Tuesday May 19, 2015

Oracle Takeaways from Forrester Webcast: Customer Service Trends for 2015 by Christine Randle

It is hard to believe that it has been a decade since social disrupted standard operating procedures for companies. Brands had enjoyed a healthy measure of control before social media-enabled customers around the globe were able to connect and share information. Before, companies controlled not only the information that customers and prospects received, but how and when they received it—effectively spoon-feeding corporate messages to the world.

The advent of social changed this dynamic forever and ushered in The Age of the Customer.

Today, customers control the conversations they have with businesses, and brands have scrambled to adapt. Companies must become customer-obsessed and deliver experiences that meet customer expectations to succeed.

Why? Because loyal customers are less likely to churn, and they are also more likely to recommend your brand and spend more money with your company. When customers spend more money, it directly impacts and increases revenue. For this reason, it is essential to keep your customers satisfied and loyal to your brand. Besides, customer service should be a core element of your CX strategy.

Still, this is hard stuff. So it helps to get some perspective. A May 2015 webinar hosted by Forrester and featuring Forrester Research’s Kate Leggett, Trends 2015: The Future Of Customer Service, helps to make sense of customer service in 2015. Take a look at the below takeaways that we pulled from the webcast, and let us know what trends you see in your organization.

Customers increasingly rely on self-service. According to the April 2015 Forrester Research report, “Contact Centers Must Go Digital Or Die,” more customers (76%) used web self-service than the phone (73%) for customer service. Why? Because it is an easy way to get answers. Today, the phone is increasingly used for escalation, or when a customer cannot find the answer to a question. Generally, these are the most difficult inquiries and have longer handle times. But, this offers a great opportunity for companies to use the phone channel to support and deepen customer relationships. It is important to note that channel usage changes year-over-year. As such, you should survey your customers to find out what channels they prefer for customer service interactions and deploy those channels accordingly.

Adopt a mobile-first mindset.
Think about your own mobile device usage and you’ll see why customers increasingly look to contact brands via this channel. But, more than that, customers want to be able to start a conversation on mobile and then switch over to a laptop or desktop seamlessly—without needing to rehash the issue with an agent. In 2015, customers will continue to demand effortless interactions of this type over both web and mobile channels.

Explore proactive engagement.
We are all customers, right? And, as customers, we know what we want, when, where, and how we want it. To effectively leverage this fact, businesses will begin to experiment with proactive engagement. This refers to proactive chat, promotions, or content served up to customers at the appropriate time to help answer questions, easing the transition from the research phase to purchase.

Leverage connected devices for preemptive service.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has taken off in a big way, and with it comes the prospect of preemptive service. From Wi-Fi connected self-learning thermostats to smart, self-propelled vacuum cleaners IoT has the potential to reshape customer service. IoT offers businesses the opportunity to deliver preemptive service that our parents could never have imagined: Proactive communication of product information back to the company to diagnose preemptively and fix issues without customer intervention!

Analytics will power offers, decisions, and connections.
There is no “one size fits all” service. Instead, use analytics to deliver deeply personalized customer service by understanding and leveraging data from past interactions, services, and purchases. Additionally, interactions must be tailored to the channel of choice. For example, the tone of an email interaction will likely vary from that of a social or chat interaction. These nuances are important in order to optimize service quality, predict next steps, ensure satisfaction, and produce loyalty, which correlates to increased revenue.

Journey analytics will improve end-to-end service.
What does your typical customer journey look like? It is likely to cross multiple communication channels: social, web, email, and phone. Often, these touch points are managed by different functional organizations within a company. It is tricky, but ultimately customers do not care about your internal org structure. What they care about is the ability to cross channels seamlessly to get support without needing to repeat themselves at each point in the journey (we all know how frustrating that can be). But, organizational silos make it difficult to deliver consistent service experiences. Not only that, but few companies have a measure in place that encompasses all channels. Forrester expects that organizations will move to broader, more comprehensive customer service measurement programs, which span all communication channels, to help businesses understand the costs and pain points in the customer journey.

Focus on improving the agent experience.
It is staggering the amount of applications that contact center agents use on a daily basis to answer customer questions. Organizations will look to push proactive information to agents, to minimize effort, and to help streamline service delivery. If companies can improve the agent experience, by helping to guide them through resolution paths, then agents will have more confidence to help customers and to deliver truly personalized experiences.

Adopt SaaS for agility.
A March 2015 Forrester Research report, Trends 2015: The Future Of Customer Service, found that 32% of companies have already replaced or plan to replace, most or all on-premise solutions with SaaS alternatives within 2 years. Why? Because moving applications to the Cloud pushes the burden of software and hardware maintenance back onto the vendor. This allows companies to be agile and focus on innovating with new features, ultimately creating differentiated, rewarding customer experiences.

