This week I have been travelling to see Forrester’s I&O Leadership Board (FLB) members in Paris and working on my I&O FLB workshop session for Orlando and London happening in October, titled ‘An Outside In Approach To Your IT Strategy’. During my conversations I have been discussing Forrester’s excellent new book entitled ‘Outside In, The Power of Putting Customers At The Center Of Your Business’. It contains great insight and examples on how successful companies are adapting to the “age of the customer” by ensuring experience rich relationships.
So what does 'putting the customers at the center of your business' mean to I&O Professionals?
Firstly, we need to ditch the word ‘users’. It’s a dirty word in my vocabulary as it conjures up images of employees being ‘addicted’ to our IT services. Our employees are not going to go ‘cold turkey’ on us if they don’t get their corporate IT fix. They are our internal IT customers who have feelings, needs and wants plus are increasingly able to source their own technology services to increase their productivity.
Customers expect the same experience every time they interact with a company — whether it be when researching a product, completing a sales transaction, or getting customer service — over all the communication channels that a company offers. They also expect companies to have an understanding of their past purchase history and prior interactions. Finally, customers further expect that each interaction with a company adds value to their prior interactions so that, for example, they do not have to repeat themselves to a customer service agent when being transferred or when migrating from one communication channel to another during a multistep interaction.
How many companies can deliver a consistent service experience in this scenario?
Three fundamental elements are needed to deliver a consistent customer experience across all communication channels:
A unified communications model. Companies need to queue, route, and work on every interaction over all communication channels in the same manner, following the company business processes that uphold its brand.
A unified view of the customer. Each agent needs to have a full view of all interactions that a customer has had over all supported communication channels so that the agent can build on the information and experience that has already been communicated to the customer.
Unified knowledge and data. Agents need to have access to the same knowledge and the same data across all communication channels so that they can communicate the same story to their customers.
The right knowledge, delivered to the customer or the customer service agent at the right time in the service resolution process, is critical to a successful interaction. When done correctly, knowledge personalizes an interaction, increases customer satisfaction, reduces call handle time, and leads to operational efficiencies.
Embarking on a knowledge management project is hard. Concerns include:
Worries about cultural readiness and adoption. Many executives don’t understand how activities done by a knowledge team translate into real business outcomes and don’t support these programs with the adequate resources for success.
Concerns about making content findable. The best content is useless if it can’t be found when needed. “Findability” has to do with search technology, a solid information architecture, and giving users alternate methods to search for retrieving knowledge.
Questions about keeping content timely. Knowledge must be kept current, and new knowledge must be published in a timely manner so that it can be used to answer new questions as they arise.