How and Why Your Customers Resolve Issues

To optimize customer service experience, service leaders must understand what “job” a customer is trying to get done, and the channels best suited for accomplishing it.

Brandon just bought a new coffee maker, and can’t get the timer working. He searches the problem on Google, then he asks a friend. Eventually he tries the company’s web chat feature, only to be told he must call customer service, which he does. But now he’s annoyed.

Companies often fail to look at customer service resolution from the customer perspective

Brandon wanted to spend 5 minutes reading a quick FAQ, or maybe accessing a quick-start manual on his phone. Instead, he wasted time and energy, had to navigate a call-center voice menu and walk a service rep through his problem. He relays his frustration to the first three people he meets that day — and wishes he had purchased a different coffee maker.

Why did Brandon try Google first? Simply put, customers want to solve their problems in the easiest possible way.

“Companies often fail to look at customer service resolution from the customer perspective,” says Devin Poole, senior executive advisor at Gartner. By understanding what customers need to accomplish and how they expect to accomplish it, service leaders can:

  1. Optimize each channel to the most appropriate resolution job
  2. Guide customers to the correct channel or resolution job
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Know what your customer is trying to do

Service leaders must no longer think of customer resolution as one single task. Instead, they should understand the entire customer journey to find answers. Customers complete tasks, or what we refer to as jobs, along that resolution journey.

CEB, now Gartner, has identified six jobs (based on Bob Moestra’s Jobs to be Done theory) that customers are trying to accomplish when resolving an issue. Each is based on the customer’s subconscious need that drives their behavior and channel selection.

Leaders who understand the customer service experience can point customers to the best customer service channel to resolve their issue.

These jobs happen in no particular order, and customers may need to do more than one. After understanding the jobs customers are looking to complete, channels can be matched based on their utility. Some jobs are best suited for live channels, while some, such as those where customers want to vent, will intentionally take place outside of company channels.

Try to nudge customers to the optimal channel

It’s important to guide customers to the right channel or channels. Brandon tried three channels before reaching the right place to discuss his options. As a result he invested more time and likely had a longer interaction with the service rep, which ultimately cost the company more. Like Brandon, customers frequently choose the wrong channel for their resolution job, leading to channel switching, higher effort and lower customer loyalty.

Service leaders must first understand the customer resolution jobs and then guide customers into the right channels

All channels should aim to make customer resolution easier, but ditch the one-size-fits-all approach. All channels are not equal in terms of utility, so customers need to understand the value each channel provides when trying to do their job.

Customers just want to solve problems easily

How could the producer of this coffee maker have made Brandon’s life easier, and used its own resources more effectively to make him an advocate of the product, not a critic?

Customers value ease of use over any particular channels and will easy adopt new channels that help them easily solve their job. Service leaders must first understand the customer resolution jobs and then guide customers into the right channels that provide the lowest effort and quickest outcome.

“Thinking about the problem the customer is trying to solve will help companies to optimize channel strategy, reduce customer frustration and, ultimately, impact loyalty,” says Poole.

Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leaders clients can read more about Customer Resolution Jobs.