Read how Sony uses its online digital experience to proactively engage customers.

Tuesday Aug 19, 2014

CRM Evolution 2014: Mediocrity is the New Horrible in Customer Service

"Mediocrity is the new horrible in customer service." — Blair McHaney, President/CEO, Gold's Gym

Almost everyone knows that customers' expectations have risen. But, after listening to two days of presentations at CRM Evolution, I think it’s more accurate to say that customers' expectations have skyrocketed. Fortunately, most companies have gotten the message and are taking their customer service to a higher level. For those who've been hesitant to 'boldly go where their customer service organization has not gone before,' take heart. I’ve got some statistics that will encourage you to take those first few steps.

Why should I change?

  • By engaging customers online, ancestry.com achieved a 99.5% customer satisfaction score (CSAT) while improving retention and saving millions on greater efficiency, including a 38%-50% drop in inbound calls and emails.1
  • By empowering employees to delight customers, Gold’s Gym achieved a 77.5% Net Promoter Score (NPS) and 22% customer churn rate. No small feat when you consider the industry averages are 40% NPS and 45% churn.2
  • By adapting quickly to social media, brands like Verizon have benefited from social community members spending 2.5x-10x more than average customers.3

‘The fierce urgency of now’ is upon us in customer service. You can take your customer service to a higher level! To find out more, click here.

CRM Evolution Customer Service Experience Footnotes:

*Arvindh Balakrishnan, Vice President, CX and CRM Applications Business GroupIs Your Customer Service Modern?
*Blair McHaney, President/CEO, Gold's Gym, Wire Your Organization with Customer Feedback
*Becky Carroll, Associate Partner, Cloud Strategy and Solutions, IBM, The Power of Communities for Improving the Service Experience and Building Advocates

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]

Monday Jan 06, 2014

8 Predictions for Customer Service in 2014 by David Vap

Happy New Year! As we embark on 2014, I thought about the key trends that we’re seeing in the customer service business and how they impact you as well as the impact to the Oracle Service Cloud business.  Here's my 2 cents on what matters for the new year.  Feel free to put in your own 2 cents in the comments!

1. Customer Service Becomes a Boardroom Priority

We’re about 3 years into the Age of the Customer, a 20-year cycle in which the most successful enterprises will reinvent themselves to systematically understand and serve increasingly powerful customers.” (Source: Forrester Research, Inc., Competitive Strategy In The Age Of The Customer, October 2013) The strong correlation between customer service, brand equity, and sales conversions is becoming conventional wisdom. And, the cross-organization initiatives that are required to deliver the best customer service require boardroom-level sponsorship. According to Joanne Causon, CEO, Institute of Customer Service, “There is a close alignment between the financial performance of an organization and its customer service…  It is about the decisions made in the boardroom. Focusing your customer service strategy across the whole of the organization, how it relates to other parts of the organization such as finance and marketing.” (Source: Institute of Customer Service)

2. Your Customers Don’t Want to Talk to You

As Gen-Y and Millennials are increasing into the demographic mix, more of your customers don’t want to talk to you. Talking on a phone is “so old school” to these generations. They prefer to serve themselves via the Web, and increasingly on a mobile device. And, when they do find that they need to talk to you, they want the transition to be easy and seamless – with the click of a button, without repeating information, no writing down a service request number, etc. 

In a recent survey conducted by Unisphere Research, “31 percent of all customer interactions today are conducted via the Web, and an additional 9 percent are conducted via the mobile Web or mobile applications… The highest concentration of Web self-service capabilities right now is in the finance/insurance (52 percent) and government/education/nonprofit (50 percent) sectors.” 

According to a blog post written by Kate Leggett, Forrester Research, “we’ve seen a 12% rise in web self-service usage, a 24% rise in chat usage, and a 25% increase in community usage for customer service in the past three years”.  Voice is still the most used service channel, but self-service channels are experiencing significant growth. (Source:  Forrester Research, Inc., Forrester’s Top 15 Trends for Customer Service in 2013, January 2013.)

