Turning Agent ‘Best Practices’ into Standard Practice

Best practices are a rarity in the call center environment. And even more so in the work-at-home call center environment. There, I said it. Who’s to blame, the call center leader? What does the at home agent do when they don’t know the answer? There’s no person next to them to ask and training is over. Calling the supervisor is an option, but could eat away at valuable time of two resources that are now unavailable to talk to customers.

Best practices in the call center are difficult to duplicate out-of-the-box between centers because each center is different. There are different agents, different campaigns, different cultures, and different goals. Therefore, every contact center must develop and embed best practices that are unique to them. Later in this post, I will provide tangible proof that best practice agents outperform average agents, with numbers like a 25% increase in FCR and a 50% decrease in AHT.

In my last post, I talked about overcoming agent availability in the work-at-home call center. In the post, I mentioned how insights derived from an agent desktop can serve as a stepping stone to best practices. To help contact center leaders get to an environment that embodies “best practices,” it’s essential to look at the data and insights around customer interactions. The data and insights can be disseminated from the agent’s use of the desktop to agent training programs and knowledge transfer exercises. In the work-at-home center, it’s nearly impossible for agents to “learn by osmosis” and glean insights from other top performing agents while chatting in the lunch room, or at the water cooler.

Identifying Best Practices in the Work-at-Home Call Center

With at-home agents, it is much harder to use observation to identify best practices and without the right technologies, it’s even harder to gain adoption of best practices.  So, how do you identify best practices and gain adoption across a dispersed, work from home agent model?

Defining best practices begins by gaining insight on the full breath of the customer interaction. Many contact centers have data from CTI/IVR, but that only gives you connection data, resolution data, or abandonment rates.

You need to reach beyond the surface level data to capture the back and forth dialog with the customer. You need all the screens viewed, and all the clicks and searches.  This rich body of information will tell you more than the IVR/CTI data and more than a recording can reveal.

Make Best Practice the Average Practice

It’s common for agents to follow a script or manual workflow based on how the customer interaction is unfolding. Oftentimes, this means an agent is following a process from pencil and paper or using their own ‘best practice’ process to bring the call to resolutions. For obvious reasons this is a flawed practice altogether.

The differences between average and best practice agents can be dramatic.  In a recent call center we reviewed and worked with:

  • FCR was 25% higher for best practice agents
  • ACH was 50% lower for best practice agents
  • Close ratios were 25% higher for best practice agents
  • Upsell rates varied by as much as 15% for best practice agents

In the above scenario, agents who followed best practices were following a process designed in our contact center application.

Why do these differences matter? Let’s assume that you can get 15 of 25 agents  to adopt a best practice that would lead to reducing Average Handling Time by up to 50%. Let’s also assume that each agent averages for 30 hours of call handling time each week (or about 1500 hours per year).  By getting 60% of the agents to adopt a best practice, you’d add 11,250 productivity hours to your center without adding a penny to the expense line.

Roll Out Best Practices Using a Unified Agent Desktop

Insights behind the agent desktop will shed light on clicks, time spent on screens, and the outcome of calls. Call center managers can use these insights to find technology barriers that are consistently hampering an optimal customer interaction flow. Data and insights will help call centers ensure productive escalations or “on-hold” consultations.

Along with the insights, call centers need to leverage a unified agent desktop to codify best practices easily for customer dialogs and optimal process for each campaign or use case. An agent desktop provides a mechanism to roll out new best practices. Getting new agents trained in the at home model is a difficult proposition. Set the best practice in the system, minimize training and allow the agent to succeed faster and better.

Interested in learning more about rolling out best practices and optimizing the home agent workforce? Contact us to learn how our unified agent desktop provides end-to-end management insights that lead to best practices.

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Deal Signed with Michigan 211 Call Center

RiverStar signed a contract with Michigan 2-1-1, Lansing, Michigan. Michigan 2-1-1 is an organization that provides free, confidential service that connects residents with local community-based organizations across the state, offering thousands of different programs and services for people seeking answers. In 2014, more than half a million Michigan residents turned to 2-1-1 for health and human service information and referrals, and the numbers continue to grow.  2-1-1 has information on more than 30,000 different programs and services across the state.

