Friday Apr 10, 2015

3 Steps to a Modern Profitable Service Organization by Jeff Griebeler, CX Strategist

Transitioning your support organization or contact center from a cost center to a profit center is an onerous process that can be difficult to navigate. Yet, it is a journey that must be purposely undertaken, performed crisply and executed successfully to thrive in the competitive world. Being viewed as a cost center creates an endless journey of continuous cost cutting, funding reduction, and the need to always be more efficient this year than last. It is a self-destructive cycle that ends with an underfunded support organization attempting to provide ever increasing services to an ever demanding customer community in an ever more competitive market. The historical mantra has been simple: “do more with less;” when the discussion should be focused on creating organizational value, defining competitive differentiation, creating loyal customers, and promoting profitable growth.

Becoming Trapped

Many companies have viewed their support organization as a necessity to remain in business. The view was simple: “customers will not buy without support, but customers do not buy because of support.” Support was a necessity and delivered at a minimal level and at the lowest possible cost. These organizations are funded on a cost-budget basis, and share these characteristics:

  • Provide more support with less budget
  • Offer more channels with minimal funding
  • Stretch technology far beyond its useful life
  • Use siloed applications as band-aids

Efficiency has its limits and frequently has adverse effects. The maximum efficiency that can be gained is limited by the total budget. Additionally, efficiency improvements can be captured only once and become part of next year’s baseline budget.

As budgets are cut year-after-year to provide additional margin to the organization, the quality of support diminishes, technologies age and workaround processes become more prevalent, which result in more inefficiencies. Personnel become frustrated, customers become frustrated and you fall behind your competitors. Cheap, quick, easy siloed technologies are implemented on a temporary basis; but temporary, all too frequently, becomes permanent. It creates a vicious circle spiraling downward and the organization is trapped.

Under Attack

The “trapped customer support organization” comes under attack on multiple fronts:

  1. Enlightened competition providing better customer service start taking market share
  2. Customers, empowered by easy-to-obtain, readily available information and the ability to socially broadcast their experience, increase their demands
  3. Increased competition for scarce internal funding. Cost-based organizations fall to the bottom of the budget list and are “designated for investment next year,” but next year turns into the following year, and so on.

Over time, these forces take their toll on the organization as it slips further and further behind the competition and industry service standards.

The CX Value Equation

To escape the trap, an economic framework must be established to measure and illustrate value. The measured value made by customer service must be considered across three major areas: Efficiency (E), Retention (R), and Acquisition (A). When combined, we refer to this as the CX Value Equation:

CX = E + R + A

Efficiency allows an organization to do more with less;
Retention is the ability of an organization to keep and grow the customers it already has; and
Acquisition refers to the ability of an organization to increase its customer base.

The CX Value Equation effectively defines a financial bridge between a CX customer service strategy and the organization’s profit line. With a defined CX Value Equation, you have a tool to illustrate the service organization’s contribution and progress. You are now ready to transform your organization from a cost center to a profit center.

Three Steps to a Modern, Profitable Service Organization

The key to transforming your organization is to modernize its capabilities so you can capture and illustrate the benefits. Here are the steps to modernize your organization and turn it into a profit center:

Step 1: Set CX Value Equation Metrics and Baseline Your Service Organization
Start with efficiency metrics. These are the easiest to identify. Get a handle on the important ones, such as self-service and first contact resolution rates. Add retention metrics to the model. Great candidate metrics include Customer Effort Score (CES) and Net Promoter Score (NPS). Finally, add acquisition measurements with metrics like the number of opportunities and referral rates.

For further information, please consult Customer Experience (CX) Metrics and Key Performance Indicators, an Oracle White Paper.  

Once your model is designed, baseline your current operational performance. This is your starting point from which you will demonstrate your progress and contribution to the organization.

Step 2: Modernize Your Service Organization
Use the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service Strategy to move from a cost center to a profit center. When this strategy is followed, the activity can be a self-funding.

Start by establishing a proper capabilities foundation. Then add new capabilities and provide consistency across all interactions. Finally, drive continuous innovation to remain ahead of the competition. The foundational activities are how you get going. You must resist the urge to skip steps and attempt to implement innovation on top of your outdated infrastructure. This will only lead to failure. Skipping steps is how an organization ends up with disparate systems (e.g. stand-alone chat) and business processes that function poorly, deliver substandard service, and require manual support and workaround processes to operate – hardly an effective strategy.