3. Mobile, Mobile, Mobile

Fifty-five percent of all time spent with online retailers in June 2013 occurred on a mobile device, surpassing time spent on PCs, according to comScore, a Web and mobile measurement firm. Our own customer usage data tells us that 20% of support interactions are taking place over mobile. So, it’s no surprise that 62% of companies think mobile customer service is a competitive differentiator(Source: ICMI)  The challenge is that the mobile device mix continues to get more fragmented with the various operating systems (iOS, Android, Windows, RIM, etc.) and the device formats (tablets, mini-tablets, smart phones, etc.) And, many customers begin transactions on a mobile device and later transition to Web or assisted channels to complete a transaction. Amidst all this complexity, two things are clear:  1) providing support for the most common transactions in the mobile format that customers use is a must, and 2) ensuring a smooth transition between mobile and other support channels will become a strong differentiator against the competition.

4. Your Coffee Maker Serves Itself

Connected devices such as game consoles, TVs, appliances, personal fitness devices to name a few are expected to grow to 25 billion in 2015. (Source:  CISCO IBSG) So, your coffee maker may request its own service by going online to troubleshoot issues and download updates – without you even knowing it’s happened. 

Again, the seamless transition between support channels is a differentiator.  If the customer contacts you with an issue, the ability to link that customer to their device and access support data for the device helps your support agents provide more efficient and effective service. If they know the status of the device and what has happened, they can more easily take the appropriate corrective actions. 

Additionally, customers may want to use their device to get service without having to switch to another channel. For instance, if a customer is having a technical issue with a game, they want to be able to get service from within the game without switching to a phone, PC, or mobile device.  Providing service directly from internet-enabled devices will become a more common expectation.

5. Knowledge is Everywhere

We all know that customers have a lot of choice in who they do business with and that attention spans are very short. A substandard service experience leads to customer frustration and negative perceptions about the product as well as the company. An interruption in the buying process may mean abandonment. The end result is an increased likelihood that customers will go to a competitor next time. To address customer’s expectations that everything should be fast, easy and accessible, knowledge can’t be a separate destination, living in the support or service portal only. It needs to be woven into the entire customer lifecycle and accessible via any channel the customer chooses.  It needs to be contextual to what the customer is doing. And, it needs to leverage the collective community of experts – both inside and outside of your company. Share your knowledge everywhere so it adds value to your customers!

6. The Web Comes Alive

Given that many of your customers don’t want to talk to you, there is a need to provide them with the best possible experience on your online channels. Doing so requires the ability to answer the questions online that historically ended up in your call center, providing the ability to deliver a personalized interaction in what have been, to this point, very impersonal online interactions around knowledge. In an effort to create a more human-like interaction that can replicate the knowledge of their best service representatives and provide a more personalized Web experience, more companies will adopt a virtual assistant, an intelligent online concierge, to increase customer loyalty and reduce costs.   

7. Social Gets Real

We’re past the buzz phase and into the reality phase with social customer service. Our own customer usage data tells us that for established peer-to-peer communities, 30-40% of self-service interactions are coming through this channel, indicating that collective knowledge is becoming a significant part of solving customer issues. And, 62% of customers have already used social media for customer service issues (Source: Mashable), raising the importance of monitoring social channels and responding to issues in those channels before they become crises. But many businesses today have bolted social customer service onto their existing customer service platform. Instead, in order to best leverage social channels to achieve the greatest business benefits, organizations will need a tightly integrated social service platform that helps customers find answers they can trust--and helps the companies tune and optimize their social investments. 

8. Employee Experience Takes the Limelight

“Engaged employees work harder, stay later, and make more recommendations. You can’t create or sustain great customer experience with disengaged employees.” (Source: Bruce Temkin) While this wisdom isn’t new, 2014 will see increased focus on employee engagement in order to drive better customer experiences and company results. Relating to customer service specifically, we’ll see companies invest in more training, empowerment, and tools to make it easier for employees to deliver on great customer experiences. 

For more information, please visit our website.

Monday Nov 25, 2013

Leveraging Customer Facing Communities

Alongside Facebook and Twitter, communities are becoming a valuable alternative for customers to find answers to their support queries. Businesses need to ensure that posts on these sites are accurate and consistent with information available through other contact center channels. [Read More]

Thursday Sep 26, 2013

Connecting Your Social Media Efforts Across Marketing and Customer Service

One of the biggest challenges with being a socially aware enterprise is managing ownership of social data and responses. Social media impacts many parts of the customer lifecycle and, as a result, it also impacts many departments within the enterprise, including marketing, customer service, product and strategy teams. These internal teams will need to collaborate, share trends data and define who will handle different types of social communications.

[Read More]

Wednesday Sep 04, 2013

Getting Started with Social Customer Service

Guest Blogger: Aphrodite Brinsmead, Senior Analyst at Ovum

In my last blog I talked about the value of using social channels to support your customer service efforts.  Here I’ll talk about understanding the most relevant social media tools and how to handle queries and issues.

[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]
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