Moving from Contact Centers to Customer Engagement Centers

Using personas to understand Service Cloud users

Customer service can make or break a company’s customer experience. In fact, according to Gartner, 75% of a company’s touch points with their customers are customer service interactions. The service industry is changing and to stay competitive, companies must change the way they do business. They can no longer view their contact centers as a necessary evil of doing business. They must embrace their customers and transform from being simply contact centers to customer engagement centers.

The Salesforce Service UX team is helping our customers build the bridge between what is and what can be by better understanding our end users and their needs. Here’s a peek into the Service Cloud User Personas and what they teach us about the future of the Service Industry.

The Changing Service Industry

Old skool companies view their contact centers as cost centers. We all have horror stories of trying to get help from a company we bought a product or service from only to be left on hold for hours, transferred from one department to the next, repeatedly asked the same questions for no apparent reason, and/or to receive some template response that provides no help whatsoever.

Those companies see questions and issues from their customers (i.e., cases) as a necessary evil of doing business. Rather than seeing these engagement opportunities as moments to enhance their brand and empower their customers, they motivate their employees (i.e., agents) to get the customers off the phone as quickly as possible.

Additionally, high agent turnover (30–45% annually) means that the person helping you is likely new and/or disgruntled. It’s no wonder that 34% of millennials would rather have their teeth cleaned than call customer service!

Cartoon by Liz Fosslien

Companies must change the way they support their customers to stay relevant and competitive. They will need to empower customers to solve problems themselves, embrace social customer support, develop their agents to provide more personalized support to solve increasingly difficult problems, and invest in their technical infrastructure to create 360 degree views of the customers to provide insights faster. So, how prepared are Salesforce Service Cloud users for this new world?

Getting to know our Service Cloud users

The Salesforce User Research team is focused on creating data-driven insights to inform the design of our products, as well as provide best practice to our customers implementing our services. One way we do that is through the creation of user personas based on quantitative and qualitative research for each of our clouds. To learn more about the Salesforce personas and how we created them, read Alyssa Vincent-Hill’s post and check out our UX Personas for Salesforce Trailhead.

Alyssa and I kicked off the Service Cloud User Persona effort with a survey of over 55,000 Service end users in May 2016. Alyssa ran a factor analysis on the reported behavior data from our survey to understand which service tasks tend to occur together. This analysis revealed four core end user personas.

Four core Service Cloud end user personas

Case Solvers: The unsung heroes in contact centers

Our largest user type, Case Solvers spend their time providing direct customer support. In the survey as well as in field studies, we found that many Case Solvers have been in the customer service industry since their first job (42% have over 10 years of experience). They love helping people and solving problems and most are well-educated. For them, this is a career. The reasons for the high turnover rate are varied, including lack of a living wage and benefits, unsupportive/punitive supervisors, and lack of career opportunities. Companies can reduce their turnover rate and turnover costs by moving from hiring temporary to full-time employees, paying a living wage, and paying for a portion of benefits.

Expert Agents: They solve the toughest cases

As customer service agents progress, they develop specialized knowledge to solve the toughest or escalated cases. In addition to helping customers, they are helping agents by documenting knowledge in articles. Interestingly, Expert Agents have significantly less experience in the customer service industry than Case solvers; however, more Expert Agents have a graduate degree or some graduate school education.

Team Leaders: Their focus is on the agents

Team Leaders are motivated to coach and develop their employees. Significant time is spent evaluating their agents’ work, looking at performance metrics, and giving feedback. This is typically a lengthy, manual, and subjective process, making this one of the greatest pain points Team Leaders face. However, Team Leaders that focus on coaching and development rather than discipline and enforcement, see higher retention rates.

Service Admins: They build the tools that empower everyone

Many Service Admins are self-taught, growing their skills as their organization grows. The success of Case Solvers, Expert Agents, and Team Leaders depends on the tools the Admins build and manage. Over half of the Service Admins we surveyed modify their company’s Salesforce instance at least weekly. Although many Service Admins are skilled, they can always benefit from additional training and best practices to increase their efficiency and effectiveness but they rarely have the time.

Why these personas matter

Based on the user personas, we can see that many customer support agents (Case Solvers and Expert Agents) are well-educated and dedicated to providing customer support as a career. If companies invest in their agents, they can keep their agents motivated while reducing turnover rate and costs.

When Service Cloud Team Leaders focus their time on developing the people they supervise, it can result in lower agent turnover and higher satisfaction. We see from our survey and field visits that Team Leaders are dealing with manual processes to gather feedback and provide coaching. Providing more automated tools can greatly enable these users.

Finally, we see that Service Admins enable the success of all other Service Cloud users and that their skills are in high demand. By investing in additional training and tools that support Admin efficiency and productivity, everyone benefits.

How we use our personas internally

Many people in the tech industry are familiar with personas and may have used them at some point so they come with certain expectations about what personas look like. You will notice from the images above that the Salesforce User Research team does not use stock photos, names, genders, or age ranges in our persona cards, presentations, or posters. We believe that providing such details ignores the diversity of our user base.

For example, Case Solvers at a consumer entertainment company tend to be different demographically from Case Solvers at a medical device company. Selecting one photo, name, age range, gender, etc. to represent all Case Solvers ignores this diversity. Instead, we combine our quantitative data with photos and videos of several actual end users for each persona. This provides the richness to engage with the personas at a human level without oversimplifying who our users really are. During design sessions or product reviews, we can refer to the cards above for quick statistics about who we are designing for, refer to our more detailed persona decks, and/or review videos of real users, depending on our needs.

We combine our quantitative data with photos and videos of several actual end users for each persona. This provides the richness to engage with the personas at a human level without oversimplifying who our users really are.

What we learned

We presented these personas at Dreamforce and were overwhelmed by the response from our customers! Customers that hire vendors for their Case Solvers acknowledged that they have less insight into those individuals since they are not actual employees of the company. They wondered about the exact causes of turnover in their contact centers, whether their Team Leaders are struggling with highly manual and subjective processes of quality assurance, and if their Service Admins have enough time for ongoing education.

All of the customers we spoke to want to map our personas to their companies so they can see how their end users compare to the personas across Service Cloud. This brief exposure opened their eyes to a new tool that can help them understand their own employees better and to how that understanding can result in better customer experience!

What have you learned?

We’d love to hear from you! What have you learned? Do you use personas as a tool to communicate with your customers or users? Let us know in the comments below.

This post was written in collaboration with Alyssa Vincent-Hill and Emily Paul. Thank you Raymon Sutedjo-The and Ian Schoen for all of your feedback!

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Kathy Baxter

Kathy Baxter

Architect, Ethical AI Practice at Salesforce. Coauthor of "Understanding Your Users," 2nd ed.