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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Don't Outsource Your Customer Service Operations To Cut Costs

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. Outsourcing doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition — organizations can leverage outsourcers to fill language gaps or react quickly to seasonal volume changes. Organizations can also choose to outsource only a subset of non-mission-critical customer service processes.

In all cases, outsourcing is major decision which carries a significant amount of management overhead, and should not be pursued solely as a cost-control strategy. Look to outsource if you want to:

  • Improve the quality of services delivered. Leading outsourcers adhere to strict quality measures that allow them to support customers more consistently and use tools and techniques that promote cost-effective and reliable standards.
  • Focus on core business activities. Using the expertise of an outsourcer whose primary business is managing contact centers allows you to focus on core business activities that strengthen your value proposition.
  • Deliver a consistent customer experience. Many companies use processes that are inefficient and don’t deliver the same customer experience across the voice, electronic (e.g., email, chat, SMS), and social (e.g., Facebook, Twitter) customer interaction channels. Outsourcers can help standardize this experience.
  • Scale capacity up and down. Organizations can’t always predict the volume of interactions they anticipate over time. Outsourcers allow you to quickly ramp up or contract enabling you to deliver service in line with your  target service levels.
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Thoughts On Customer Service Solutions For The SMB Market

In a conversation with Alex Bard, CEO of Assistly (now desk.com, part of salesforce.com), I learned a few interesting things about customer service solutions for small to medium-size businesses (SMBs): (1) Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations; (2) the main competition of vendors of SMB customer service solutions is not each other, but Post-It notes and Gmail; and (3) the service that SMB customers demand is exactly like the service that enterprise customers demand.

So what do each of these points mean?

  • Companies can be too small to have customer service organizations. Without a formal customer service organization, customer-facing personnel such as customer relations managers, CEOs, and marketing folks are on the hook to answer customer inquiries. These employees wear many hats, are on the road a lot, and communicate constantly with one another. And, more than likely, their companies also don’t have formal IT organizations. This means that customer service software must be tailored to a business user: easy to deploy, easy to configure, and supporting a multitude of mobile devices. Customer service software must also have built-in collaboration features, alerts, and notifications allowing personnel to quickly work together on a customer issue for quick resolution.
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Which Contact Center Technologies For Customer Service Deliver The Most Business Value?

We know that the contact center solution ecosystem that customer service organizations use is made up lots of complex technologies, as highlighted in our  latest TechRadar™report. So how do you know what technologies are the right ones to invest in — the ones that will deliver real business value?

To figure this out, Forrester partnered with CustomerThink to survey customer service organizations to understand the adoption rate of 18 contact center technologies. We also looked at the business value that these technologies deliver as defined by three questions: 1) How critical is each to business success? 2) What is the technology’s market reputation for value? and 3) How difficult is it to implement and use? Here are our highlights, and you can find actual statistics in our report:

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Poor Data Quality: An Often Overlooked Cause Of Poor Customer Satisfaction Scores

Customer service managers don’t often realize that data quality projects move the needle on customer satisfaction. In a recent Forrester survey of members of the Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP), of the 45% who reported that they are working on improving CRM processes, only 38% have evaluated the impact that poor-quality data has on the effectiveness of these processes. And of the 37% of respondents working on customer experience for external-facing processes, only 30% proactively monitor data quality impacts. That’s no good; lack of attention to data quality leads to a set of problems:

  • Garbage in/garbage out erodes customer satisfaction. Agents need the right data about their customers, purchases, and prior service history at the right point in the service cycle to deliver the right answers. But when their tool sets pull data from low-quality data sources, agents don’t have the right information to answer their customers. An international bank, for example, could not meet its customer satisfaction goals because agents in its 23 contact centers all followed different operational processes, using up to 18 different apps — many of which contained duplicate data — to serve a single customer.
  • Lack of trust in data negatively affects agent productivity. Agents start to question the validity of the underlying data when data inconsistencies are left unchecked. This means that agents often ask a customer to validate product, service, and customer data during an interaction — increasing handle times and eroding trust.
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Customer Service: Out With The Old . . . And In With The New

Customers dream about personalized, contextual, proactive customer service experiences — where companies deliver an experience tailored to their persona, their past purchase history, and their past customer service history. They want each interaction to add value and build upon prior ones so that they don’t have to repeat themselves and restart the discovery process. They want to be able to choose the communication channel and device they use to interact with a service center. They want to start an interaction on one channel or device and move it seamlessly to another. Check out RightNow’s vision video that brings these points to life.

Most customer service organizations are still struggling with the basics — the hygiene factors in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs — in meeting their customers’ expectations. There are benchmarking tools that you can use to figure out how well your organization is doing and to get actionable recommendations on how to do better. But, as you focus on the tactical improvements that you need to make this year, it’s important to keep tabs on the optimal experience that customers would like you to deliver to help shape your long-term direction for customer service. Here’s my abbreviated personal list:

Out with the old . . .

. . . and in with the new

Commentary

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Forrester's Top 15 Trends For Customer Service In 2012

With 2012 still bright and full of hope for most of us, what are the key trends that customer service professionals need to pay attention to as you plan for success this year? Here are the top trends that I am tracking. Get my full report here.

Leaders Will Empower Their Agents To Deliver Optimal Service

Trend 1: Organizations Will Internalize The Importance Of The Universal Customer History Record

Customer service agents must have access to the full history of a customer’s prior interactions over all the communication channels — voice, electronic channels like chat and email, and the newer social channels like Facebook and Twitter — to deliver personalized service and to strengthen the relationship that customers have with companies. In 2012, vendors will continue to add  the management of social channels to their customer service products. Companies will slowly continue to formalize the business processes and governance structures around managing social inquiries and move this responsibility out of marketing departments and into customer service centers.

Trend 2: The Agent Experience Will No Longer Be An Afterthought

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