7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 7: Next Steps For Moving The Needle On Customer Service Operations

Kate Leggett

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 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.

Part 5 categorized technologies based on their ecosystem maturity.

Part 6 focused on what this analysis means to customer service managers.

In this final post, I will focus on where do you go from here, now that we know what the core customer service technologies are, how mature they are, and what their business value is. I recommend a three-step process:

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7-Part Series On Customer Service Technology, Part 6: What Does This All Mean?

Kate Leggett

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 2 reviewed the challenges caused by the complexity of this technology ecosystem.

Part 3 reviewed the tactical outcomes of poor customer service.

Part 4 focused on the ways that the customer service technology ecosystem is changing.

Part 5 categorized technologies based on their ecosystem maturity.

So what does this all mean?

Many companies are focusing on delivering differentiated customer service experiences to their customers. But enhancing the quality of service delivery is a really difficult proposition given the complexity of the contact center technology ecosystem. Here are five recommendations to help you out:

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Contact Center Agent Turnover Is A Fact Of Life That Must Be Tracked And Managed

Kate Leggett

Agents turn over in contact centers, and managing your turnover rate is a fact of life. Low agent turnover rates are those that are below 20% a year, and some contact centers have turnover rates as low as 5%. Turnover rates higher than 50% are considered high, and some contact centers have attrition rates of more than 100% a year. Turnover impacts organizations because of recruiting and training costs, and ongoing agent morale issues which can impact customer satisfaction. As turnover costs must be built into overall contact center plans, its important to have an attrition benchmark and manage your operations to that number.

Not all turnover is the same. It is useful to quantify each turnover event as voluntary or involuntary, and understand the causes of turnover so that you can address them, especially if your metric far exceeds the benchmark that you have set for the organization. Common causes of turnover are:

  • Involuntary turnover: This is attributable to a mismatch between the contact center agent and the expectations of the position for which the agent is hired. Examples include poor hiring and training practices; poor job descriptions; effort required for the job that were miscommunicated during interviewing; poor toolset that causes overly-long training times.
  • Voluntary turnover: This is attributable to the contact center organization not meeting long term job expectations of the contact center agent. Examples include job monotony; better pay elsewhere; lack of career advancement; poor management; over- supervision;  lack of empowerment to solve customer issues; lack of control of personal schedules; frustration with the toolset; stress of dealing with irate customers.
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Market Consolidation In The Customer Service Space - A Slew Of Companies That No Longer Exist

Kate Leggett

I know the customer service market is consolidating as it matures. I’ve been tracking the consolidation of the knowledge management, multichannel management and EFM space for a while. However, at no time has this consolidation been quantified as when I recently helped my colleague William Band update his maturity model of the CRM space, known as a Forrester TechRadar.

Have a look at this partial list of vendors that have been acquired or have merged with another entity:

Field Service:

  • Dexterra acquired by Antenna Software (2009)
  • Sybase iAnywhere acquired by SAP (2010)
  • Servigistics acquired by PTC (2012)
  • Syclo acquired by SAP (2012)

Enterprise listening platforms and community platforms:

  • Radian6 acquired by salesforce.com (2011)
  • Overtone acquired by KANA Software (2011)
  • Leverage Software acquired by Telligent (2011)
  • Collective Intellect acquired by Oracle (2012)
  • Cymfony acquired by Visible Technologies (2012)
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Transform The Contact Center: Forrester's Playbook For Customer Service Excellence

Kate Leggett

Customer service is a cornerstone of an organization’s customer experience strategy. Organizations must pay attention to their customer service strategy because:

  • Good customer service experiences boost repurchase probability and long-term loyalty. Customer loyalty has economic benefits as measured by willingness to repurchase, brand loyalty, and likelihood of recommendations. The revenue impact from a 10-percentage-point improvement in a company’s customer experience score can translate into more than $1 billion.
  • Poor customer service experiences lead to increased service costs. 75% of consumers move to another channel when online customer service fails, and Forrester estimates that unnecessary service costs to online retailers due to channel escalation are $22 million on average.
  • Poor customer service experiences risk customer defection and revenue losses. Forrester survey data shows that approximately 30% of a company’s customers (or more) have poor experiences. And even if a fraction of these defect, this represents a loss in annual revenue.
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Oracle CRM On Demand Release 18 - Extends Marketing Capabilities But Not Customer Service

Kate Leggett

Oracle, at Oracle Open World, has released their 18th version of CRM On Demand. This product integrates their Market2Lead acquisition, made in May of this year. It closes the gap between marketing and sales – and unifies the end-to-end life-cycle management of leads, including their nurturing track. Marketing and sales managers now can share KPIs and understand how lead generation and nurturing activities directly affect the outcome of sales.

The solution enables multitouch point marketing campaigns to be designed and executed. You can create personalized microsites and landing pages. There are robust analytics to measure their effectiveness, as well as progressive profiling capabilities that allow the company to gather more information about a lead at every step of the marketing and sales cycle. Basically, it adds the full marketing automation capabilities to the product suite. And it's attractively priced compared to having to buy seats from a standalone marketing automation vendor to access these capabilities.

My take: It’s a feature hole that had to be plugged, and it's priced well for adoption.

Disconnect In Customer Service Language - Activities Vs Outcomes

Kate Leggett

Contact centers are data and metrics driven. If you are an agent, you worry about your average call handle time, the number of calls/emails/chats you are completing per hour, how you are doing compared to your peers, how satisfied customers are with your answers. If you are a call center manager, you keep an eagle eye in real time on your group metrics.

But what is it that C-level executives care about in the boardroom? They are concerned with the quality, cost, and effectiveness of service, and the measurement of the outcome of their strategic decisions – for example, measuring the success of a service strategy like outsourcing operations. They need data to accurately forecast performance and monitor performance trends over time. They need to make strategic technology decisions that support their key business goals.

There’s a first order disconnect between customer service agents and supervisors who talk in the language of activities - AHT, SLAs, or number of emails handled - and C-level executives who care about outcomes - company performance, overall customer loyalty, and churn. What is needed is a bridge, a mapping between the language of agents and the language of the boardroom.

Take for example the request for a service manager customer to add a headcount to help edit content for their knowledgebase. To get buy-in, frame this request in the outcome of this program, not in terms of activities, for example: “We need to evolve our knowledge management solution to provide a better quality of knowledge to our agents. This will ultimately lead to a quantitative, measurable increase in our net promoter score, an increased first time fix rate, and lower operating costs.”

Have you started to link operational metrics to top-level business outcomes? What are effective examples that you use? Has this worked for you?