I got inspired reading all the latest publications by 1to1 Media Magazine and Forrester Research group on the subject of the future of customer support. Attempts to make such predictions are risky, but crucial for business leaders to plan ahead, secure the funding and make necessary adjustments in the organizational structure. I thought I’d cover those findings and add my thoughts on the subject, with a focus on the web hosting industry.
Customer service is happening everywhere. Customers expect companies to serve them whenever and wherever they are… on any device they use, via any channel. Therefore customer support organizations are now becoming hubs for interactions – it’s all about the agility to effectively handle and analyze a vast range of customer contacts.
Such shifts are forcing service providers to change the way they’ve been serving customers. This means shedding the inwardly focused processes and performance metrics, and adopting externally focused practices and policies. This means focusing on employee engagement and training, enabling agents to toggle between a phone calls, chat session, email, social media and SMS messaging. This also means proper reporting and application of customer-focused metrics.
In 2012 we all saw customers become increasingly engaged in using social media to talk about their experiences with the service providers. The majority of web hosting organizations continue to grapple with large amounts of customer data though. As customer expectations climb, companies have no choice but to transition into the next-generation territory. Here are three main areas to look at:
- cross-channel intelligence
- social and mobile engagement
- employee empowerment
Uncover customer intelligence across channels
A study by Coveo earlier this year shows the significant opportunities afforded by unlocking the hidden value of the burgeoning customer information currently spread across channels and departments. Of the 130 customer service and support executives interviewed for the survey, 63 percent reported that a customer-centric strategy would increase revenue, but 69 percent said information silos and a lack of collaboration hamper these efforts.
The goal of any leader should be the creation of a complete behavior history of each customer and transparent view of all the ways in which staff engages with them. Having that information all in one place will help companies to be more knowledgeable when they deal with clients. This granular level of context is critical to performance. It requires deep cross-channel analysis that produces intelligence localized enough to get to the root cause of a customer’s problem and to identify contact patterns by examining emotion and determining what’s triggering a customer’s concern.
One of the main challenges with contact centers obtaining a deep level of context about customers across channels is that many organizations pilot and trial solutions, and then are left with a number of disconnected technologies. The impact of disconnected systems is very dissatisfying for customers.
Leverage social and mobile to stay ahead of the rest
Despite the many opportunities social media affords, many service providers still grapple with defining how to interact with customers via this medium. You need more than a couple people in marketing. It’s really about watching and monitoring the dialogue between customers and finding opportunities to deliver better service.
As a practitioner, I would encourage Customer Support leaders to work on taking social media function under CS umbrella. I bet your marketing team would welcome that initiative. I do understand that the shift of taking on an additional medium will not be easy, but it will prove to be extremely beneficial for the company and clients in the long run.
In addition to social, the proliferation of mobile is accelerating customers’ expectations of anywhere, anytime service. Video adoption is a part of that evolution. We will see increasing number of video-related service interactions take place in the near future. I’m seeing more contact center organizations outside of our industry determining how to better leverage video and mobility together to provide a rich service experience. I’m expecting service providers to start offering clients an ability to launch video chats from a mobile app to initiate service requests.
I like the idea of video interactions, as in addition to the service delivery being personalized it also puts much higher level of accountability on both agents and clients. I’m referring to the accountability to “communicate respect.” No one is to hide behind a monitor – real people serving real people. As a result, the transactional approach some of you might have seen in the contact centers shall be reduced.
Empower and engage your employees to create great customer experience
Introducing the latest technologies will definitely help to enhance customer experience, but getting customers to act as true brand advocates often depends on accommodating, trustworthy agents who understand customers’ issues and resolve them quickly. There’s nothing more critical than having people who care when customers call.
Getting agents to provide such service levels means they must be engaged and empowered.
Seeking out new ways to motivate and empower employees is essential, but so is incorporating the right KPIs when measuring their performance. The next-generation contact center requires a whole new set of metrics. Rather than focusing on call handle time, an increasing number of contact centers will begin to rely on metrics like NPS, Customer Lifetime Value, and FCR, as well as social metrics like retweets, “likes,” and sentiment. It’s about re-balancing what matters and putting more emphasis on the effectiveness of the experience rather than just on the efficiency.