A Customer Service Maturity Model
Your Journey to Best-in-Class Performance
- Good contact centers are efficient but not always effective. They perform at the level of their peers, so they deliver neither a competitive advantage nor disadvantage. They are customer-focused but reactive. Most have advanced from cost center to profit center and from cost minimalization to investment maximization. They are mostly successful in adoption of strategy, customer focus, expanded services and technology automation. Most importantly, they are not stagnant and periodically (although not continuously) implement performance improvements.
- Great contact centers deliver a performance advantage, but not differentiation. They are profit centers and adept at converting their budgets into company profits. They also know how to make investments so that each performance improvement is built on the prior, contributes to the next and shows a cumulative financial impact. They are customer-centric and have shifted from doing things right to doing the right things. They have a clear-eyed recognition that if processes don't create value that customers care about or are willing to pay for, they are not worth doing. Their processes are refined and optimized, but they never stop improving.
- The best contact centers deliver differentiation and competitive advantage. They align with company priorities, are in a constant state of improvement and regularly create innovative services. They are recognized by their customer advocacy, customer loyalty and increasing revenue contribution. Their ability to not just predict, but prevent customer churn, results in the highest customer retention rates, furthering bolstering increased annual revenues. They are social, proactive and deliver a unified omnichannel customer experience in the customers preferred channels and devices. They have achieved Best-in-Class performance as the result of a planned evolution.
A proliferation of new channels, devices and consumer technologies on top of increasingly demanding customers and a competitive marketplace can make setting contact or call center priorities a difficult and fluid exercise.
That's why customer service excellence is a journey best pursued with a roadmap built on progressive phases.
A customer service maturity model is a grouping of capabilities and competencies which are ranked in ascending maturity and organized in an evolutionary framework.
The Johnny Grow Continuum Model is a data-driven, asset-powered roadmap that brings visibility and predictability to revenue and profit growth via measurable improvements to customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer lifetime value (CLV) and customer retention.
It's born from data derived in the Customer Service Excellence research whereby performance results were segmented into archetypes of Best-in-Class (top 15 percent), Medians (middle 50 percent) and Laggards (lower 35 percent). The lessons extracted from the Best-in-Class create evidence-based customer service best practices that provide prescriptive guidance.
It's a holistic framework to vision, guide and drive progress toward measurable targets. It brings structure, clarity and simplicity to performance improvements. It's also an evolutionary framework whereby each investment builds on the prior and contributes to the next. Otherwise, contact and call center improvements and investments are a series of one-off, disconnected fixes that are short lived and fail to create momentum.
The Value of a Customer Service Maturity Model
Only when customer support is in a constant state of improvement does the contact or call center deliver increasing value to agents, customers and the company.
Performance gains are seldom achieved and almost never sustained when tackled as individual or random pursuits. A better approach is to use the customer service maturity model as a diagnostic tool and roadmap. It surfaces strengths and weakness, shows where you are compared to your industry competitors, and confirms what steps are required to get to the next level.
It shows what capabilities are needed to achieve successive advancements, and what business outcomes are realized with each progression. Each successive maturity tier delivers improved cost efficiency, CSAT, CLV, customer retention and ROI. For example, the data shows a specific and significant increase in contact center ROI at each level.
There's an endless number of improvements that can be pursued. Knowing which are distractions and which are strategic and knowing the investment and payback of each can cut through the clutter and define a roadmap to meet targeted objectives and financial goals.
The Johnny Grow Contact and Call Center Maturity Model
We have built our contact and call center maturity model over many years. An illustrative diagram is shown below.
Here are some of the essential insights for each of the stages.
Organizations at this stage are characterized by their operating model, limited services, piecemeal technologies and difficulty to evolve. They operate as cost centers, so the top goal is cost containment. When company costs get tight or budgets are reduced, they incur a disproportionately higher hit. They operate as a departmental function and have little reach into the rest of the company.
Customer engagement is reactive, ad hoc and often referred to as a "call center plus one", meaning they support telephone and one additional channel, usually email. The bulk of their time is spent performing the basic case management process of receive, route, resolve and review.
A limited budget forces them to be efficient but prevents them from being effective. Case management fulfillment is semi-manual, and success is dependent upon the particular agent. Agent skills are low and turnover is high. Customer satisfaction is not formally measured and only improved upon when a problem escalates.
They are technology laggards. Agents must use multiple fragmented systems which increases manual entry and duplicate data. There is little business process automation and no data transformation process, so information reporting is limited to simple agent performance measures.
Improving customer support is a periodic idea but seldom executed. Because the call center delivers no differentiating value, company management believe improvements are costly and unimportant. This tier is behind their peer group in customer satisfaction and cost to serve.
Customers get a minimum support service and recognize the company deprioritizes customer support, so they diversify their business with other suppliers. They don't want to expand their business with a company that considers customer support unimportant.
With little to no focus on improvements this group is unintentionally hurting profits and holding back company growth. Sometimes, they are in a death stall and don't know it.
At this level the organization is performing at peer group levels, which means it delivers neither an advantage nor disadvantage. Efficient contact centers are characterized by their adoption of strategy, customer focus, expanded services and technology automation.
Most but not all at this level have advanced from cost centers to profit centers so there is less of a focus on cost minimalization and much more emphasis on investment maximization.
