Five Tipping Points in a Customer Service Interaction

In his book The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference Malcolm Gladwell describes the tipping point as “that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire.”

Let’s look at five key tipping points within a service interaction that can change that interaction for better, or for worse:

1. The Mobile Experience

More and more customers are on the go and expect service whenever and wherever they choose. Their first stop? It’s their mobile phone to go to a company’s mobile-ready browser or mobile app. Can the customer easily find the information they need and if not can they easily reach out to someone that can? That leads us to the next tipping point…

2. The Transition

Customers want to seamlessly move from one channel to another, and they expect “to get credit” for all the effort they have expended in search of a resolution. How a company manages the transition from one channel to another and demonstrates to the customer they have carefully maintained the interaction thread is critical. Each step in an interaction should pick up from where it left off. Any customer work on the mobile device, the Website and in the IVR should not have to be repeated.

3. You Had Me At Hello

The next tipping point is the first contact with a service representative. In less than 30 seconds, a customer knows whether the employee has the proper knowledge and authority to assist them. If the employee asks repeat questions, hesitates, has to ask for assistance from a manager, has less insight than the self-service channels, the interaction has tipped in a negative direction.

4. The Resolution

Notice this tipping point is not called the response. A response means an answer, but doesn’t mean the company has addressed the root cause of the inquiry, or completely fulfilled the request. If a customer has an inquiry about a bill, fee, claim, a product that needs to be shipped, or an appointment for an in home installation, the company has a chance to prove the promise of its brand. To ensure the interaction tips to the positive the company needs to fully deliver on their promise, keeping the customer informed of the status without any follow on effort by the customer.

5. The Value Add

Statistics show that customer expectations have been on a steady increase. They figure the best they can do is satisfactorily resolve the issue that has inconvenienced them in the first place. The Value Add is a magic moment when a behavior crosses a threshold, tips and can spread like wildfire. Think about the customer’s reaction when a company recommends a better way to use their current service, or recommends an alternative service (even if it is a potentially lower priced service). This will undoubtedly improve their experience based on their specific usage. Consider the goodwill generated when a company does not rush a customer off the phone and spends a few extra seconds with that customer, demonstrating the research they have done to anticipate and proactively address a customer’s current and potential future questions. You’d be able to replace this phrase, “Is there anything else I can help you with today Mr. Kraus”, with this one: “Mr. Kraus judging by your recent activity we believe you would benefit from…”

These five tipping points in service interactions serve as a tremendous opportunity to build customer lifetime value and ensure the customer’s positive feelings spread like wildfire.


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