 things you can do to enable your frontline support teams to resolve the customer issue and get it right the first time:

  1. Empower them to solve problems – Your frontline staff may have efficiency and cost metrics that they are trying to hit, but they need to know that their number 1 priority is helping the customer solve their problem. The reason you want them to complete the call quickly isn’t to save the company costs, it is because the customer’s time is valuable and you want to enable them to resume their normal activities as quickly as possible. This may require your frontline agents to expand their knowledge, ask questions or take a little bit more time.
  2. Give them the tools and information they need - Your frontline support agents need to be able to add value in their interactions with customers. This means having some sort of information, experience, access to information or ability to take action that the customer doesn’t have on their own.  Providing your frontline agents with tools and information is also a great way to avoid the need for escalation (to more expensive resources). 
  3. Train them on troubleshooting skills – If the customer’s problem is simple enough to be diagnosed immediately and the steps to resolve it can be scripted to the point that your frontline agent doesn’t need to think about it critically, you should be looking at self-healing or self-service options and avoid the need for the customer to call at all. The reason you have humans involved in the support process is because of their ability to empathize with the customer and their ability to apply critical thinking and troubleshooting skills to the customer’s situation. 

Out of this list, improving your frontline support team’s troubleshooting skills is the easiest to address and the one that will have the greatest impact on their ability to resolve customer issues with the first engagement. Here are some of the high value troubleshooting skills to consider (don’t you have a staff training day coming up soon?).

  • Identifying the real issue (not just the stated problem)
  • Diagnosis and data collection
  • Assessing impact (for the company and the customer)
  • Developing resolution alternatives
  • Making changes safely

Kepner-Tregoe has been the industry leader in problem-solving processes and training for over 60 years and our experts understand that your customer’s support experience is an essential part of ensuring your company’s ongoing success. Your frontline support teams play a critical role in not only shaping the customer experience but also keeping your operational costs under control. To learn more about how KT can help you improve your frontline effectiveness, visit www.kepner-tregoe.com

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