Let’s lay out the steps:

  • GET GOING to save budget and generate cost savings that support investments to
  • GET BETTER and improve retention with consistent quality of service, optimized capabilities and strengthened relationships, so you can
  • GET AHEAD to create revenues by monetizing more opportunities, personalizing interactions and being proactive in an omni-channel environment

Step 3: Continue to Measure, Demonstrate and Evolve
Modern customer service is not a destination, but rather an evolving journey. This year’s customer service capabilities become table stakes for providing service next year. Customer needs and demands will continuously change. Market forces will change. Technology will change. The Internet of Things (IoT) is upon us, and will accelerate change.

Conclusion

Liberating your cost-centric customer support organization can feel like an impossible task. However, by leveraging the CX Value Equation and tailoring it to your needs, you can demonstrate the true value of the services you provide to your organization. By using the Roadmap to Modern Customer Service’s strategy: Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead approach, you can self-fund and transform your center from an entity that is viewed as “overhead” or a “necessity” into a strategic, competitive asset that generates revenues and profits.

Click here to read the full whitepaper.

Wednesday Apr 08, 2015

CX Tech Adoption: Enabling the Oracle Roadmap To Modern by Rob Wales, Customer Experience Strategist

As a customer experience (CX) consultant, I'm in a lot of contact centers, talking to executives about their CX initiatives. I often hear things like, "We installed a knowledge base, but we’re just not seeing the results we expected," "Proactive chat isn't giving us a lift in conversion," or "We installed a new agent desktop, but we’re not seeing the efficiency gains." So I ask some business process questions and typically find that their processes just don't support their strategic vision or technology expectations. New technology was implemented, but the business processes never evolved to effectively utilize it.

Let's look at Virtual Assistant as an example.Virtual Assistant is a combination of natural language, contextual knowledge, chat and scripting. Implementing Virtual Assistant and immediately expecting it to be successful is like installing a kitchen sink without putting in the plumbing underneath.You have to implement technology capabilities in layers and mature your processes along the way—implement a knowledge base and develop your knowledge management processes and content; employ natural language and fine-tune it to your industry and business. 


Many companies have implemented multi-channel solutions: desktop, chat, email, web self-service, knowledge base, etc. and assume they're providing an omni-channel experience. But typically these are point solutions, the systems are disconnected, the channels are siloed, and there is very little integration between the support applications. This is a good example of tech adoption without strategy, and causes inefficiency at an operational level. But more importantly, it causes frustration for the customer. There is no visibility to all customer interactions and profile information, causing the customer to have to re-explain their issue and giving them a sense that the company doesn't know them at all.

To solve this problem, industry leaders are moving to fully integrated solutions that provide true omni-channel support, ultimate configurable flexibility, and agent desktop tools to personalize the customer experience. But technology adoption is a process, not an end-state; you can't start at the finish line. Too often, companies with CX initiatives will implement top-tier solutions, and expect all their goals to be attained through the technology alone, as if the systems themselves are a panacea. Technology solutions are only as good as the strategy and business processes they support, and it's critical to understand what those are and the capabilities needed to attain that maturity. 

Determining technology needs should be a later stage of ‘solutioning.’ To properly determine those needs, you must start at the top. Creating a strategic plan to identify and define what your business is trying to achieve is a foundational and necessary step to identifying business process gaps and/or technology needs required to meet the strategic plan. Examine the business processes that support your strategy and determine what improvements need to be made. Ascertain the metrics that will measure success, baseline your KPIs, establish improvement expectations, and determine reporting needs.  Only after you've identified the strategy, supporting processes and success criteria can you effectively identify the appropriate technology solutions that will get you there. Don't just follow the pack and implement solutions for the sake of having those capabilities. Make sure they provide you with the means to accomplish your strategic objectives.

When selecting a solution that will help you progress through your process maturity, technology roadmaps are incredibly useful. They provide a clear path to gradually attain maturity in technology, as you also attain maturity in business processes. So when I talk to companies about evolving technology and process maturity, I talk in terms of a Roadmap To Modern: “Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead,” rather than talking only about the desired future state. This staged approach effectively enables the gradual adoption of technology, allowing companies to realize immediate improvements and progressively become CX industry leaders.

First, focus on technologies and processes that will make you more operationally efficient. This one’s easy to understand and is foremost in the mind of contact center directors everywhere: implement a base layer of technology capabilities that enables self-service, increases agent productivity, and decreases operations. Provide improved interaction capabilities to simplify customer engagement: present multiple channel options to engage your customers and a knowledge base to promote self-help: this has the benefit of not only improving efficiency, but also providing customers with options to engage the way they choose. This foundational layer of technology capabilities provides a solid basis from which to build.