The Michigan 2-1-1 – RiverStar team has collaborated to implement an evolving, comprehensive solution for Michigan 2-1-1 that manages the interactions between Michigan 2-1-1 and the residents seeking assistance. The solution is built using RiverStar Studio, a platform used to rapidly create web applications using a graphical drag and drop interface that doesn’t require traditional programming.  The solution is centered on the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop that is tightly integrated with the Michigan 2-1-1 contact center platform provided by inContact.

For Michigan 2-1-1, the RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop, built using RiverStar Studio, has been configured to initially provide a scheduling application for the agents to use to schedule appointments with tax counselors to help residents with their taxes. It will then be extended to integrate with the Refer reference information platform that is used by Michigan 2-1-1 to quickly pull information needed to assist residents with their specific issues.

RiverStar supports key business activities through:

  • Embedded call control in the desktop for telephony, inbound email handling, chat and SMS
  • Process based workflows within the desktop,
  • Searchable, data-driven reference information, e.g., FAQs, Reference Documents, Reference Links
  • Rapid integration with enterprise systems, e.g., Refer, embedded in the workflows
  • Business process management functionality to manage customer facing business processes

The solution provides a wide range of functionality for a group of 8 different 2-1-1 organizations across the state to support interactions with the residents, such as:

  • RiverStar Unified Agent Desktop
  • Activity scheduling, planning, tracking, escalation, and management
  • Inbound customer service
  • Outbound customer service
  • Inbound email handling
  • Outbound email campaigns and surveys
  • Contact management
  • Case management
  • Contact history
  • Reporting

This solution has become the focus for all interactions with the residents.

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FCR and the Bottom Line of the Contact Center

Only 43% of contact centers measure First Contact Resolution (FCR) according to research done by SQM Group.  But, how can this be? Measuring this metric is one of the most important in the contact center. It not only benefits customer service delivery but it also reduces the cost to service customers, a direct hit to any company’s bottom line. In short, improving FCR equals spending less while increasing repurchase from loyal customers.

Improved Customer Satisfaction

FCR directly correlates to customer satisfaction rates; for every 1% of FCR improvement, contact centers will see a 1% improvement in customer satisfaction rates (SQM Group). In comparison, customer satisfaction rates are nearly 50% lower if the customer needs to make a second call to resolve the same issue. We all understand the importance of customer satisfaction, and customer satisfaction rates can powerfully influence a contact center’s bottom line, both efficiency and revenue production.

Improved Agent Experience

I recently spoke with one of the top agents at an elite contact center outsourcer. As the agent explained his processes to me, he admitted that sometimes the technology he works with prevents him from delivering better customer service experiences.

When we arrived at the subject of FCR, he explained that having to work with up to seven applications open on his desktop causes him to move more slowly and increases a customer’s impatience.

Three Quick Ideas to Get Started

  1. Measure – You get what you inspect, not what you expect.  Do whatever you can to measure FCR and set targets.  It is the fastest way to uncover the barriers and get going on fixing the challenges.
  2. Unify the Desktop – An agent that doesn’t have to constantly worry about using multiple fractured back-end systems moves more quickly and is free to focus on the customer.  Our experience is that a unified agent desktop improves FCR by at least 10%.  Make sure the various windows are not crowded and facilitate easy location of information.
  3. Optimize the Dialog and Process – Even if your agents are using one or two systems, the actual dialog or processes they’re following might lead to low FCR.  Take a look at the best performers that you’re now measuring.  Use your systems to make sure that all of your agents, not just the best ones, are following the optimal dialog path and using the best processes to get to FCR.  Now, you’ll free up the agents time and attention to improve service and key metrics like FCR.

RiverStar has some proven ideas here. Now that you know how FCR affects your bottom line, take solid steps to ensure that your customers’ issues are resolved, the first time they call.

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4 Agent Scripting Myths Debunked

Have you ever called a contact center and felt like you’re talking to a robot instead of a human being? Often this feeling of “communicating with a computer” can be attributed to how the agent is reading a script, when in fact it’s just extremely poor use of an agent workflow.

Agent scripting shouldn’t be applied to a customer experience as a robotic, word-by-word script that an agent follows during a customer interaction. Customers have unique needs, and agents must adapt to them, not based on what to say, but on what process to follow.  In reality, agent scripting should be the customer dialog function of a strategic workflow process designed to optimize the customer experience.

Unfortunately, there are several lingering myths around the value of agent scripting in relation to the overall customer experience. We’d like to clear the confusion by talking about four specific myths we hear on a regular basis.

