Consumers Drive Channel Preference To Achieve Effortless Customer Service

A new study commissioned by Nice about consumer channel preference complements Forrester’s data quite effectively and adds more data to the understanding that customer service does not need to be exceptional but just needs to be frictionless, easily and efficiently delivering answers to customer questions.

Here is some recent Forrester data from our latest Consumer Technographics® survey about US customer service trends:

  • 45% of US online adults will abandon their online purchase if they can't find a quick answer to their question.
  • 66% say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide a customer with a good online customer service.
  • 29% prefer to use online customer service rather than speak with a live person on the telephone.

Data from the Nice survey says that:

  • 50% of respondents say that if they cannot easily achieve resolution, they will turn to the contact center.
    • Which supports the point that service needs to be frictionless and effortless.
  • 40% of respondents expect agents to be informed of their experiences upon beginning the conversation and to be able to successfully resolve their issues quickly.
    • Which supports the point that companies need to value a customer’s time.

In addition, the Nice survey conveyed:

  • When asked what customers like about assisted service, 50% of respondents cited FCR as their #1 reason for consulting a live agent. 33% of respondents they derive satisfaction from dealing with knowledgeable reps with specialized training.
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Choosing The Right Customer Service Metrics Requires Alignment To Your Brand

There is no single metric against which to benchmark the performance of your customer service organization. It’s like flying a plane—you can’t do it by just looking at your altitude settings. This means that most organizations use a balanced scorecard approach, which includes a set of competing metrics that balance the cost of operations against satisfaction measures. For industries with strict policy regulations, like healthcare, insurance, or financial services, adherence to regulatory compliance is yet another metric that is added to the list.

The set of metrics that you choose also depends on your audience. Customer service managers need real-time, granular operational data. Yet your executive management team needs high-level data about key performance indicators (KPIs) that track outcomes of customer service programs.
 
So where should you begin when choosing metrics? It’s best to start by understanding the value proposition of your company. For example, do you compete on customer experience, where satisfaction measures are of primary importance, or do you compete on cost, where efficiency and productivity measures are most important?
 
Once you understand your value proposition, choose the high-level KPIs that support your company’s objectives. These metrics are the ones that you will report to executive management and include overall cost, revenue, compliance, and satisfaction scores. Next, choose the operational metrics for your organization that link to each of these KPIs and support your brand. For example, if you compete on cost, handle time and speed of answer will become your primary metrics. However, if you are focused on maximizing customer lifetime value, first contact resolution will rise to the top.
 
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What Is A Collaborative Content Hub For Customer Service?

Knowledge management for customer service has always been a difficult proposition. It’s not that knowledge management fails to work; it does its job well, as proven by the numerous case studies that show real ROI, as well as the maturity of vendor solutions. The historical difficulty with knowledge management is that many buyers and users don’t understand the difference between knowledge management and content management — and typically view knowledge management as a heavyweight solution that’s laborious to use.

Perhaps it’s time to lose the too loaded term knowledge management and focus on what it is that customer service agents need to do their job — to answer customer questions in a complete, accurate, and reproducible way. They need access to up-to-date content that is aligned with customer demand and which is created in a collaborative way. This content must also be available to call center agents, as well as agents dedicated to the email, chat, and social communication channels. A subset of this content must also be available to customers via a web self-service site. All these requirements translate into a collaborative content hub.

Here are the main capabilities that make up a collaborative content hub:

  • Easy content capture. You should be able to flag information from any source (email, discussion forum thread, social media interaction) and effortlessly kick it off to be included in your collaborative content hub.
  • Democracy. Everyone within an organization (and customers as well) should be able to recommend information to be included in the content hub.
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Customer Service Agent Collaboration Helps Move The Needle On FCR and Customer Satisfaction

In customer service organizations, collaboration should take place around cases and content, and should involve not only collaboration between customers and customer service agents, but internal collaboration within the enterprise. Internal collaboration has quantifiable benefits as measured by increased organizational productivity and efficiency. For cases, collaboration helps increase first contact resolution, decrease handle times and increase customer satisfaction. For content, collaboration helps evolve content to be more relevant, accurate, complete, and in line with customer demand. Some of the technologies that help foster collaboration around cases and content include:

For cases:

  • Presence indicators, instant messaging, and video chat. These allow customer service agents to connect in real time with subject-matter experts, supervisors, managers, or other agents having the necessary skills to help resolve a question.
  • Collaborative workspaces. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to share documents and logs about the customer issue, the troubleshooting process, and the results in real time.
  • Activity streams. These allow agents and subject-matter experts to subscribe to a case and receive notifications of all changes and additions to a case.
  •  Remote support. This allows customer service agents to invite subject-matter experts and specialty agents to troubleshoot software or hardware with a customer.
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The Future Is Sweet For SugarCRM

SugarCRM was kind enough to invite me to its analyst day and conference — a three-day event packed with product, strategy, customer, and partner information. The firm’s focus was clearly on its momentum into the enterprise. Here are my thoughts:

