Customer issue taxonomy

Documenting your top customer issues to optimize the process of handling customer complaints

1 Overview

A taxonomy is a structure for classifying items into distinct groups, making them easier to identify and study. An issue taxonomy is a structured and systematic approach for labeling and categorizing all customer issues.

A well defined customer issue taxonomy is critical to support the launch and continued optimization of your customer care operations. It provides a reliable, easy to navigate and detailed set of data. This enables many further activities, analyses and tasks.

Issue taxonomy and workflow processes complement one another, helping agents perform three key tasks:

  1. Identification – What is the root cause of the issue? Have we seen and solved this problem before?

  2. Discovery – What is related to this issue or problem? Who is working on it?

  3. Delivery – Where do I find the solution? How do I deliver it?

Key considerations:

  • Invest sufficient time and effort to ensure your customer issue taxonomy is:

    • Comprehensive and covers all issues, with no gaps remaining

    • Easy to use and accurate, with the right level of detail and no overlaps across issue descriptions

  • Design the customer issue taxonomy based on the root cause of issues, rather than their symptoms, to deliver actionable insights to improve customer experience

  • A well documented customer issue taxonomy can help to:

    • Quantify the number of specific issues and categories of issues

    • Ensure the voice of the customer is used to identify top pain points and improvements to your business

    • Track and analyse trends in customer contacts

    • Forecast customer contact volumes

    • Enable and optimize automated processes

Time and resources:

  • Creating your initial customer issue taxonomy can take several weeks
  • Your customer issue taxonomy will continue to evolve along with your business
  • Consider using an internal process expert to map out your initial customer issue taxonomy
  • Identify knowledge management specialists to maintain your customer issue taxonomy on an ongoing basis
  • A business analyst may prove useful for aligning your issue taxonomy with other internal initiatives and for using the voice of the customer to drive improvements within your business

Example customer issue taxonomy:

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4
Order Management Questions/Problems with placing an order Purchasing FAQs Accepted payment methods
Purchasing from unsupported country
unable to split order
Problems placing an order Known purchasing issues
Gift card issues
Payment screen not loading
Order status and delivery enquiries Order status Clarify and confirm order status
Order cancelled due to payment issues
Order cancelled due to undeliverable address
Order status stuck in pending
Change order or delivery information
Lost or stolen order

2 Step by step

The exact process required to set up and maintain a customer issue taxonomy will vary across businesses. Several factors that will impact the complexity of this task include geographic coverage, workflow management system and the range of products / services.

Review and adapt existing customer issue taxonomies (if applicable)

It is important to maintain lean and standardized customer issue taxonomies across your organization. This helps to ensure data integrity, minimizes the risk of cases being incorrectly classified, and enables comparisons across different business units. Identify any existing issue taxonomy and use this as a starting point.

Map anticipated issues to the customer issue taxonomy

Ensure you map the root cause of the issue (e.g. device compatibility) rather than the symptoms (e.g. a function of your application does not work) to ensure that the data you collect is actionable.

  1. Sort through past interactions with customers and categorize each customer issue against the issue taxonomy

  2. Compile a list of anticipated issues, including those that have not arisen in the past, and categorize each against the customer issue taxonomy

  3. Create a list of any gaps, where you are unable to map a past or anticipated issue to the customer issue taxonomy

Add new branches and issue tags to the customer issue taxonomy as required

  1. Review the gaps you identified in the previous step. Create new branches or issue tags in the customer issue taxonomy as necessary

  2. Remember that items in the taxonomy should not overlap and should attempt to capture all possible issues encountered by your customers. Ideally, the contents of your taxonomy should be MECE (Mutually Exclusive, Collectively Exhaustive)

  3. Review new additions to your customer issue taxonomy to ensure a consistent naming convention has been followed

Upload your customer issue taxonomy to your workflow management system, train your agents and launch reporting dashboards

Ensure data integrity by training your agents on categorizing customer contacts. Implement a quality assurance process to confirm the correct application of your issue taxonomy.

  1. Work with the administrator of your workflow management system to incorporate your customer issue taxonomy

  2. Train agents to use the customer issue taxonomy to categorize tickets in the workflow management system

  3. Partner with your quality assurance team to ensure your issue taxonomy is applied correctly to classify customer contacts

  4. Work with a business analyst to launch reporting dashboards. For example, the top drivers of customer contact based on your defined issue taxonomy

Ongoing maintenance and updates to your issue taxonomy

Your issue taxonomy is a dynamic resource that needs to be updated and maintained on a regular basis.

  1. Ensure you have a feedback mechanism in place for agents to suggest new additions or alterations to your issue taxonomy

  2. Ensure feedback from agents is monitored and implemented frequently