Improve Your NPS with Digital-Led Services

For most brands, it’s not about digitizing customer service – it’s about customer service in a digital world. Customer expectations, access to data, and new ways of working has had a huge impact in how we deliver value to our customers. The following should help you better understand the opportunities and lessons learned in building digitally-led services.

In most every organization – including our own – urgency can often drive importance. Things need to happen today. It's what we stress about. It's what makes our days crazy. It's also how our success is measured. But in our pursuit of putting out the fires every day, it becomes easy to lose sight of the big picture – the big things that move our businesses forward.

In the world of marketing, creating a healthy NPS (Net Promoter Score) can often be that big thing we should also be working on, but our responsibilities in short-term growth and acquisition goals overshadow it real quick. This is important to acknowledge because measures like NPS are our best indicators of customer satisfaction and, in the long run, have a tremendous impact in growth and the acquisition of new customers (thanks to earned media).

If you find yourself tasked with improving NPS (or just believe it's the right thing to focus on) it can be daunting to figure out where to start. We've been here many times before for some of today's most notable brands, so here's what we learned...

Getting Started

Blueprinting Your Service Delivery Network

A Service Delivery Network (or service chain) is all the parts and processes that make up a service – from operations to systems. They can be complex so identifying the right marketing opportunities can be really intimidating unless you have a clear view of the current state. Welcome to Service Blueprinting. Service Blueprinting is how we create a singular, clear view of the service landscape so we can have a more confident perspective on what needs to change. They're a great starting point.

Start with the customer journey

Customer Journeys should be a familiar baseline for most marketers. Even if you've never created one before, the concept is pretty straight forward – understand the steps your customer takes when engaging with your brand. Along the way you should absolutely capture needs, pain points, and opportunities, but that extra information doesn't necessarily make it's way into the Service Blueprint – we just need the steps.

Starting with the customer journey also sets the tone that the work we're doing is customer-centered. Since urgency does drive importance for most organizations, the operations and IT teams that are traditionally responsible for digital services often overlooking the marketing opportunity and customer needs that these services are intended to deliver on. Building the business case around true customer-centricity gives marketers permission more permission to lean in and facilitate branded service creation where we otherwise wouldn't have it.

What happens in the back of the house?

This is where marketers start to move out of their comfort zone. The next step in Service Blueprinting is to work with operational and IT leads to understand what happens to bring those customer steps (as defined by the journey) to life and document them.

As example from our work with Panera Delivery, a customer might place an order for delivery. Between that moment and the moment they get their sandwich, a lot happens. The kitchen needs to receive the order, someone prepares it, a driver is dispatched, etc.. Documenting those operational steps helps us understand where the potential opportunities and challenges might be. What happens if Panera is out of lettuce? ...or the kitchen is taking longer? These are moments that – if left unchecked – would likely have a negactive impact on NPS, but if we can get ahead of them, we turn them into brand moments.

CeCO Service map as part of our marketing transformation effort for Biogen

Now it's time to find the challenges and opportunities

This overarching, singular view (and the process we used to uncover it) can now provide marketing teams with a confident view of the service network. At this level, we can now have productive discussions around bottlenecks, unnecessary steps, opportunities for digital, system gaps, and new ways for working.

Opportunity #1: Scaling Indespensable Service

Congratulations. Your reward for great work is more work.

This is the world service teams live in. When they do their jobs right, the company grows, and as the company grows – it puts an increasingly burdensome pressure on these same service teams. Unless teams can find new opportunities scale their indespensable service, they find themselves in a place where the level of service erodes, along with customer satisfaction and NPS.

This was the story of Commonwealth Financial. Currently America's largest independant broker-dealer, they built their reputation on delivering indespensable service to their customers. As that service led to a dramatic growth, it put a burden on their service teams to the point where it wasn't financially viable.

Commonwealth isn't alone in these challenges. A lot of our clients – from Biogen to Keurig – turn to us to help find new opportunities to scale their services through the use of digital. Along the way, here's what we learned...

Build Empathy for Service Teams

We were working with large B2B financial services firm to simplify their onboarding experience and in a call of about 5-6 service leads, we saw it get, really emotional. They openly started talking about what their personal lives turned into during peak season. Sleepless nights, breaking down in anxiety, the impact on their families – all because during the peak season, they were understaffed.

For us, this was an important lesson that operations teams (and any team for that matter) isn't a series of boxes and arrows to be planned out. They're people. Making sure we understand the rational and emotional needs all stakeholders (customers, employees, vendors, etc) can be a powerful tool when designing exceptional branded services that customers feel.

For the service team mentioned above, we helped them "find the balance" with better capacity forecasting, customer self-service tools, and job design to help take the edge of seasonal spikes and improves the lives of the people responsible for delivering on the brand promise.

Elevate search and chat, but provide fallbacks

If the goal is to reduce the operational burden of great service, a simple approach is to better understand which calls and requests are consistent and easy to answer – then develop content (like FAQs or chat scripts) to put on the website ahead of contact information. What you'll find is the most people don't want to call, they would much rather find the answer on their own so just make it easier to do that and you'll see a reduction in calls.

We have also found that most service reps are capable of managing three concurrent chat conversationso over a single call. Better chat experiences give users the ability to interact on their own time and service reps the ability to service requests more efficiently.