  • The CRM market still has room to grow. Sugar used IDC’s numbers to project CRM market growth: $18.74 billion for 2012, $19.97 billion for 2013, and $21.37 billion for 2014. Even though CRM vendor solutions are mature, the CRM market has not stagnated.
  • The SugarCRM 6.5 product. Today, SugarCRM has 1 million users, has seen 11 million downloads, is used by 80,000 organizations, and has 350 partners on five continents supporting the product. Its newest release focuses on usability and performance enhancements. It offers simplified navigation, an enhanced UI design, a new search framework with integrated full-text search, new calendaring and scheduling capabilities, IBM platform support, and deeper integration with third-party apps. Although the product lacks advanced social features and robust analytics, it does provide solid, well-rounded CRM capabilities.
  • The open source focus. Open source is more than a movement. It provides results by allowing its 30,000-large developer ecosystem to evolve the product in line with customer demand. “Open” is also part of Sugar’s culture — for example, pricing is readily available on its website, and you can try the product for free.
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Why Don't Agents Collaborate More Often? It's Been Shown To Increase Call Resolution And Satisfaction Scores

Empowering customer service agents with relevant, complete, and accurate answers to customer questions remains one of the major challenges in contact centers today. The past 10 years have seen efficiency and productivity gains squeezed out of the mechanics of routing and queueing a call to the right agent pool, screen-popping the customer information to the agent’s desktop, case management, and workforce optimization. Less attention has been placed on allowing agents to access information and informally collaborate with one another. Its no wonder that more than 70% of the time of an average call is spent locating the right information for the customer.

In many contact centers, content is created by groups of authors who are disconnected from the day-to-day conversations that agents are having with customers and who are unfamiliar with the language and terms that customers use. All content follows the same basic create-edit-publish cycle, irrespective of its usefulness in answering customer questions.

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How To Partner With Data Quality Pros To Deliver Better Customer Service Experiences

Customer service leaders know that a good customer experience has a quantifiable impact on revenue, as measured by increased rates of repurchase, increased recommendations, and decreased willingness to defect from a brand. They also conceptually understand that clean data is important, but many can’t make the connection between how master data management and data quality investments directly improve customer service metrics. This means that IT initiates data projects more than two-thirds of the time, while data projects that directly affect customer service processes rarely get funded.

 What needs to happen is that customer service leaders have to partner with data management pros — often working within IT — to reframe the conversation. Historically, IT organizations would attempt to drive technology investments with the ambiguous goal of “cleaning dirty customer data” within CRM, customer service, and other applications. Instead of this approach, this team must articulate the impact that poor-quality data has on critical business and customer-facing processes.

To do this, start by taking an inventory of the quality of data that is currently available:

  • Chart the customer service processes that are followed by customer service agents. 80% of customer calls can be attributed to 20% of the issues handled.
  • Understand what customer, product, order, and past customer interaction data are needed to support these processes.
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Is "Good Enough" Customer Service Good Enough?

Eighty-six percent of customer service decision-makers say that a good customer experience is one of their top strategic priorities. Sixty-three percent say that they want their customer experience to be the best in their industry. Yet few companies deliver a good customer experience.

In our recent survey, just over one-third of the 160 large North American brands questioned were found to provide a positive customer experience — a number that hasn’t significantly moved for the past five years.

We know that a bad service experience has quantifiable negative impacts, as measured by monitoring the wallet share of each customer over their engagement lifetime with a brand. But when is a service experience good enough? A recent Harvard Business Review blog says that delighting your customers is a waste of time and energy, and exceeding customer expectations has a negligible impact on customer loyalty — that customers just want simple, quick solutions to their problems.

What customers also want is a consistent, reproducible experience across all touchpoints.

What this means is that a customer wants to receive the same data, the same information, over any voice, electronic, or social communication channel used. Customer service agents supporting customers across these channels should follow the same business processes. And channels should be linked — either from a technology perspective or a business process perspective — so that customers can start a conversation on one channel and move it to the next without having to restart the conversation.

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Forrester's 10-Step Program On Mastering The Service Experience: A Quick Recap

Today, the gap between a customer’s expectations and the customer experience they receive is huge. In our latest customer experience survey, we found that just over one-third of US brands deliver a good experience. What is even more surprising is that, in the five years that Forrester has been collecting this data, this number has not significantly changed.

Delivering good customer service is a cornerstone to delivering a good end-to-end customer experience. Yet few companies undertake efforts to follow best practices. This lack of attention to customer service has significant impacts for companies: escalating service costs, customer satisfaction numbers at rock-bottom levels, and anecdotes of poor service experiences amplified over social channels that can lead to brand erosion. 

Mastering the customer service experience is hard to do. Here is a recap of my 10-step program. I’ve reordered the steps a little, but the message is still the same:

Master your strategy

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Choosing A Contact Center Outsourcer Is Hard; Evaluate Candidates Over 8 Dimensions

Outsourcing contact center operations helps organizations deliver better customer service. In Forrester’s recent survey of 304 North American and European network and telecommunications decision-makers, we found that nearly 20% have already outsourced some or all of their contact center seats or are very interested in doing so. Choosing to outsource should not be based on cost considerations alone. Select an outsourcer carefully. Outsourcers need to provide an environment that delivers quality customer service in a cost-effective manner. When looking for providers, evaluate their capability to:

  • Onboard new customers. Outsourcers should be able to communicate a well-defined process and timeline for onboarding a new customer and articulate the commitments that both the outsourcer and the customer need to meet for a successful onboarding process. The outsourcer should also be able to guarantee phased service-level agreements (SLAs) for the length of the onboarding process.
  • Report key metrics. Comprehensive reporting should accompany all engagements and should be available for review at any time. Identify the types of operational reports that you will have access to. Evaluate the ability to customize reports.
  • Adhere to quality standards. Make sure that outsourcers comply with quality standards such as Six Sigma and the Customer Operation Performance Center (COPC) that provide guidelines for managing operations and that ensure consistency for delivering services.
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