What is customer service management (CSM)?

Customer service management is the orchestration of tasks between customers, customer service, and other teams to quickly resolve issues and requests.

More specifically, CSM refers to the orchestration of activities between customers, customer service, middle-office staff, operations teams, back-office departments, and IT groups to rapidly and fully resolve customers' common and complex problems and requests.

It’s no secret that customers are essential to the success of business. What may be less obvious is how businesses can effectively inspire loyalty in their customers. In a recent survey of 18,520 customers from more than 20 different countries, it was discovered that, next to product quality and value, high-quality service is the most important factor in ensuring that customers become dedicated brand evangelists (source: KPMG). At the same time, 73% of consumers are likely to switch brands after having a negative customer experience (source: The Northridge Group). But how can businesses help ensure that their customers are happy, and that their needs are being met?

One vital aspect is ease of communication. Customers want a holistically positive experience from a company—this means reliable service across the channels that they choose to interact with. They want to work with agents who are knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly, regardless of whether those interactions occur via chat, telephone, text, email, etc.

Companies should provide self-service options for customers to find answers and receive assistance without interacting with an agent or outside of business hours.

Most importantly, customers want their requests to be resolved as quickly as possible and with minimal effort on their part. This means that a company should set realistic expectations and be transparent about the time to resolution. An organization requires more than just agents in contact centers to fulfill these requests. It often means that people outside of contact centers need to be involved. This is where customer service management comes in.

At first glance, customer service management (CSM) and customer relationship management (CRM) may seem like the same thing. But the truth is that CSM goes beyond CRM. CRM is designed to generate sales, and may be an effective solution for managing sales and marketing efforts. But CRM is a reactive approach to customer service—it tracks cases and helps manage relevant customer information, but struggles to provide a complete, end-to-end solution to customer problems. While CRM is typically effective at engaging customers across multiple channels, it has limitations once teams outside of customer service get involved in issue resolution. CSM lifts these limitations.

One example of CSM going beyond CRM functionality is in providing a service catalog. Customers are able to quickly request the products or services that they would like. The catalog is linked to digital workflows that automate the request and greatly reduce the need for human touchpoints, and can be used to initiate fully-automated processes, such as resetting a customer's password, changing products or services, or requesting a copy of a statement by mail. A reliable service catalog also provides agents with predefined options for making requests on behalf of customers. The requests kick-off service processes, which can include internal teams outside the contact center.

Perhaps the greatest advantage of CSM’s service catalog is its ability to improve customer engagement. While some CRM products are capable of offering forms of customer self-service, providing an integrated desktop for agents, guiding agents along solutions, etc., they don't solve the challenge of when the customer's need requires help from parts of the organization outside customer service. The service catalog assists customers in making these requests without having to interact with an agent, while also allowing agents to initiate requests on behalf of customers.

Customers expect a seamless journey from engagement to delivery, and they want their requests or issues to be resolved within a timeframe that they consider acceptable. CSM makes this possible by uniting every relevant team so that problems can be quickly identified and solutions implemented, looping in outside departments when necessary.

It is important to streamline customer operations by breaking down silos and automating processes across frontline, middle, back office, and field teams, to create a better customer experience. By empowering customers with personalized, automation-enhanced self-service options, organizations can provide a consistent experience across every interaction. For those customers who require or prefer live assistance, agents can be available to help provide an experience that accurately anticipates customer needs, while also reducing customer effort.

CSM systems allow you to create workflows that route tasks directly to middle office, back office, or field teams, bypassing the contact center when necessary, to increase efficiency.

With a service management approach, customer service is connected to support operations on a single platform, giving them visibility into the health and operational status of customer-facing digital and connected products and services. This enables faster issue resolution and more proactive customer service. You’ll also be able to preemptively address customer issues while building trust and fostering loyalty; easily reach out to customers when issues arise, let them know that it is being addressed, and provide an estimated time to remediation.

CSM solutions empower you to manage customer projects effectively, including customer and product onboarding, and more complex, longer-running projects with multiple tasks. At the same time, CSM allows organizations to scale customer operations, handling more issues, cases, and support tasks, without demanding more resources.

CSM systems give you end to end case resolution data on a single platform. With this data, in-platform analytics helps companies identify opportunities to increase efficiency and automation by analyzing current and past performance. This data also helps you identify bottlenecks and optimize processes, reducing overall resolution time.

While CSM has nearly limitless applications, it can be helpful to consider a common example of CSM in action. Imagine that a client has lost a credit card. By automatically starting a workflow to gather vital information, routing the case to the proper department, and assigning it to an authorized agent, businesses create a set of steps to provide a seamless and positive resolution.

  • Initiate a case: There’s a chance that a customer will report a missing or stolen card, or the fraud department will identify a suspicious transaction, which initiates a case. The case then tracks all customer interactions and details of the actions taken from beginning to end.
  • Automatically freeze accounts: Usually one of the first steps is to freeze all accounts and lock any other cards that are related in order to contain the damage.
  • Verify customer, card, and transactions: If there are transactions that are suspicious, the case may initiate another workflow with tasks for the fraud or disputes departments to complete. Ideally, all handoffs are seamless while status is tracked on each task.
  • Triage and resolve: Continuously monitor tasks as the case progresses. To speed resolution, notify responsible parties if there are open items to be completed or actions to be taken.
  • Close the case: Communicate with the customer to tell them that the issue has been resolved, send a satisfaction survey, and add the account to a watch list to monitor for further compromises.
  • Provide an audit trail: Pull together any and all relevant data and timelines. This allows for easy reporting and auditing.

Frontline questions

  • Do you need to increase first contact resolution?
  • Can you handle unexpected spikes in contact center volume?
  • Is it easy for customers to complete requests or find the answers they are looking for on their own?
  • Can you route customer requests to the right staff with the appropriate skills and capacity?
  • Do you provide your agents with a workspace where they can resolve a customer issue automatically?
  • Can you guide agents through process steps specific to the type of case?
  • Do you need to reduce omnichannel complexity and cost?
  • Do you have real-time visibility into your service delivery metrics and SLAs?
  • Can you automate common customer requests to relieve agents and other staff of tedious manual tasks?

Middle and back-office questions

  • Can you easily resolve complex issues requiring cross-organizational input, such as from your middle and back-office teams?
  • Can everyone across the organization see task assignments and their statuses for a case?
  • Can you monitor the health of customers’ products and services to identify potential issues?
  • Can you easily visualize end-to-end case resolution processes to pinpoint bottlenecks and inefficiencies?
  • Are you prepared for a hybrid workplace with employees in your contact centers and from other parts of the business working remotely, either full-time or part-time?

ServiceNow delivers powerful customer service solutions for businesses of all sizes. Improve service operations and engage customers with digital workflows. Solve customer problems by bringing front, middle, and back offices together. Proactively address issues and automate common requests. Scale to meet growing customer needs. Above all, improve the customer experience, and connect and optimize teams with intelligent automation solutions.

Go beyond standard customer service; ServiceNow Customer Service Management creates a fully unified system for providing exceptional, seamless service, across your entire organization.

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