Find opportunities for digital self-service

This is just as true for sales as it is for servicing: people prefer to do things on their own time and own terms. With a Service Blueprint in hand it becomes much easier to look at existing operational processes to identify the non-value-add activities that service folks are engaging with, then digitize them. You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn't) how many operational processes there are for paper invoices, calling to update addresses, faxing information to other departments, etc.. Simply fixing foundational activities that are clearly out-of-date can have an immediate impact on creating better service and NPS.

Get your customer data in order

Data is the big enabler – as well as the big challenge. It's not uncommon to walk into organizations with siloed data that ultimately translates into fragemented customer experiences ("I already told you that, why are you asking me again?!"). Making sure there's a central data strategy should be one of the first, foundational steps in organizational transformation. It will set you up to deliver digital and service experiences that feel seamless, make the jobs of service teams easier, as well as add value through personalization efforts in the future.

Opportunity #2: Improving the Onboarding Experience

Onboarding is the first real test

Let's face it, people don't trust marketing or sales claims...anything to make a buck right? So what happens after we give brands our money might not be our first impression, but it is the most important one. Get it wrong and customers may frame all brand interactions with skepticism and distrust. Get it right and customers may overlook small mistakes and mishaps moving forward. How we shape onboarding experiences can have a disproportionate effect on customer satisfaction and NPS than almost any other moment in the end-to-end journey.

Get sales-to-service hand-off right

There is almost always a natural tension between sales and service. Sales teams aim for the highest price tag and are incentivised to over-promise, while service teams are responsible for delivering on the inflated expectations that they just can't meet. All of this is reflected in a customer experience that leaves a lot to be desired.

Digital can help raise the bar service delivery by providing customers with visibility, self-service, and brand moments...but it can be just as effective internally by supporting better communication, collaboration, and resolution across teams.

The feeling of responsiveness and transparency

It doesn't matter whether we're working on deep IT systems or retail investing, almost everyone talks about the Domino's pizza tracker as the benchmark for great onboarding (even though it's fake). Providing customers with on-demand status updates can make even the longest processes feel shorter. In contrast, creating a black box with no end in sight is the easiest way to create a nervous customer.

Adding in alerts, auto-responding emails, feedback prompts, and other digital touchpoints can be a low effort way to let your customers know that you're on top of it and they've been heard.

Don't lose sight of your brand

Your brand is special and unique. It's why your customer purchased your service of product. With all the things that come along with delivering an exceptional experience, it's easy to lose sight of the special-ness of what you do...especially is if its an operations-led effort that tends to prioritize boxes and arrows over differentiation. As a steward of the brand, it's our responsibility to define what's special about our brand and dial it up to eleven for both the communications and experience of it all.

Helpful Activitity: The CeCo Expectation Matrix

The CeCo Expectation Matrix has proven to be a really helpful activity in understanding a lot of the things we're talking about. It helps document how teams see the roles of other teams and what they need to be successful. It can uncover tensions, misunderstandings, and superpowers while fostering open collaboration across teams that never talk to each other. The final output is a series of opportunities that alleviate pain points and pressures across the entire service.

Opportunity #3: Customer Portals as Marketing Platforms

Unlocking Marketing Value with Customer Portals

Creating the right customer portal is one of the most misunderstood opportunities digital customer experiences. Traditionally, they're seen as purely utilitarian so they're handed off to IT teams...and IT teams often times take a tech-centric approach at the expense of customer and marketing needs. One of the more common challenges we'll walk into is getting ahead of the requirements gathering process to make sure we're leading with consumer needs (that ultimately should shape the technology we use). When we get that part of the process right though, it opens up a world of value for customers and the business that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Aim for useful, usable, and noteworthy

Useful means we should be building a customer portal customers actually want. A lot of this can be solved with upfront research (ethnographic is the most effective) and demand testing with early prototyping.

Usable is largely dependant on ensuring UX design is part of the process. Because it's usually considered to be so utilitarian, IT teams may take a "we got this" approach and, 10 out of 10 times, it ends up in experience that gets in the way more than it helps.

Noteworthy is our ability to create marketable features that draw prospects in. There is value in developing features that might not be as useful as others, but capture the attention in the sales process...and that's OK.

Campaigns and platforms working together

In a lot of cases, we have an owned destination where customers are coming to you several times a week (to use the portal) instead of you going to them (paying for media). This can be a cheaper and more effective path to growth since we can personalize communications to a captive audience that drive the purchase of additional products and services.

Prioritizing customer portal features and real estate to reinforce campaign messaging or product upsells presents marketing teams with a marketing opportunity that would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

Fueling Personalization

You have a known customer that's continuously engaged in browsing, purchasing, and using your products and services. The opportunity to use that data to shape personalized sales experiences is the thing marketing dreams are made of.

As an example in our work with Keurig Commercial, we were able to capture the consumption habits of office buildings and campus locations to power sales dashboards. What was once a passive sales process where Keurig was reacting to consumer requests, was transformed into a proactive sales experience that made the lives of customers and sales associates that much simpler.

We talked about a lot and the rationale behind it all may feel complex at times, but there's a bigger message for marketers here. To create lasting, meaningful brands, we have to focus on – not just communicating a compelling brand promise – but also making sure we can deliver on the brand promise through better products and services. Digital can be an amazing tool to unlock new opportunities that others can't.

Remember, modern brands run deep.

Profile Photo: Ryan Mulloy
About the Experience Design Lead

Ryan Mulloy, Head of Experience Design

Ryan leads up CeCo’s experience design practice and has led engagements for some of the biggest brands in food and beverage – including brands like Keurig, Dunkin’, Toast, Panera, Bai Beverages, and more.

Connect with Ryan