My number one pet peeve when I call into a customer service department is one that I think everyone can relate to. You call the customer service number, carefully select your path through a maze of options, and explain your problem. This can take a while. You then find out that you have to be transferred to someone else and have to repeat everything you have just told the first representative you spoke to! Being the customer experience diva that I am, I have no problem expressing my frustration every time this happens. It’s my time that I feel is not being valued. There’s got to be a better way!
Running a customer service organization is not for the faint-hearted. Companies have to satisfy their customers – while maintaining a close eye on service KPIs and protecting revenues. What’s more, consumers have become accustomed to getting answers at digital speed and experience. They expect instant gratification and want to choose how they engage with you. When they don’t get the level of service they expect, they can share their bad experience via social media, which can go viral and damage a brand’s reputation. This is all part of pleasing modern consumers in what Oracle calls the “Experience Economy.”
The Experience Economy is driven by the way the world works today. People expect physical goods to arrive at their doors in a matter of hours, not days – and they expect answers to arrive on their mobile screens in a matter of milliseconds.
In the Experience Economy, the customer is the innovator, not the enterprise. Technology lets customers create very personalized experiences. As people become more comfortable and facile with technology, they will create new ways of managing their daily lives and online experiences. And they will expect that kind of flexibility from every company they do business with.
To be a world-class service organization in this 'Experience Era,” companies need to take care of the requirements of business, their customers and their service teams. It’s a careful balancing act to make sure that service employees are properly equipped and empowered to do their job while providing that human touch that customers expect today. That “human” element is, in many cases, now powered by deploying and scaling technology and automation – delicately, and strategically.
The Path to Service Nirvana
It all starts with data. When I ask customers, “are you managing the data created by every customer point?” I hear more “no” than “yes.”
#1 – Inbound service is what most of us have been used to since the inception of a service department. You walk into a brick-and-mortar store. You talk to a cashier or a manager to resolve your grievance. Or, you call a service number. Their mindset is equivalent to putting out fires.
Even in 2020, it's sadly familiar to repeat your information to a tele-rep. It’s like dealing with multiple companies. This basic level of service is usually a team of contact center agents who are trained to react and resolve inbound inquiries.
From an operational standpoint, these service departments implement processes and tactically manage data to understand how quickly they can resolve inbound inquiries. This approach is grounded in outdated measurement practices that don’t consider other customer touch points, nor propel the business forward. These management practices were designed before technology opened a new array of service options.
To build a service foundation, you still need to master this step but also centralize your contact center applications to ensure you’re as efficient as possible when it comes to responding and closing inbound inquiries.
Once organizations master inbound service, it’s time to look at automation and limited self-service capabilities to answer basic questions at scale.
But in the experience economy, that won’t quite cut it. Even though we’re all glued to our phones, we still crave to engage with people. Any company that wants to go to the next level needs to balance humanity with that automation.
#2 – Foundational Service is a critical step where service organizations drive efficiencies and expand new interaction channels. Specifically, this means moving from a team of agents who resolve customer inquiries to a team that does so in the most efficient way possible by leveraging technology. Teams scale their efforts by making knowledge available to customers and employees so answers are consistent across all touchpoints, whether in person or digital.
This stage marks the first step toward delivering an integrated CX stack. Touchpoints across service teams are established and data from sales and marketing is connected to form a more comprehensive customer understanding.
#3 – Advanced Service is maturing toward excellence when the organization connects all customer data as part of their service strategy. However, it’s not enough to just drive efficiencies when responding to customers. We have to respond on the right channel and calibrate our communications with each individual customer. Whether adding or removing them from marketing emails, upselling value-add products or thanking them for their business. It’s about providing value and owning the customer relationship at every single touch.
Service agents make an impact in the business because they have a 360-degree understanding of each customer. Equipped with a conversational interface that personalizes each customer interaction, they’re empowered to fully help and resolve the customer’s issues and identify opportunities to enhance the customer experience.
At Oracle, we’ve seen the boost in service insights and increased efficiencies of 50% in handling customer requests through chat and knowledge. Some customers have reduced the burden on their contact center by as much as 40% and reduced average handling time by 50% with policy automation. These results produce happier customers and significant cost savings.
#4 Beyond Service means the new level of service transcends customer expectations and makes the brand stand out from the rest. Powered by data, and fueled by innovation and ingenuity, organizations at this stage leverage insights across all touchpoints and connected devices to deliver service engagements that were not possible just 5 years ago.
Augmented reality helps customers and service employees by transposing images, information and content to form a customer's point of view. IoT device data proactively updates software that improves the customer experience and demonstrates "hands off" product innovation. Real time information equips service employees with a single, dynamic view of the customer.
There isn’t a one size fits all approach at this stage. Instead, it’s an evolution to deliver the best service that makes sense for your business – and of course, it all revolves around data! Most importantly, we believe this can mean something different to every business, and the future of service will continually be reshaped as we partner with leading service organizations to get there together.
Differentiating your brand with proactive, predictive service functions is now a reality. Service organizations that want to delight and keep customers should incrementally move through the milestones on the path to CX Excellence. Service teams are positioned as trusted advisors. The brand provides value at every touch point. And customers are delighted at each and every step.
Click to read the Forrester report The Forrester Wave™: Customer Service Solutions, Q2 2019
Click to learn all about Oracle CX Service
This is the latest in a series of blogs that expound on how organizations can use data to provide great customers experiences and profit in the experience economy.Click here for the first, which describes the concepts in this idea. The second describes the path for B2B marketing while the third is for sales excellence. The fourth is the path to excellence for field marketing organizations.