What the Romans tell us about proactive customer service
When the Roman Empire experienced its greatest expansion under Emperor Trajan, it did so not only because of its military strength. Nor only because of its diplomacy. A mixture of both approaches was the recipe for success. What can we learn from that?
Today, when it comes to conquering the hearts of our customers in customer service, we also have several options to get there. And who are we to ignore the lessons of the past? The question we often hear is: should I focus on equipping my customer service with more proactive capabilities or improve my reactive customer service? And true to Emperor Trajan, the answer is: why decide at all?
Savings vs. Efforts
A small calculation example in this regard: If an average-sized telco company (Average Handling Time = 900 seconds / customer service calls per week = 10.000) reduces their AHT by just 10%, they save 600.000€ per year. If it reduces AHT by 20%, it saves a total of 1.2 million - exactly twice as much. However, the effort required to achieve this increases exponentially. Why? First, AHT can never be reduced to zero. So logically, after each improvement, it becomes more difficult to reduce it even further. Second, there is not infinite potential for reducing AHT. While there are still many obvious possibilities in the first step, it becomes increasingly difficult to define appropriate measures after this initial potential has been leveraged. As in the forges of Rome, for every degree the blacksmith wants to heat the iron more, one must expend twice as much energy.
Comparing that to a proactive approach, the same telco would have to proactively prevent around 60,000 calls per year to achieve similar savings (600k). And, as in the example above, you could of course prevent 120,000 calls to save twice that amount. But again, for every additional call prevented, the effort increases. For each additional initiative, there is less potential that is easy to leverage.
Combining proactivity and reactivity makes improving easier
What’s the point here? Improving an AHT by 10% is easy. Improving it by 20% is more difficult. Preventing 60.000 calls per year is easy. However, preventing 120.000 calls per year is a lot harder. The real power lies in combining the two approaches - as on both paths there is still plenty of potential that is easy to leverage. If we do that, easy-to-achieve goals meet maximum outcome. We don't risk the expense exceeding our savings.
Conclusion: don't choose, stay practical
The conclusion to draw is: Focus on exhausting obvious potential on both these sides, stop chasing buzzwords and instead look at practicability. Or as Emperor Trajan would put it: "Options are dangerous, because they seem to force a decision when instead all they offer is freedom. I prefer freedom over choice.“