Providing high degrees of customer service, while managing costs is a balancing act that is extremely difficult. Customers expect higher degrees of service, across multiple channels, and want to have it 24×7. Meanwhile organizations are under pressure to increase efficiencies and reduce agent and infrastructure costs. Your customers like self-service, but want high touch options immediately if they can’t find what they are looking for. Off-shoring and IVR systems have been tried, but have sometimes resulted in unhappy customers. Unfortunately, now those unhappy customers will go to Yelp or Twitter to talk about their experience, so it is critical to get the balance right.
The head of Customer Service must often rely on technology to help them deal with these opposing forces. So in preparation for our launch of Assure for Customer Service, we decided to engage IMTS (Integrated Marketing Services) to help us better understand how customer service professionals use technology to solve their customer services challenges – and get this information right from the source. IMTS contacted 150 customer service leaders at large organizations, and using live interviews, found out some very interesting things.
First, they discovered that almost 53 percent of respondents used specialized, in-house developed software to manage their customer service delivery. The rest are using a mix of CRM, BPM, manual (paper or Excel and email), or outsourcing the entire process. The 53 percent was a surprise as the costs of developing specialized applications in-house is typically far greater than buying a solution from a vendor. For those applications, the biggest burden is the maintenance and upgrades. When the business needs the software modified to meet the changing needs of the business it goes to IT for assessment, scoping, prioritizing, developing, testing, deployment and training, and that is usually completed right when business requirements have changed again, and new enhancements are needed.
The survey also pointed out that 31 percent of the companies frequently need to go outside of their current system to access information to accommodate the needs of their customers. This means the agents are doing “swivel-chair” customer service, with multiple screens and systems to get all the information needed to manage customer requests. Integrations are expensive and painful with traditional systems, but this puts a serious burden on agents to understand and work across multiple systems in the heat of a customer exchange.
Also of interest is that respondents using CRM systems reported various degrees of challenges when escalating service issues, getting access to order information, and supporting internal collaboration to solve customers’ problems. This is not totally unexpected as CRM systems were designed as “systems of record” for customer information, and while they provide significant benefits in information leverage, they were not designed to be strong case management tools, process tools, support broad integrations, or to be real-time collaboration systems. Some are bolting these on now, but they still have a lot of work to do.
The need for multi-channel (or “omnichannel”) communications is becoming mandatory, and includes the support for phone, email, chat, SMS, and web portal interchangeably. The survey showed that only 21 percent of the respondents indicated their systems as being extremely flexible to accommodate new and innovative channels of communication.
Other notable takeaways from the survey were that a little over a third of respondents felt extremely confident that their customer service system helped them meet all their internal information governance requirements (secure information retention and management), and almost half of the respondents indicated that a “top goal” was to create systems to allow customers to directly submit requests and receive status updates automatically.
Details of the survey can be found here, and while it confirmed much of what we intuitively knew, it was great to hear it directly from the mouths of customer service professionals.
Assure for Customer Service provides effective ways to deal with all of these challenges, which is why we’re seeing more and more companies deploying it to achieve their objectives of lowering costs and improving customer service delivery. It helps customer service executives find that delicate balance, and sleep a little better at night.
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