Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement

In a perfect world, there would be a single metric that would measure the success of online customer service. Instead, eBusiness leaders must sift through huge amounts of data to get the right information to the right people at the right time.

There are metrics that will provide insight into customer satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, and — in some industries — compliance. At the same time, managing cost is an important goal to eBusiness leaders: In Forrester’s November 2010 Global eBusiness And Channel Strategy Professional Online Survey, 54% say that a reduction in the cost to serve customers is an important or extremely important goal to the success of their web channel.

Kate Leggett recently published a document called “How To Implement Effective Customer Service Metrics” that defines nearly 30 operational metrics for tracking contact center and self-service customer service activities and describes how to link these metrics to business KPIs to focus on the ones that will move the needle.

Getting to the right customer service metric means identifying why it is needed and by whom, understanding the differences between efficiency and effectiveness metrics, and recognizing where metrics are connected. If this is a challenge in your eBusiness organization, I encourage you to read “Meeting The eBusiness Challenge Of Online Customer Service Measurement.”

What Is The Contact Center Cost Of Login Issues?

The cost of login issues can be staggering.

According to research released by Janrain, a vendor providing user management solutions for the social Web, 45% of US adults admit to leaving a website instead of resetting their passwords or answering security questions when they have forgotten their passwords.

Failed logins also can have a huge impact on contact center costs. I’ve spoken with eBusiness executives who have told me that login issues represent as much as 50% of their contact center volume.

I’m working on a project and trying to get some deeper knowledge into the impact customers or clients telephoning due to login difficulties (i.e., lost password, user name, etc.) have on contact center costs.

And I’m hoping you might be able to help me.

I’d be grateful for insight into:

  • The number of telephone calls your call center receives (weekly, monthly, annually, or whatever time frame you break it into).
  • The percentage of contacts to your call center that are due to log-in difficulties.
  • The cost per contact for login difficulties.
  • Alternatively, perhaps you could provide the annual cost -- or approximate cost -- of assisting clients or customers who are having trouble logging in.
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eBusiness Customer Service Conversations From The CXP Forum

This year’s Forrester CXP Forum was two days filled with provocative speakers, interesting conversations, tough questions, and inspiring ideas.

I enjoyed spending most of the two days doing analyst One-on-One sessions. For those of you who haven’t attended a Forrester forum, forum participants sign up to speak with analysts to discuss topics of their choice in 20-minute sessions. From an analyst perspective, these conversations can be rich with insight into today’s business challenges and opportunities. Here are some of the common themes that emerged in my conversations with eBusiness leaders about online customer service:

  • Shifting CSRs from the phone to chat. I had many conversations with forum attendees who share a common question: The percentage of customer contacts going to chat is growing, so should they shift customer service reps from the phone to chat? Many companies have done this successfully. The challenge is that there are different skills required by chat compared with the phone. Chat reps will need typing speed and impeccable grammar. These are skills that can be tested. They will also need to be comfortable with chat. I’ve spoken with customer care people who said they found the transition to be challenging because they were not accustomed to an interaction that resulted in customers having an instant transcript. eBusiness leaders should also consider guidance around tone and engagement as part of their chat training program.
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What Are The Key Attributes Of An Agile Customer Service Organization?

As Brian Walker discusses in “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce,” traditional ways of describing multichannel commerce no longer work because customers don't interact with companies from a "channel" perspective. As a result, eBusiness professionals must transform how they market, transact, serve, and organize around changing customer experiences.

This has a significant impact on customer service. Agile customer service means providing a consistent and channel-agnostic customer experience across all touchpoints. Let’s think about this from a customer’s perspective: An agile customer service experience means customers can interact with whatever touchpoints they choose -- website, mobile app, kiosk, telephone, IVR -- and all along the way, your organization has identified who they are, knows what their last interaction with you entailed, anticipates what help they might need, and can meaningfully recommend products or services that might enhance their experience.

I am writing a document to explore the attributes of an agile customer service organization and have been speaking with many eBusiness leaders.

The general consensus in the conversations I’ve had to date is that the objective is fairly clear but the path to get there is ambiguous.

At the same time, there is a sense of urgency because consumers are pushing us into technologies to deliver the experience they desire; customers are adopting social media, mobile devices, tablets, and other technologies, and they have increasingly high expectations about how these will help improve or simplify their lives.

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Understanding How To Deploy Chat Internationally Offers Insight About Multi-Language Considerations At Home

Many eBusiness professionals -- inspired by the business results they have seen at home with chat including call deflection, increased conversion, and enhanced customer satisfaction -- are expanding chat into their international Web sites.

While the elements of a successful chat transcend borders, the components to a successful international deployment can be complex. eBusiness professionals must consider their international markets, their international readiness, and what localization will be required to be successful. To assist in meeting these challenges, we published a document today called, "Taking Chat International: Paving The Way To Success Through Effective Localization."

One of the more complex challenges is managing translation. Some of the key questions include:

  • Should you hire native speakers or translate during chat sessions? Hiring native speakers is ideal, but not always practical. Alternatives include training chat reps to identify variations in spelling, grammar or vocabulary between different audiences or using translation technology.
  • What will be needed from technology to support multi-language agents? Key considerations include what it will mean to business processes when an agent supports chat sessions coming in from different languages, the impact if agents will need to search for answers in one language and push answers to consumers in another, and the impact of multiple languages on your maintaining an accurate knowledge base.
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Using Net Promoter Scores To Inform Customer Service Strategy

The pro of Net Promoter Score (NPS) is that it is simple. The con is it’s too simple. But is that too simple a con?