Next, leverage the efficiency savings and invest in solutions that will improve customer retention. There is already cross-over between efficiency and retention by way of reduced customer effort (Most of the initiatives to make your operations more efficient also make it easier for customers to do business with you. This decreases customer effort, which in turn, increases retention.), but now you start to enable the technology to improve the processes that strengthen relationships and improve quality. A cross-channel strategy will ensure consistent, quality customer treatment across touch points. Embed consistent knowledge content in your web self-service and desktop. Consider how to use technology to engage your customers in creative ways in an effort to keep in closer contact and differentiate yourself from competitors. Use data on-hand to understand what your customer has gone through when (or before) they reach out to you so you can quickly help with the issue.

Then, as your business processes mature to match your technology capabilities, you can start to use functionality for proactive engagement, segmentation and personalization to acquire new customers, increase conversions and, ultimately, increase revenue. Use proactive outbound communications to alert customers to things like account activity, service outages, product offerings, etc. to not only answer questions customers haven’t asked yet, but also to generate sales by understanding your customers’ history, preferences and anticipating what they might need next. Segment your customers based on their profile and history to get them to the right resource the first time. 

Most importantly, use everything you know about your customers to create a personalized, differentiated experience:
  • Know how they've engaged with your company in the past, regardless of how they contacted you (phone, chat, email, Facebook, etc.), and get quick visibility into their issues.
  • Know who they are, they're preferences, what they've bought (and how much) and how they liked it.
  • Understand how they feel about your company, about their interactions with you, about the effort they expend doing business with you, and about recommending your company to others.

This level of maturity in both technology and business process will differentiate you from competitors and help make you a leader in your industry. It will also create fierce loyalty in your customers, making them brand advocates.

Technology can help you attain your strategic goalsbut you can’t get there all at once and you can’t get there with technology alone. Determine your strategy, examine your business processes, and establish your success metrics. Then, as you make choices about your CX technology, ensure that you invest in robust solutions that will get you where you want to go, and provide you with a roadmap to get their gradually. Finally, consider the progression of adoption: "Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead," not just with your technology but with the underlying processes that the technology supports and enables.  

Learn more today about the Oracle Roadmap To ModernTM

Monday Feb 03, 2014

4 Takeaways on Modern Customer Service from CloudWorld

Oracle held CloudWorld last week in San Francisco. While there were many ideas and themes being discussed in the Customer Service track, several stood out as key differentiators for any company interested in delighting customers.[Read More]

Thursday Aug 29, 2013

Why Social Customer Service? Why Now?

Guest Blogger: Aphrodite Brinsmead, Senior Analyst at Ovum

Social media has become a daily part of life for many. But what is its purpose and why have we become so reliant on these tools? It hasn’t replaced phone conversations, texts, emails or even real life meetings; rather it has become a useful addition. On a simple level, it’s an ever evolving, admittedly often infuriating, view into friends’ lives, a way to send messages, show off, or digitally curate the way we want to be perceived.

[Read More]

Tuesday May 01, 2012

The Call Center Expo, Seattle, May 8-9

Oracle is proud to be a Platinum sponsor of the ICMI's Annual Call Center Exposition taking place May 8-9, 2012 in Seattle, WA – "The Global Gathering for the Contact Center Community." Visit Oracle in booth #505 to learn more about Oracle RightNow Web Experience, Oracle RightNow Contact Center Experience, Oracle RightNow Social Experience and Oracle Social Network, Oracle Knowledge Management, Siebel Field Service, Siebel Warranty Management, and Desktop Virtualization.

Also, don't miss this important Oracle-led education session: YOU and the CUSTOMER – The Winners are Defined by Great Customer Experience, featuring Brian Curran, Vice President, Oracle Customer Experience Strategy, Wednesday, May 9th from 10:15 a.m. - 11:00 a.m. Brian will explain why leading companies are investing in customer experience (CX) solutions that enrich all interactions between a customer and your company. He will discuss how CRM, Service, and Commerce solutions can be combined to create a great customer experience which accelerates new customer acquisitionmaximizing customer retention, improving operational efficiency and increasing total sales.

For more information or to register for the conference please click here.

Thursday Jan 12, 2012

Montgomery County Improves Citizen Services with Siebel CRM

A couple of past blog entries highlighted Montgomery County Maryland's Siebel Contact Center implementation to support a new 311 call center. The video below shows a brief interview with Joann Butler, MC311 CRM Director, who provides an overview of the project and their results. Hear how Montgomery County consolidated thousands of different citizen contact points across the county in a single call center, which also supports web access and knowledgebase, for a "total transformation of government service intake."

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