Have you had fantastically good or infuriatingly bad customer experiences? Do you have any thoughts on why they happened?
I think we all agree that, in an ideal world, every customer would receive fast, professional and smooth customer service, whatever the channel. Such service is personal and proactive. It makes us feel that we are in good hands and taken care of.
In practice, this is easy to provide based on small things: customer service staff know what has previously been said and sold to the customer. The customer may have visited several outlets and have been sent items such as campaign material. She may have been served through various channels. Despite this, her needs are met with a single contact and without prompting. In the best-case-scenario, she is addressed in her own name and preferred language when her call is answered.
We should bear in mind that few people deliberately set out to provide a bad customer experience or poor service. However, in the worst cases, we can still run into it every day. The most common reason for this is lack of a sufficiently 360-degree view of the customer.
That's why we need technology that provides us with such a perspective. In practice, this means tools that enable the automation of routines and monitoring of activity.
As an example, consider a phone call to a company's customer service. If the voice channel is integrated with, say, a CRM system similar to Salesforce, phone conversations can be combined with all other, existing customer data. This enables customer service staff to identify the caller and view previous interaction with the customer - or even why the customer is calling - during the call. When the call is answered, this integrated approach also provides guidance for customer service activities, and automates the creation of transactions and activity. Customer service staff can therefore focus on their core activity - serving the customer.
Or the call can be routed directly to the right, non-customer-service staff, by smart routing based on the customer information or situation. For the customer, this avoids pointless queueing and being handed from person to person. Or having to call various numbers to get the answer she wants. (Yep, this still happens...)
A solution like the above helps a company to gather the required customer data in one place and record call activity. This means the storage of each and every customer transaction for use by all customer service staff, regardless of the channel. It also means that the customer avoids having to explain an issue over and over again to new customer service staff.
Wait a minute, I hear you say, what if the caller is not someone we already know? A smart system can also function well in a case like this: it routes the call to an agreed function, such as customer acquisition, which is the best at handling calls with new customers.
I would claim that, on the basis of every service experience, every caller to customer service decides whether to buy again from the same supplier. The customer experience and, in practice, the speed and ease with which each issue is resolved, directly affect the decision to make repeat purchases. In addition, knowing the customer better provides a prime opportunity to sell additional services.
Customer service managers wonder how they can make their operations more efficient. In practice, every moment during which customer service is searching for information, forwarding calls or has to return to an issue represents pointless work. Many competitors are already more efficient and have moved further ahead in lowering costs and boosting efficiency. In the current competitive environment, you cannot afford to keep faith with old practices, but must dare to harness the full power of technology, and in this way use freed up resources or money for issues that matter to your business.
We talked earlier about the customer's ideal world, i.e. a world in which a good customer experience is an everyday event, rather than empty phrases written down in a strategy. However, the truth is that companies still function on the basis of silos, without sufficient dialogue between channels. In the worst cases, customer service is totally separate from other functions and several call solutions are used.
However, the ideal world can be realised. Now, not sometime in the future. This needs a change of mindset in order to integrate call data with customer data in general, for example in Salesforce CRM. This could make segregated call and contact centres a thing of the past. And let's be clear: if mobile calls and switchboards are not integrated with customer information, data from calls will be left unused when developing customer service and the customer experience.
What do you think? Is it time to bring your company's customer experience and operational efficiency into the 2020s?
Mikko works as pre-sales consultant in Benemen and is specialised in Microsoft and Salesforce technologies.