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.
After we packed up the kids and drove three hours to Disney World in Orlando, I sat up until almost 2 o'clock this morning reading the media coverage about Disney's soon-to-be-launched Next Generation Experience. While the blogosphere has been muttering about this reported billion-dollar initiative for a few years, the story took off early this year when the NY Times announced its impending launch. Unfortunately, most of the media coverage centered on the proverbial elephant in the room -- privacy. Congressman Ed Markey exemplified the kneejerk reaction, demanding Disney CEO Bob Iger answer questions that were already addressed in the company's FAQs. If we were in Ireland or England, I'd say that Congressman Markey was taking the mickey!
My most popular blog of 2012 wasn’t written by me … but I guess you might have expected this if you’ve already read a few. That blog's author, an end-user (or is that a customer of an internal IT organization), now returns to look at the IT service desk through a customer and customer experience lens. I’ll let them continue in their own words …
So how is your customer experience?
It’s never been more important to build strong customer relationships (regardless of what type of service you're offering). Long gone are the days when the customer purchasing path was straight-forward, and when the only route of post-sales contact was the phone. In 2013, we need to be proactive and embrace consumer-driven change, harnessing the power of new technologies as well as improving older methods of contact.
Whether your interactions with customers are face-to-face, via the internet including social media, or over the phone; and whether they involve physical or virtual products; they now need to generate a good “experience” for customers. In the age of the “empowered customer” failure to manage these “experiences” can lead to missed opportunities and/or customer loss. And not just with the affected customer(s).
So what is “customer experience” and could it apply to IT service desks?
Forrester’s definition is simple: “How customers perceive their interactions with your company.” So for an IT service desk, could it be: “How end users perceive their interactions with your service desk”? And if so, how do you deliver this increasingly critical “customer experience”?
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)
Today, the gap between customers’ expectations and the service they receive can be huge. There’s an explosion of communication channels that customers use—voice, digital channels like email and chat, and social channels like Facebook and Twitter. There’s also an explosion of touchpoints, like smartphones, tablets, and self-service kiosks. Customers expect efficient, consistent, personalized service experiences across these channels and touchpoints.
There’s no denying that mastering the service experience is hard to do. Yet focusing on leveraging digital channels is one way customer service leaders can move the needle on customer experiences.
My customer experience with T-Mobile UK (or was it EE — Everything Everywhere, the joint venture between Deutsche Telekom and France Télécom in the UK?) last Friday was so shocking — and in some cases ridiculous — that I had to share it and highlight the potential customer experience parallels with IT service desks.
For balance: I’ve been a T-Mobile customer since February 2011 and its actual mobile service has been pretty good to date. I might whinge a little that availability seems to have dipped post–transition to EE (and I have no idea why) but that is probably just me imagining things. However, I didn’t imagine this . . .
So what happened?
I bought a second-hand phone and when I put my partner’s SIM in it (to test it), it registered on the EE network but I couldn’t send or receive calls or text; however, I could use mobile Internet. So I thought: is this a service provider, software, or hardware issue? After a quick but unsuccessful “Google” — always my first port of call for support these days — I realized that I needed some expert advice. As the SIM was “nearly working” I decided that I would call EE first.
It started well-ish, taking three minutes to get through the interactive options to a point where I could hear the now mandatory “we are really busy so you might be wasting your time on hold for a while” message. Thankfully I think it was only a minute or so. Then the “helpful” Patrick was available to help. And this is where the relationship started to break down . . .
Why is the system of record, not the customer, always in the right?
Like millions of Americans who live along the Eastern seaboard, my family got hit by Hurricane Sandy.
Now don’t get me wrong: Compared with residents of New York, New Jersey, and several other states, we had it easy in our little suburb north of Boston. Even so, there were a few exciting episodes, like this tree that fell on my neighbor’s house.
And then there was this power line that came down on the sidewalk across the street from our home, about 4 feet from where I had been standing 20 minutes earlier (I had been talking to a firefighter).
What fascinated me, however, was what came after all the excitement: service recovery by our electrical utility and telecom provider.
Let’s start with our local electric utility, NSTAR. As you can probably guess from the above, our power had to be cut. To restore it, NSTAR needed to coordinate with both our local fire department and our local public works department in order to get that giant tree off the power lines before it could repair them.
When I looked at the job ahead for the utility, I guessed that we would be without power for at least a day. But exactly 12 hours after NSTAR cut power so that the burning lines wouldn’t pose a hazard, the tree was gone and our electricity was restored. In fact, NSTAR beat its own estimate by about 90 minutes.