Service Cloud, the All-You-Can-Eat Buffet of Customer Support

During one of my recent Service Cloud implementations, I was having a water cooler discussion with a member of the client project team about his upcoming trip to Las Vegas.  It was his first time making the trip and the conversation eventually turned to copious eateries and several folks making recommendations.  Obviously, the topic of the best buffet came up and I came to the realization that the elements of an all-you-can-eat buffet can be applied to Customer Service and Service Cloud.  Once you know the size and offerings of the customer service buffet, you can determine how you want to manage Service Cloud to effectively service your customers.

Yes, I realize this is a really random analogy, but it works… you’ll see…  Now sit back and slightly suspend the known workings of buffets.  Let me be your host.  I’ll grab a couple menus and seat you at a table close to our All-You-Can-Eat Buffet of Customer Service.

Where do you want to eat tonight? (Determining the Baseline of Incoming Work)

Buffets can come in a variety of shapes and sizes: salad bars, Sizzler-type buffets, Sunday brunch buffets, holiday buffets, and then Vegas casino buffets.  The buffet types directly correspond the amount of incoming customer service work your organization need to handle.  Generally speaking, if your buffet (product offering) is small like a salad bar, then you likely will not have a large customer service team because the need is not there.  On the other hand, if you offer thousands of products (Amazon or Caesar’s buffet), you will have a lot of incoming work that needs managed.

This is the most important thing to consider when implementing Service Cloud.  You need to know the volume of incoming work to the customer service team.  That allows you to track and categorize the work so you know what the customers need, identify which tools are needed so agents can properly resolve issues and keep customers happy, and develop a staffing plan to find people that can handle the workload and provide excellent customer service.

Plate Size (Capacity for Work)

When you go to the buffet, do you need a tray to help you carry multiple, overloaded plates at one time? Or do you just use a small salad plate, make a single trip, and then leave food on your plate because you fill up quickly?  Buffets always have several different types of plates and bowls to accommodate varying appetites.

The same can be said for differences in capacity for work.  Some customer service agents have to work on a single case before moving on to the next one while others can juggle several cases from multiple channels at the same time.  The key is giving the right person the proper plate so they can effectively support customers.  You do not want to overload someone with a low capacity for work by giving them a big cafeteria tray with overflowing plates and sauce dripping off the side. That is a recipe for disaster and you better have a Tide stick handy because someone is getting schmutz on their shirt.

Buffet Sections (Case Categorization)

Every buffet groups similar foods together so that complimentary items are nearby.  It allows patrons to focus on different parts of their meal in sections and eases the flow of traffic in and around the buffet.

Similarly, you want to categorize all incoming cases so you can better view, manage, assign, and work cases based on the information within the case.

  • List views enable users to view cases based on field values, case ownership, or both
  • Queues let admins group users with similar skills so they can resolve cases in their wheelhouse
  • Auto-assignment rules quickly route cases to the queues using business rules so that cases do not need manual assignment

Since agents can use this functionality to narrow their focus, they will not get overwhelmed by looking at the entirety of the buffet and not knowing where to dig in.  The last thing you want to happen to help desk agents is to have them overwhelmed at the incoming volume of cases.

Forks, Spoons, or Tongs? (Service Enablement Tools)

Every container on the buffet has a dedicated utensil that allows people to easily add food to their plate.  Think about how ridiculous it would be to use tongs to get chili into a bowl or a spoon to add a slab of prime rib to your plate.  People need to be properly equipped when handling food or they are going to make a mess and cross-contaminate dishes.  I hate it when I see random chunks of food floating in the salad dressing because some putz wasn’t careful scooping the peas.

Likewise, agents need the best tools at their disposal to efficiently resolve issues and close cases for customers.  We have already discussed using list views to filter cases so they can focus their efforts.  That is just the tip of the iceberg.  Please note this list is a highlight reel and not comprehensive of all available tools.

  • Knowledge Base allows your agents to quickly find the right answers to resolve issues.  It is a comprehensive encyclopedia of relevant information about your products and services with content created by the experts within your company and curated by administrators to ensure that the information remains accurate. It can also be exposed to your customers via a customer community to empower them to solve issues themselves.
  • Live Agent is the web-based chat feature that can be included on your company’s website that allows real-time discussion with customers.  It has several features that bolster the agent abilities to quickly answer questions, send knowledge articles, and provide robust support all within the chat window.
  • No matter how technology evolves, people are always going to want to just pick up the phone and talk to someone about their problem.  Telephony Integration (CTI) allows agents to preview information about those customers before answering the phone.  Any customer data that is associated with the incoming phone number is automatically displayed on the agent screen with records related to their contact information.  This allows users to see who is calling and any other potential information that may allow them to be prepared for the call, including a list of open cases for the customer.
  • If your organization has service-level agreements, then Entitlements would be a good addition to your Service Cloud.  By tracking the levels of support each of your customer is entitled to (get it, entitlements?), agents will easily be able to understand the level of effort they are allowed to provide each customer.  This is especially valuable if you have paid, tiered support levels so that your agents can take appropriate actions with every customer.
  • We will briefly step away from the buffet to discuss Omni-Channel Routing.  The simplest analogy I can make is that omni-channel is the Mr. Belvedere for your support team.  He/it knows the capacity of each agent, how many cases they are currently assigned, if they have not been assigned anything recently, skillsets of each agent and knows if they can handle a case, and how he should distribute cases as they come into the help desk.
  • Service Console is the final piece of the puzzle and represented by the physical buffet.  It is the tool that maximizes agent productivity by viewing multiple cases at the same time, any relevant account and contact information associated to the case, and keeps all tools easily within reach by displaying them within panels of the console.  If cats wore pajamas, they would be covered in Service Console icons.

The Clean Plate Club (Metrics Tracking)

The unwritten rule at a buffet is to never leave any food on your plate.  You always need to make sure you are a member of the Clean Plate Club!  I’ve even seen guys demand that the wait staff leave all empty plates on the table until they were finished so they can easily figure out who ate the most.  While this was a slightly concerning thought, it directly relates to measuring case resolution time, current open case counts, escalated cases, and other key help desk metrics that the customer service leadership team track to determine the agent performance.

These metrics are tracked as performance indicators and used to easily communicate the current status and needs within the Customer Service team.  This data allows leadership to see how the work is being distributed, how quickly the issues are being resolved, and if any team needs additional support to meet their service demands.

Food Challenges (Reporting, Dashboards, and Gamification)

Man vs Food was a great show and I loved watching Adam Richman stuff his face with absurdly large dishes just to prove that he could do it.  The one commonality in all the challenges was that the restaurant had a wall of fame to display who conquered the challenge.

A common method of increasing agent performance in a help desk environment is to use reporting and dashboards to gamify agent or team performance.  By gamifying support activities, agents push each other to be better at their jobs resulting in improved performance, productivity and a high quality work environment.

Customer Satisfaction (The Food Coma)

The ultimate sign of a good buffet is the intensity of your ensuing food coma. If you can barely stay awake for the drive home then you must have done some damage and you are more likely to recommend the restaurant to others.  You need to use all tools available in the Customer Service Buffet to keep your customers happy and send them away with their own service coma.  Sales drives business, but service keeps business.