One of the pillars of crafting an “ideal customer service experience” is to offer a consistent service experience across the communication channels that you support. So what does this mean for the service manager who needs to think about this problem from a pragmatic perspective? It means that:
Service agents must have access to the customer history across all interaction channels for a full view of the customer.
Service agents must use the same processes and have access to the same knowledge so that the service resolution process is the same regardless of channel.
We’ve all heard about ideal customer service — the mantra of customer service vendors as they tout their wares. But what does this actually mean? Service at all costs (ideal for the customer)? Service at minimal cost (ideal for the business)? Or does “ideal” to a customer service manager mean the ability to deliver “good enough customer service” — where the cost of doing service is balanced with the ability to satisfy and retain a customer? Or is it something else — like providing a customer service experience that parallels a company’s business model?
Think about Saks Fifth Avenue — High-style, high-cost apparel. You would expect their customer service to be in line with their business model: Customer service on the customer’s terms — where you can arrange a phone call with a shopping consultant. You can talk with them now or later, at your convenience. You can email them and they will get back to you very quickly, or you can chat with them at any time of day or night.
Now think about IKEA — the provider of “affordable solutions for better living.” You shop at IKEA because you are comfortable with serving yourself — from pulling furniture off shelves to self-checkout to assembling them yourself. And, IKEA’s service mirrors their brand. They have exhaustive web self service in a multitude of languages, a chat bot, some email support and limited phone support. You are not disappointed with their lack of white-glove service because you would never expect it from IKEA — it is not their business model.
One of the things that continues to surprise me about many banks’ multi-channel strategies is how little most banks have integrated their ATMs into those strategies. Cash machines are by far the most commonly used banking channel. According to Forrester’s Consumer Technographics data, 74% of adults in Western Europe use a cash machine at least once a month, far more than use either branches or online banking that often.
Despite the introduction of Windows-based operating systems and colour screens, most banks aren’t doing much to engage customers on this most-frequent touchpoint. Most do little more than promote the product of the month to all comers. Only a few leaders, like Singapore’s OCBC Bank and Spain’s La Caixa, have integrated ATMs into their CRM systems, which lets them do clever things like remembering customer’s normal withdrawal amount, wishing customers a happy birthday and making products offer that are relevant to that particular customer.
Hello customer service world – I’ve just joined at Forrester Research, responsible for customer service and call center business processes. I’ll be watching the customer service vendors – both the traditional multichannel ones as well as the new social/community ones. I’ll be working with clients to justify new customer service projects and to recommend best practice adoption as well as sharing my thoughts and opinions of the impact of the customer service experience on your brand.
Even though I am new to Forrester, I am not new to customer service, having spent years at KANA and as a regular contributor to the CRM magazine and blog-sphere.
One topic that has interested me is how the customer service manager must balance the needs of his ever-evolving customer with the economic constraints imposed on him by the business. Customers today demand instant service on-the-go, and are quick to voice their displeasure when service doesn’t meet their expectations. And in this world of social media, this displeasure is easily amplified, which can negatively impact your business.
So what are the tools and business processes that a service manager must embrace to be successful? New knowledge tools? New delivery channels for the mobile customer or the impatient one? More process in the front office to help standardize the experience? A better cross-channel customer experience? More sophisticated analytics to microtarget your customer?
I know there are a lot more answers to this question. I hope you will start reading my blog, offer your suggestions and feedback, and pass on a good word if you like what you see. I look forward to your insights.
As a consequence of the ever-rising popularity of CRM solutions deployed through the software-as-service model (SaaS), I get a lot of inquiries about pricing and contracting with vendors like Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online, NetSuite, RightNow Technologies, and salesforce.com. Sage CRM products (Sage CRM and Sage SalesLogix) are now offered through “the cloud”, and specialty CRM players in the life sciences sector, such as Cegedim Dendrite, StayinFront, and Veeva Systems, also offer this deployment option.
The individuals responsible for choosing to deploy a CRM SaaS solution are often business users, not IT people or solutions sourcing professionals — the director of sales and marketing, vice president of sales, and director of customer service, for example. These business executives are often unfamiliar with the more technical and commercial aspects involved in choosing a SaaS application. Obviously getting a good price is important, but there are additional considerations to keep in mind. Here are some guidelines to help you to negotiate a sound agreement:
Strive for a price lock-in at renewal time. Firms are often able to negotiate substantial discounts when signing initial contracts with SaaS vendors. But these companies don't always consider what happens at the end of the initial contract term. A discount of more than 50% might be offered, but once the contract is up for renewal, you may be in for a surprise if the discount is no longer available. Make sure to have renewal pricing rules stipulated in your contract.
