Customers' Requirements for Customer Service

The Voice of the Customer on What and How to Deliver a Customer Service Experience

September 6, 2007

Through our work with customers, we’ve learned that customer service remains a critical factor for their satisfaction and loyalty. Cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customers service; support for common Customer Scenarios; finding answers quickly and easily; access to fresh/current information; using forums for “how to” information; escalating easily to assisted service; receiving notifications for key events; having a customer service Web place to go to; and being able to manage their account, product, and entitlement information are customers’ key customer service requirements. In this report, we describe how you can address those requirements to deliver an excellent customer service experience.


Over the past several months we've been involved in many customer-centered projects—consulting engagements, workshops, case studies, and research on products. We've spoken with dozens of your customers, many consumers, and many B2B accounts. They've told us that customer service remains a critical factor for their satisfaction and loyalty, and they've been quick to tell us how they want it delivered. Here's what we've heard.

Customers want:

  • Cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customers service
  • Support for their common Customer Scenarios
  • To find answers quickly and easily—anywhere
    - Search and navigation
    - Premium search
    - Flat navigation
    - Effective landing pages—hence I get there, I want to see what I want
    - Adapt to Customer Behavior
  • Fresh answers, fresh knowledge
  • Forums for "how to" information. "Your involvement is requested..."
  • Timely and Responsive Escalation
  • Notifications. "Let me know when..."
  • Portals—customers want a place to go to manage their account, product, and entitlement information

What we've learned is that current customer practices validate and refine the criteria in our evaluation framework for cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer service. You should continue to have confidence that you can use the framework to shorten the time and to reduce the risk in your customer service product selection process.

Now, let's take a closer look at how customers want you to deliver customer service.


Customers want cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer service. The Web is their preferred self-service channel. The contact center is their preferred assisted-service channel. On-site service is essential for business-critical problems. And peer-service via online forums plays an important role in learning about your products and services and in understanding how to use them. Customers expect you to deliver customer service to help them perform activities across all phases of the lifecycle of their relationships with you—from their first contact with you to learn about your products and services until their last contact to retire those products and services or, heaven forbid, begin to use products or services from your competitors.

Customers Want Excellent Self-Service

Customers most commonly begin using self-service to perform their tasks. They expect that they can complete their work quickly, efficiently, and effectively through your Web site. When they can't, they pick up the telephone. If they can't get the help they need via telephone, then they want to see you, either at their site or at yours.

Escalation from the Web to the contact center to on-site is expensive for your customers and expensive for you. So excellent self-service is the key to high customer satisfaction and low cost-to-serve.


Customers Scenarios are the sequences of activities that customers perform in order to accomplish the work that they want to or need to perform in doing business with you. Each customer service interaction is a piece of a larger Customer Scenario. Your customer service systems should support the types of interactions that make up your customers most common Customer Scenarios. Here are a few examples of customer service Customer Scenarios:

  • I want to figure out how to import my Microsoft Outlook folders, calendars, and emails to Apple Mail and iCal and get them working on my new Macbook.
  • I want to activate my new cell phone/camera/music player and use its latest features successfully.
  • I want to upgrade our maintenance contract for our HVAC system to get 24/7 telephone support and on-demand on-site support.


Fast and Easy

Customers think of customer service as your delivering answers to their questions. For self-service, first and foremost, customers want to find the answers to their questions quickly and easily. By quickly, they say, "I want to find the answer in five minutes or less." By easily, they say, "I want to find the answer in two or three clicks."

Search and Navigation

Customers want to search and navigate to the information that they need. It's a personal style thing. Some of them will look for your search box and start typing search queries before they even look at the rest of the content on your Web pages. Others, structured and analytic types like me, go right to the left side of your Web pages and start browsing through (what we hope is) your list of topics or categories.

Premium Search

Ideally, your customers want to be able to enter their questions as phrases or sentences in their own language and to let your search engine do the work to find the best answer. That work includes some or all of these tasks:

  • Parsing the search phrase for topics, action words, qualifiers, and stop words
  • Performing stemming analysis, looking for forms of topics
  • Performing synonym and antonym analysis
  • Matching the analyzed query against content in your search collections to produce a list of results
  • Filtering results by customer-specified qualifiers
  • Presenting results

Sue Aldrich, our expert on search and findability, calls search engines that have these capabilities "premium search" engines. She differentiates premium search engines from basic search engines that match keywords in customers'queries with keywords in the indexes of local repositories that contain the content of answers. You need a premium search engine to make it fast and easy for customers to ...


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