Efficient organizations lead with a customer strategy to achieve slated business outcomes. They have a customer focus, so those outcomes appeal to both customers and the company. They also recognize good agent experiences are needed to deliver good customer experiences, so they measure and continuously improve the agent experience.
They are also adept at technology automation. They have consolidated best of breed technologies and likely standardized on a technology platform such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 or Salesforce Service Cloud. Their CRM system automates most of the customer facing processes and delivers key metrics and information reporting.
On the downside, CRM is still limited to departmental performance measures and lacks a complete 360-degree customer view. Many times, the customer view is really about 120 degrees but agents and managers don't recognize what's missing. For example, their customer view includes firmographics and demographics but misses the most useful customer information such as transaction history, behaviors, purchase intent, customer insights or red flags such as customers at risk of churn.
They have implemented omnichannel customer support, but siloed communication channels make conversation fidelity difficult as customers transition from one channel to another.
Most importantly, they are no longer stagnate and periodically (although not continuously) implement performance improvements.
At this level the organization provides a performance advantage, but not differentiation. These groups are always profit centers and proficient at converting investments into company revenues and showing clear and increasing ROI.
They have evolved from a customer focus to customer-centricity, meaning they know customer goals and have defined processes to consistently meet those goals. They finally have a complete 360 customer view.
They have shifted from doing things right to doing the right things. The know efficiency and effectiveness are complimentary but distinct. Becoming highly efficient in low value or non-essential services does not improve customer value or performance. Making performance measures focused on efficiency without a focus on effectiveness (outcomes) is a losing proposition.
But when the two are pursued in parallel, time and activities are reallocated from low to high value actions. There is a clear recognition that if processes do not create value that customers care about or are willing to pay for, it may not matter how efficient they are.
The call center has evolved to a contact center and delivers services over multiple channels. They are omnichannel but usually lack case fidelity and consistent delivery across channels. Most processes are refined and optimized, but they never stop improving. Agents are empowered to make improvements and innovate services. However, the top source of improvements is customer feedback. They listen to customers and act on the input.
Based on our three decades of contact center consulting we've uncovered an interesting finding about this level. It's common that managers classify themselves in this tier while company executives and customers classify them in the prior (Efficient) tier.
Performance now delivers differentiation and competitive advantage.
The organization is characterized by its direct alignment with company priorities, growth culture, continuous process improvements, innovative services, customer advocacy, customer loyalty and increasing revenue contribution via influence in new customer acquisitions and the growth of existing customers. Their ability to not just predict, but prevent customer churn, results in the highest customer retention rates, furthering bolstering increased annual revenues to the company.
Customer service includes proactive customer support and delivers support in customer preferred channels and devices. The call center has fully evolved to a contact center and is proficient at delivering omnichannel service and proactively directing certain types of cases to select channels for both customer satisfaction and cost optimization.
Customer self-service channels offload most of the high volume, low complexity customer requests. This frees up agents to focus on complex challenges, customer relationships and innovative new services. Customer support is social, and uses social technologies (social support, social listening) to engage customers and improve customer relationships.
Customer support is also enterprise wide. Agents routinely enlist staff and experts in other departments to help with support requests. This integration also aids root cause analysis and fixing underlying problems at the source, thereby preventing recurrence before those problems affect many more customers.
At this level, the organization is a technology champion. Everything that is repeated is automated. Information reporting has advanced from historical to predictive. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is paired with agents to deliver next best actions and prescriptive advice. AI drives improvements to agent productivity and customer satisfaction.
Because todays differentiation becomes tomorrows table stakes, management embraces reinvention, promotes change agents and applies mature change management processes and programs. Change is driven by customer behaviors and key performance measures. These organizations are in a continuous pursuit of improvements that most matter, such as customer purchases, CSAT, CLV and retention.
Best-in-Class performance is never achieved with arbitrary pursuits. Its achievement is the result of a planned evolution and governance from company executive stakeholders, not just departmental leaders.
A Customer Service Capabilities Model
The above customer service maturity model shows the main characteristics among performance levels. However, it's a strategic view and we know when implementing improvements that clients benefit from a more detailed perspective. That's why we also created a Capabilities Model. This framework segments capabilities in the five essential areas that directly link to the most important business outcomes.
Next Step, Begin Your Journey
When pursuing improvements, some may start their journey at the beginning. Others midway. Regardless of where you start, you need a roadmap that defines the highest impact destination, the shortest route to get there and the best practices that can be replicated to reduce risk and accelerate time to value.
Frameworks such as the Johnny Grow Maturation Models identify a short list of capabilities that most influence, and many times springboard, advancement from one tier to the next.
You will better prioritize your limited budget and identify the highest impact opportunities with an assessment that considers each of the five most strategic impact areas.
Once you objectively assess your baseline performance and starting point, the model will help identify a few pathfinding projects that deliver quick results and create momentum. When early projects show a quantifiable ROI, skeptics will be relegated to the sidelines and the shift toward a journey will begin.
You don't need any type of scorecard as the only metrics that really matter are ROI and increased revenue. As long as each improvement increases the contact center budget ROI, and grows revenues to the company as measured via customer purchases, CSAT, CLV and retention, no artificial measurements are required.