Recently on a cross-country flight, I was just waking up when the flight attendant asked me what I wanted for lunch. She was a little annoyed because I kept her waiting while I looked through the magazine for food choices, and gummed up the whole works. And who could blame her for being annoyed? She had a whole bunch of people to get serve. I made a hasty selection and mistakenly picked the healthy snack box (organic pumpkinflas granola and apple slices instead of pepperoni and a chocolate chip cookie).
About an hour later, I had some serious hunger pains and would have killed for one of those old-school gummy chicken casserole airline dinners.
What would have solved this? A proper online engagement architecture, naturally. I usually print my boarding passes out ahead of time. So why doesn’t an airline print out the food choices under the boarding pass, or distribute via mobile devices as people increasingly use them for check-in? The airlines could provide other information, too, like how full the flight is, and whether NBC in the Sky will show something good like “The Office” or something not-so-good like “The Marriage Ref”.
So, what’s the problem? Content management and delivery systems aren’t unified. There are all kinds of opportunities to present rich, consistent, engaging multichannel experiences by integrating technologies such as content management, customer relationship management, document output management, email campaign management, and others. But these are still siloed, due to legacy issues as well as market dynamics (there is no unified solution on the market).
I interviewed 58 business and IT executives to uncover best practices for wringing more value from CRM deployments. I found that successful companies focus on five proven strategies. Attention to discipline in execution is what sets CRM winners apart.
1. Redouble efforts to promote user adoption. New CRM processes and technologies that have a clear benefit for users but are not properly introduced to the organization will not be adopted. These initiatives can quickly grind to a halt when they run up against "not invented here" (NIH) attitudes of users who feel that they have not been consulted about their needs. A good example of how to bring users into the fold is a multinational bank that I interviewed that had more than 3,000 CRM users. It invited 84 users to participate directly in the CRM vendor selection decision. These users attended videoconferences to review vendor solutions and then voted for the one that best fits their needs. This was followed by a series of Webinars that enabled users from around the world to view and critique prototype solutions developed by the CRM team. Finally, the end solution was tested in pilot programs in four countries. This process built a strong user constituency that eagerly embraced the final solution.
Every year, I take 250 to 300 calls from Forrester clients. The vast majority of these calls are from executives embroiled in the process of trying to select the right CRM technology solution to support their business strategy. From these conversations, I have distilled a set of decision criteria to help you quickly cut through the CRM tech vendor underbrush.
Ability to meet your specific business requirements. You have to know what business outcomes you are trying to achieve, and define the business capabilities that you need to support, before you seriously consider investing in a CRM software solution. Although the core capabilities of leading CRM software vendors are quite similar, the companies I hear from still place a very high importance on the solution meeting the functional and technology criteria that are specific to their needs. Can the vendor meet your use-case requirements?
Ease of use for front-line workers. My clients expect CRM software to demonstrate the capability to make people more fruitful in their work, and this is predicated on how easy the solution is to use. Good usability encourages user adoption. Is the solution UI modern and adaptable to diverse role-based requirements?
Capability to provide advanced analytic abilities. My clients place a high value on CRM vendors' ability to provide analytic tools to better understand customer behavior and make insightful customer-facing decisions using the myriad customer data collected. Analytics are the key to unlocking the value in CRM applications. Does the vendor have powerful and easy-to-use business intelligence capabilities?
Inside the BPA Group at Forrester, we conducted a little experiment. I suggested that we should collaborate on a piece about the Pega acquisition of Chordiant. What followed was a large number of email exchanges. I drew the short straw in bringing all these thoughts together into a coherent whole. I prepared a document for Forrester clients to explore the acquisition in detail (probably getting through the editing process next week some time), and this blog post is culled from that document. So while the blog post bears my name, it reflects the collective opinions of Connie Moore, Bill Band, Natalie Petouhoff, John Rymer, Clay Richardson, Craig Le Claire and James Kobielus. Of course, I have put my own interpretation on it too.
Pega definitely wants to be in the customer experience/customer service business, and they want to get there by having a very strong BPM offering. It is not that they are moving away from BPM in favor of Customer Experience – they’re just strengthening their hand in CRM (or CPM as they would call it), more forcefully making the connection. We already knew this, but the Chordiant deal just reinforced that point (see related research doc from Bill Band in 2005 !!). This is not a new direction or change in direction for Pega, it is a strong move that takes them faster in the direction they were already going.
From a product point of view, Pega are adding/strengthening their hand – Choridant’s marketing automation and predictive analytics seem to be of greatest interest. Of course, Pega also values the engineering talent that Chordiant has, and will redirect those people over time to work on integrating these capabilities into the BPM offering. They were also interested in the vertical industry and functional expertise that Chordiant had to offer.