First,let’s decide what we’re talking about when we say customer service in the context of Social CRM. It is the customer care activities that surround the purchase of a product or services. That is an aggregate definition that pretty well encompasses the average and median definition of customer service,derived from several dozen.
This definition extends customer service to something well beyond just handling complaints. It also includes,for example,inquiries and questions that require a non-urgent answer,but are still expected to be answered on the first contact.
But even just this example can get dicey when you have to figure out who carries out this function and what channels are used for it in a company.
For example,is field service part of customer service? Is the call center the primary way that customer care should be carried out? For the purposes of the fourth edition,field service is not going to be covered—please see the third edition if you want to a detailed and still appropriate look at field service. But we are going to look at the state of the call center to see how (and if) it fits into a contemporary customer care strategy.
The Contact Center:The Illusion of Successful Efficiency
John Ragsdale,who is the vice president of technology research at the Service and Support Professionals Association (SSPA),did a study on service technology spend between 2008 and 2009 and found that there was one big winner and one big loser. The big winner was multichannel and e-services,which went from 22 percent in 2008 to 30 percent in 2009 of all service tech budgets. The big loser? Contact centers,which dropped from 39 percent to 27 percent in those two years—and pretty well funded all the increases in other categories.
Why? Because it is increasingly apparent that not only are alternate service channels becoming a more important part of service execution strategies,but customers would rather rely on themselves than a CSR,given the level of frustration and the expectation of failure they already have for that traditional environment. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk to someone. They just don’t trust that the “someone” will solve their problem.
You can’t blame this shift—if blame is the right word—on the empowerment of customers,their Internet savvy,and their desire to resolve their own problems on their own time. It is a strong factor in this move toward multichannel customer service. But equally important is the failure of contact centers to recognize that the processes they use,their sadly misaligned cultures,and the metrics they measure by are part of why customers don’t expect to get their problems solved despite their calls. It’s an institutional failure. In 2008,Forrester Research queried 5,000 respondents and released a report called “Why Talking to Customers Is Ruining Your Business,” which outlined why customers felt this way. The primary reasons were:
The problem isn’t the problems themselves. The way that call centers are organized and customer service reps are measured militates against successful interactions with customers. Customer service reps are measured by the speed with which they clear the call queues—one way or another. Customers are looking for a resolution to their problem or answer to their question and an experience that at least meets their standards. These are diametrically opposed expectations.
If you look at traditional call center metrics,they include how many calls per hour are answered,how long it takes for a call to be answered (average speed of answer,or ASA),how long a call takes (average handle time,or AHT),how many calls have been abandoned,the mean time to resolve tickets,and so on. These are all KPIs that are aimed at efficiencies in the call center,not the actual solution to the customer’s problem or the answers to their queries. This is the precise difference between a corporate culture and a customer-centric culture. The former tries to resolve things to the satisfaction of management,the latter to the expectations of the customers. The most significant call center metric that aligns with the customers’ actual requirements is first contact resolution,not first call resolution. This is a multichannel world now.
This is an endemic problem spanning multiple industries. Here are a couple of very typical snippets of discussions about call center KPIs that go on in a number of forums:
Efficiency rules. The question is why? According to Natalie Petouhoff,a senior analyst at Forrester Research,who runs their customer service research practice and whom you will hear from quite a bit in this chapter:
Twenty years ago when customer service strategies and the resulting technologies were first adopted,without meaning to,they set customer service up to fail. How? The primary goal was to make the corporation more efficient. Cost-cutting strategies defined customers’ questions and concerns as a nuisance to be dealt with in the most minimal way possible. In response,technology vendors focused on the automation of customer complaints. Businesses then weren’t attuned to concepts like “customer experience” or “customer lifetime value.”
The resulting customer disdain combined with rapid rise in adoption and use of social media by consumers have today formed a “perfect storm” that is driving the change in the world of customer service.
But unfortunately,as Fred Reichheld pointed out in his book The Ultimate Question: Driving Good Profits and True Growth,there is an 80/8 gap. When it comes to customer experience,80 percent of the companies think they are doing a good job,but only 8 percent of the customers think they are. When it comes to call centers,the delusion of success is there,because,as frequently as not,they perform well according to their KPIs. They reduce handle time; they meet the SLA basic terms; they reduce abandonment rates. But they don’t improve the customers’ experience or resolve their issues to the customers’ satisfaction.
Can Traditional Contact Centers Still Work?
The traditional contact center is not going to go away. So the question is,can they work using traditional approaches and efficiency-based metrics? They can,but not without a significant organizational process transformation and cultural change. What that involves is what CRM initiatives always involve.
Customer Relationship Management Related Tutorials
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Customer Relationship Management Related Interview Questions
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Customer Relationship Management Related Practice Tests
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