Organizations regularly redefine customer service to maintain their competitive advantage or to improve their competitive status within the marketplace. However, they only end up tweaking customer service delivery or re-engineering what they are already doing without truly understanding if what they are doing is indeed correct.

The tiered service delivery model is a favourite among customer-oriented services. Most often tiers are based on an escalation process with the initial tiers representing technology layers, such as self-service then migrating upward to more hands on, consultative support. Service transformation becomes somewhat inhibited, for example, as decisions on what services are to be delivered through self-service prove challenging. The traditional approach results in a tier one: self-service, a tier two: processing, and finally a tier three: consultative layer that delivers service. This model is restricted because it mixes both the business tiers with the channel tiers resulting in confusion over the ‘who’ and ‘how’ of the various service delivery components. There are in fact 5 business tiers that support and deliver service that are separate from the various service channel tiers that customers can use to access a service type.

Business Tiers

The business tiers are composed of three distinct groups: strategic, tactical and operational. The strategic tier defines the strategic aspects of service delivery and is associated with direction setting. The tactical tier consolidates centres of expertise to interpret the strategic direction and to provide tactical guidance to the delivery of service to customers. Finally, the operational tier executes the delivery of service directly to the customer according to the guidelines and parameters set down by the tactical and operational tiers. However, the operational delivery arm is further decomposed into three sub-tiers: simple, complex and unique customer requests.

The business processes behind the operational aspects may be very complex to deliver a simple customer request and quite simple for a unique customer request. It is not the complexity of the business process that defines the level of customer request, rather the nature of the request itself. The more an organization can drive customer requests to the ‘simple’ operational level the greater the commodatization of service delivery. This means that there is greater opportunity to automate services and lower costs. The higher value service is delivered through the upper tiers whereby higher calibre resources provide more direct service interventions.

Service Channel Tiers

Unlike business tiers the service channel tiers are the mechanisms that facilitate customer interaction with the organization. These tiers can be grouped into assisted and unassisted service channels. Unassisted channels include self-service, integrated voice recognition, and webforms, to name a few. Assisted service channels are those that require intervention to complete a customer request. These would include assisted channels, such as, telephone, fax, and email.

The service channel tiers may lead to one or more business tiers, but are not the business tier itself; rather, they are a conduit to the appropriate business tier that would be best placed to address the customer request. For example, a complex request may be received via telephone or self-service. The key is to determine the appropriate balance of service channel tiers to business tiers. Organizations may decide to optimize service delivery through specific tiers to direct more customers to a more cost-effective channel and may indeed sub-optimize others to dissuade that channel choice.

Delivering Effective Customer Service

Effective customer service delivery occurs when these 5 business tiers and service channel tiers are well understood and calibrated to ensure that as much service delivery is executed through the lowest ‘simple’ business tier. It is this lower level that offers the greatest opportunity for automation and thereby lower costs. The value added service aspects are then retained at the higher level business tiers resulting in high touch, high quality interventions.

By Marcela