I come to Forrester after working in the Solution Marketing and Corporate Marketing groups at a large customer service software provider. That role put me in touch with contact center technology buyers and the overburdened folks responsible for actually making great customer service happen every day. I saw close up the impact of the age of the customer on the thinking, processes, behavior, and technology choices of contact center professionals around the world. They are facing a world in which consumers are much less willing to settle for mediocre and impersonal experiences when dealing with customer service organizations. As consumers we all want effortless service delivered via whatever channel is most convenient at the moment, and we want companies to know just the right amount of information about us, but not too much, at the moment of the interaction.
That is a very tough nut to crack for contact center managers, supervisors, and agents. My research coverage will primarily focus on two areas that can help contact center pros begin to address these issues:
In the Age Of The Customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are – customers. In an attempt to move the needle on customer service operations, in order to keep customers satisfied and loyal to your brand, these are the top trends that you should be paying attention to. You can get my full report here.
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Trend 1: Customers Demand Omnichannel Service
Customers want to use a breadth of communication channels for customer service. Across all demographics, voice is still the primary communication channel used, but is quickly followed by self-service channels, chat and email. In addition, channel usage rates are quickly changing. Customers want consistent service experiences across these channels. They also expect to be able to start an interaction in one channel and complete it in another. In 2014 and beyond, customer service professionals will work on better understanding the channel preference of their customer base, and guiding customers to the right channel based on their on the complexity and time-sensitivity of their inquiry.
Trend 2: Customer Service Will Adopt a Mobile-First Mindset
Today's news of Verint'sintent to acquire KANA ushers a new wave of consolidation in the greater customer service space. Today’s customer service technology ecosystem is complex and comprised of a great number of vendors that provide overlapping and competing capabilities. I’ve previously blogged about what these critical software components are. In a nutshell, the core capabilities needed for customer service include:
Routing and queuing: providing the ability to route and queue an inquiry – whether voice, digital (ex. email, chat), or social to an agent or a group of agents
Agent desktop/case management: Allowing cases to be created, workflowed, and resolved.
Workforce management and optimization: Allowing agent interactions with customers to be monitored for quality; allowing agent scheduling, forecasting, performance management, coaching, learning etc.
I can’t tell you how excited I am about how the London event is shaping up.
On second thought, I can tell you. Read on!
This year’s theme is “Boost Your Customer Experience To The Next Level.” What’s that about? Well, we know from our research that companies are at wildly varying levels of customer experience maturity, ranging from not having gotten started yet to pulling even further ahead of competitors through CX differentiation. That’s why we’ve tailored this event to show attendees the one sure path to CX maturity and provide detailed guidance on how to advance along that path.
Good customer service is the result of the right attention to strategy, business processes, technology, and people management. This seven-post series focuses on customer service technology and explains the what, why, how, and when technology questions.
Part 1 reviewed the customer service technology ecosystem.
Part 2reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.
Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.
Part 4focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.
Let’s now focus on the how we categorize customer service technologies by their maturity and business value delivered.
Consumers’ preferences for customer service channels are rapidly changing. And it’s not just the younger generation of consumers — there’s disruption and change across all ages and demographics. Our 2013 data about communication channels that customers use for customer service is available in my latest report. Here are some key data points:
Customers want companies to value their time. 71% of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.
Voice is the most used communication channel for service. Voice, which 73% of customers use for customer service, is still the most widely used channel. However, web self-service and digital channels like chat and email are following close behind.
Chat is increasingly popular. Online chat adoption among customers has risen from 30% in 2009 to 43% in 2012. In addition, it has the highest satisfaction rating of any channel used, after voice.
The demise of email is premature. Email remains the third most widely used communication channel among US online adults. In the past three years, email usage has increased by two percentage points, from 56% to 58%.
Social channels are increasingly important. Online communities and Twitter have seen increases in usage rates in the past three years. However, satisfaction remains low for these channels, as companies have not invested in best practices for managing interactions on these channels.
Customers want efficient, effortless service from the touchpoint and communication channel of their choice. They want to receive accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions upon first contact with a company. Forrester data backs this up: Sixty-six percent of customers agree that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide good service. Forty-five percent of US online adults will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.
How do you choose the right customer service solution for your needs? It’s always best to take a systematic approach: (1) benchmark your current operations using our Assessment Framework to pinpoint areas for opportunity and (2) pragmatically investigate options to source your missing capabilities. Options range from repurposing technologies used elsewhere in your company, to outsourcing, to purchasing suites or vendor point solutions. I recommend using the following process to step through the choices:
Step 1: See if your company is using similar technologies that you can leverage. Web self-service, mobile, social, email, and chat solutions, for example, are often deployed by sales and marketing. If you choose to leverage existing technologies, make sure that they can scale and operate at the level of performance and reliability to support customer service operations. Also make sure that the experience that the customer receives when interacting with these technologies is consistent across functional organizations.
Step 2: Consider outsourcing. If there are no existing technologies that you can leverage, consider outsourcing this entire capability, or perhaps a portion or all of your customer service operations, to a third-party organization. In a recent Forrester survey, we found that 10% have already outsourced some or all of their operations or are very interested in doing so. Outsourcing can help reduce cost of operations, but can also improve the quality of services delivered and allow you to focus on core business activities that are mission-critical to your company.
We know that investing in customer service is good for business and can positively impact your revenue. However, building a business case for customer service investments is challenging, as you must understand the benefits and associated costs of the investments.
For some customer service technologies, such as workforce management, email, and chat, the business benefits are very clear. For other customer service technologies, such as social customer service or knowledge management, the business benefits are more difficult to precisely quantify. Yet in all cases, business benefits fall into one of three categories: reducing operational costs, improving productivity, or enhancing the customer experience. Examples include:
Reducing operational costs by…
Improving agent productivity by…
Increasing customer satisfaction by…
- Resolving customer issues with shorter average speeds to answer (ASA)