Companies use complex software from different vendors to support customer service operations. They use:
Queuing and routing technologies. They capture the customer inquiry, which can be via voice, digital, or social channels, and route and queue the inquiry to the right agent pool.
CRM customer service technologies. They enable customer service agents to create and work the incoming service request.
Workforce optimization technologies. They record agent interactions with customers, evaluate the quality of these interactions, recommend targeted training based on quality scores, manage agent schedules, forecast future schedules and more.
CRM technologies are more than two decades old. In the early days of CRM, companies leveraged these solutions to provide "inside-out" efficiencies - operational efficiencies for sales, marketing, and customer service organizations. CRM aggregated customer data, analyzed that data, and automated workflows for front line personnel. Companies could easily argue business benefits by measuring operational metrics that were important for the company - like reducing marketing costs, increasing revenues from salespeople, decreasing sale cycle times, better pipeline visibility, decreasing service resolution times, and more.
Today, being successful at CRM builds on yesterday's internal operational and extends the power of these solutions to better support customers through their end-to-end journey to garner their satisfaction and long-term loyalty — a “customer-first” or “outside-in” perspective.
Our data at Forrester shows that good customer experiences correlate to customer loyalty. And loyal customers are more willing to consider another purchase from a company, are less likely to switch business to a competitor, and are more likely to recommend to a friend or colleague – all dimensions that have a direct impact on top line revenue.
This a guest post by Meredith Cain, a Research Associate on the Application Development & Delivery (AD&D) team.
As Francis Bacon wrote in 1625, “If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain.” Although he did not write this with Facebook Messenger or customer service in mind, the meaning still applies. If customers will not come to your business, your business must go to the customers. In 2016, customer service application professionals struggle to find common ground where businesses can fulfill as many customers’ needs as possible in a seamless and timely manner. With one out of every nine people on the planet already using Facebook Messenger, businesses should start to capitalize on this consolidation of customers by adopting Messenger, rather than attempting to move the “mountain.”
In our recent report, we argue that customer service application professionals should make plans to incorporate Messenger into their service arsenal. Facebook’s recent announcement of new Messenger tools that include business-friendly innovations, as well as Facebook’s already ubiquitous user base, positions Messenger to serve as the bridge between Muhammad and the mountain. As this metaphorical bridge, Messenger provides customer service pros with:
Your customers just want an accurate, relevant, and complete answer to their question upon first contact so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose. Our data backs this up: 53% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their question; 73% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer service.
It's no wonder that customers increasingly leverage self-service and agent-assisted digital communication channels for customer service, as these channels have the least amount of friction. Our recent data from December 2015 shows that:
Web and mobile self-service interactions overtake all other channels. For the second year running, survey respondents reported using web or mobile self-service more than speaking with an agent over the phone. Use of help or FAQs on a company's website increased from 67% in 2012 to 81% in 2015 among US online adults.
Customers demand accurate, relevant, and complete answers to their questions upon first contact - served up as painlessly as possible - so they can get back to what they were doing before the issue arose.
Customer service organizations have to deliver easy and effective service. If they don't, customers will leave the brand. They will also complain to their networks about their experience. These emotions can get rapidly amplified in the world of social media and ultimately lead to brand erosion.
It’s a no-brainer that good customer service experiences boost satisfaction, loyalty, and can influence top line revenue. Good service — whether it's to answer a customer's question prior to purchase, or help a customer resolve an issue post-purchase should be easy, effective, and strive to create an emotional bond between the customer and the company. Here are 5 top trends - out of a total of 10 - that I am keeping my eye on. My full report highlighting all trends can be found here:
Trend 1: Companies Will Make Self Service Easier. In 2015, we found that web and mobile self-service interactions exceeded interactions over live-assist channels, which are increasingly used by customers as escalation paths to answer harder questions whose answers they can’t find online. In 2016, customer service organizations will make self-service easier for customers to use by shoring up its foundations and solidifying their knowledge-management strategy. They will start to explore virtual agents and communities to extend the reach of curated content. They will start embedding knowledge into devices — like Xerox does with its printers — or delivering it via wearables to a remote service technician.
When looking to purchase a customer service solution, buyers have to remember that more features is not better; many times more is just more. In fact, when you don't need or can't use extra features, more is sometimes worse.
With this in mind, we see that customer service solutions fall into two primary groups to choose from:
Customer service solutions for enterprise organizations. Customer service vendors focused on large organizations — organizations with typically 1,000 or more agents who are primarily phone agents — offer robust case management, agent guidance in addition to CTI integration, reporting, analytics and data management capabilities. These vendor solutions can scale to serve very large agent populations, in the tens of thousands or higher. These products have been traditionally been sold as on-premise products, but many deployments are now shifting to the cloud. Many vendors offer deeply vertical solutions, and have pre- and post-sale company resources dedicated to support their vertical products. Vendors in this category also target midsize organizations, offering prepackaged versions of their solutions with more affordable price tags. The leading vendors in this category are highlighted our most recent Customer Service Wave for enterprise organizations.
Have you been so fed up with a company you've said, "That's it, I'm tweeting?" Contrast that with the times you've been so impressed with a company you've said, "That was so awesome, I'm going to tweet about it." Customers do use social to ask brands for help. In a recent New York Times article, Jonathan Pierce, director of social media for American Airlines, shares, “You now see folks with Wi-Fi on board — if they need assistance on board, they’ll tweet us,” he said. “Perhaps if their bag isn’t there within five minutes, they’ll tweet us. There’s an expectation from the customers that we’re there to listen to that and act on it.”
Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge delivers real, quantifiable results like:
Reducing customer service costs: For example, Dignity Health, a California medical group relies on a knowledge base to help them maintain a 73% call resolution rate and has resulted in a $580,000 annual savings.
Increasing customer satisfaction: For example, Zuora, a US-based subscription billing provider, uses web self-service to deliver knowledge relevant to the stage in the customer journey — including sales and onboarding — to drive product adoption and decrease churn. Zuora structures knowledge to encourage customers to learn how to use the product, instead of simply providing a fix. Increased customer engagement moved Zuora's NPS by 20 points, increased site traffic by nearly 100% year-over-year, with 55% of traffic driven by their self-service site.
Customers increasingly use web self-service as a first point of contact with a company. In fact, last year, web self-service was the most commonly used communication channel for customer service, exceeding phone use for the first time ever.
Companies are not only investing in customer-facing knowledge. They are also using knowledge management solutions to add order and easy access to content for customer-facing personnel - specifically for customer service agents. Our data shows that 62% of technology decision-makers say that they have implemented or are expanding their implementation, and 21% plan to implement their knowledge implementation in the next 12 months.
Knowledge delivered to the customer or the customer-facing employee at the right time in the customer engagement process is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, deeper knowledge can be used to personalize an interaction, increase customer satisfaction, reduce call handle time, lead to operational efficiencies, increase customer engagement, and ultimately drive conversion and revenue.