Recently I posted on how we define escalation, and the confusion it can cause based on context of use. Deflection is another word that persists across the support and service industry that does not serve us well. I only hear “deflection” used in the context of “how do we stop service requests from reaching our people,” and it is almost always used when talking about answering questions through self-service channels.
When we talk about deflecting cases, we are reinforcing the idea that we want to avoid our customers in order to save money. We are directly undermining the core principle that service and support organizations exist to help our customers be successful. Deflection is sometimes used as an “easy” (I would argue “lazy”) approach to cost-cutting. For example, to gain funding to launch a self-service portal, it is tempting to show executives that the up-front funding will be recovered by “deflecting” cases. But over time, baselines for funding change as the self-service channel becomes operationalized. When this occurs, departments again need to defend the budget for the cases still coming in to the support center.
Self-service portals, chatbots, live chat apps, communities, and/or live phones are all part of a robust customer engagement strategy. No matter how good you get at answering known issues through self-service mechanisms, there will still be new issues to respond to in the support center. Building a sustainable strategy around connecting people to content for known issues, and people to people for new issues – preferably in the channel best suited for the engagement – is a key initiative for forward-thinking service and support executives.
As we engage customers more and more in different channels, we need to diversify how we look at the funding model to capture the costs and return for each interaction. Changing the conversation to focus on a comprehensive look at customer engagement – not simply case deflection – is a shift that can change perception at all levels of an organization.
See Greg Oxton’s post Vocabulary is Important for more thoughts on common but ultimately unhelpful language.