For those of you not familiar with NPS, it is a feedback measurement that examines how customers view your company. Most commonly, NPS asks: "How likely is it that you would recommend [organization X] to a friend or colleague?" Respondents are asked to answer this question on scale from 0 (not at all likely) to 10 (extremely likely). Customers are classified as either promoters (answered 9 or 10), passives (answered 7 or 8), or detractors (answered 6 or less). The NPS is calculated by subtracting the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters.

Suhail Khan, vice president and head of customer experience at Philips, has written a Harvard Business Review blog post outlining how Philips uses Net Promoter Scores to understand customers. It began using Net Promoter Scores during an initial pilot in late 2006 and has since embraced the tool to try to become an "outside-in, customer-focused organization." One of the points Mr. Khan makes is how NPS impacts Philips’ customer service strategy, including driving the decision to extend the company’s customer care center to weekends. 

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Reinforcing Your Brand Through Chat

I recently had a chat interaction with a financial services company that ended with the rep signing off with a smiley face emoticon. For a split second, I wondered if the person helping me sort through my financial accounts  dotted her "i"s with a happy face and had a favorite Jonas brother.

The chat session was helpful and I’m sure the happy face emoticon was a well-intentioned sign-off, but the interaction reminded me that an obvious brand inconsistency may not be obvious to everyone who represents your brand.

Communicating via chat is very different from the telephone. There is no customer voice tone to gauge mood. It’s more difficult to inject humor or small talk. The channel lends itself to informality that may not be appropriate.

The right brand voice is not always self-evident. Best-in-class companies train their chat agents to connect with customers with the right tone for the brand. I spoke recently with a financial services client who described that a key part of chat rep training is to help reps detect and match the level of formality in their customers’ tones. Similarly, Virgin Media provides training to its reps on the how to inject elements of the casual fun that are part of Virgin Media’s cheeky brand voice.

Reinforcing your brand through chat doesn’t just happen. But it can happen when finding your brand voice is a part of chat agent training.

Two Simple Call Deflection Tactics

Call deflection is among the most frequent conversations I have with clients. As I’ve said many times, call deflection is not call avoidance. Rather than ducking customers' inquiries, successful call deflection will save potentially millions of dollars in contact center costs and boost satisfaction among consumers who prefer to be self-reliant.

I’ve recently come across two examples of simple and effective call deflection tactics that I wanted to share.

Guide customers to the channel you’d like them to select. Overstock does this extremely well. Here is a screen shot from Overstock’s Contact Customer Care page. The online retailer offers chat, email and telephone care. Chat is offered first in the list. Consumers are enticed by benefits of Overstock's “fast and friendly” chat — it is “the most popular option and the quickest way to get service.” Further, Overstock provides the wait time for chat — in this case, less than five seconds — delivering on the promise of fast. With this information, consumers will not feel herded: They will feel guided.

Put self-service content on your Contact Us page. Some customers will skip self-service and go directly to Contact Us. Consider putting self-service options in their path. eBay does this effectively. While consumers can easily click through to contact the company, there is a variety of self-service options available for those consumers who — when it’s put in their path — may find what they want in self-service and no longer require live assistance.

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Agile Commerce Heralds Agile Customer Service

In a newly published report called “Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce,” my colleague Brian Walker asserts that multichannel is dead and we are shifting into a metamorphosis called agile commerce. Forrester defines agile commerce as:

An approach to commerce that enables businesses to optimize their people, processes, and technology to serve customers across all touchpoints.”

Brian writes, “Today's multichannel organizational approaches do not reflect the new reality of engaging and serving the customer across touchpoints — from online search to affiliates to marketplaces to branches and stores to websites to mobile sites to call centers to Facebook.”

Agile customer service is the only way forward in a world of agile commerce.

Agile customer service requires fundamentally re-evaluating how customers are engaged and assisted across a growing number of touchpoints. Customers don’t consider the technical or operational complexity behind resolving their issues. They simply want to contact you on the device of their choice and get what they want when they want it. And they expect you to know who they are at every point along the way. To do this successfully, eBusiness & Channel Strategy professionals must evaluate challenging questions about key business areas including:

  • Organization and operation: Has a sales versus support structure created silos that your customers cannot break through? Do your success metrics drive behavior that compromises a positive customer experience? Have you empowered your employees to provide exceptional service?
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Reinventing Contact Center Culture To Improve The Chat Experience

I once was told by a chat representative that “I've spent years having people yelling at me — chat is a nice change."

I’m often amazed at how elegantly contact center representatives can diffuse frustrated or angry customers, and I am not surprised that many of these employees reach a tipping point. But chat should not be the resting place for telephone-weary service representatives.

A contact center that provides an excellent customer experience is not created by accident. Kerry Bodine has recently published a document that discusses how call center culture can create an amazing customer experience, including abandoning metrics that encourage bad behavior by ditching those that don’t have a material influence on customer experience such as relieving agents from handle-time targets that focus on efficiency at the expense of customer experience.

This research is highly applicable to eBusiness professionals who offer live help via chat and manage contact centers directly or indirectly. It is tempting to get distracted by the online experience of chat and overlook the efforts that will improve the experience between an agent and a customer. Chat has the potential to be a meaningful customer experience. For insight into how this can be achieved, I encourage you to read “Elevate Chat From OK To Outstanding By Reinventing The Contact Center Culture.”