Myth 1: Agent Scripting is Robotic

We’re not saying that robotic scripts don’t exist. We’re saying that real agent scripting doesn’t need to be robotic. Effective agent scripting should be viewed as a map, guiding an agent in a consistent process to efficiently resolve a specific customer request. Agents are encouraged to incorporate personality and follow the appropriate call flow that fits the conversation most accurately. Great agents who have the best technology at their desktop will be focused on the customer, not on what words to say.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting is NOT robotic!

Myth 2: Agent Scripting is “Customer Unfriendly”

A recent article outlined a complaint on a well-known social network that said, “The person I spoke with (on a customer service line) would not even listen to anything I had to say, she just kept repeating the same phrase,” and “She was clearly not even listening, just reading from a script.” Is this the fault of agent scripting? No. That’s the sign of an agent sitting at their desk with a script and without a customer interaction workflow. Unfortunately, the customer and the company will pay the price for the unfriendly experience. Agent scripting should always be a part of a well-crafted process that elicits the exact answers to customer inquiries, resolving issues on the first call attempt. If the process is well designed, the “unfriendly” part of the dialog should disappear.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting can uptick the friendly factor in customer service calls.

Myth #3: Agent Scripting Reduces an Agent’s Capabilities

Agent scripting, in fact, can greatly improve an agent’s capabilities (if done the right way). A crafted customer interaction dialog is an essential part of an overall interaction process. Agent scripts enable an agent to navigate a wide range of questions and inquiries from a customer as part of the process. For this to work efficiently, the agent-facing desktop should be integrated with all of the required systems, delivering relevant information to the agent’s screen. The agent script in this scenario is just the navigation point that grabs relevant and timely information based on direction of the call, essentially increasing the agent capabilities in line with the customer requests.  Instead of searching for possible answers to a variety of questions, an agent can follow a consistent business process to provide what the customer needs.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting increases the capabilities of the agent.

Myth 4: Agent Scripting is Costly

Every contact center executive is aware that great customer service directly and indirectly impacts an organization’s bottom line. If effective agent scripting can lower average call handle time, increase first call resolution, and lessen a customer’s frustration, the impact can be measured in hard dollars. Agent scripting via a unified agent desktop should always provide clear, rapid ROI.

DEBUNKED: Agent scripting saves companies money if implemented effectively within a process.

Do you still believe any of these myths about agent scripting? We’d be happy to hear your opinion.

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Smart Agent Desktop, Smart Agents, A Smart Contact Center

Contact center agents within the financial services industry showed that the average agent worked across 7 applications every day and more than 15 percent of agents worked across 12 or more, according to a recent Velociti Partners survey.

Loading the agent desktop with multiple logons, application interfaces, and forcing infinite alt-tabs and clicks forces an agent to focus on confusing, intricate processes. However, an intuitive, unified agent desktop will streamline agent learning and productivity, and ultimately enable a smarter agent.

A Smart Agent Desktop

What makes an agent desktop smart? An intelligent, unified agent desktop delivers the right information at the right time in the process. The ideal desktop has an integrated backend that taps into various applications and databases, delivering relevant information throughout the customer dialogue. Every second counts in a customer service interaction. When an agent switches to a new application and has to log on, an average of 5-10 seconds are added to the call time.

Here’s how it adds up. 1.2 seconds for mental preparation, 0.4 seconds for every time the agent has to switch from mouse to keyboard, 1.1 seconds to point to an object on screen, and .5 seconds to press and release a single key. (Based on the Keystroke-Level Model)

If an agent has to utilize 3 different applications in a call, between 15 to 30 seconds of downtime will be added to the call, just for switching between applications! What could a company gain by shaving 30 seconds off their average handling time? Shorter agent training cycles? Happier customers? More profitability? A smart agent desktop converts wasted minutes into time spent making a sale, solving a customer problem, or completing an additional call.

A Smart Agent

With a smart desktop, agents receive the right information at the right time in the customer dialogue. If an agent is guided through the right process by a unified agent desktop, they are able to turn their attention solely to listening and interacting with the customer.

A smart agent can focus on what the customer is asking or saying. And with the aid of a unified desktop, the agent will be able to focus on the customer’s tone and inflection, giving an agent greater insight into the customer. Agents who are forced to focus on finding answers and information can get distracted by clicks, keys, and multiple logons. An agent who is distracted by complicated (and unassisted) call processes can cause the agent to miss key cues or comments.

Not only will an agent focus on the customer’s needs with a smart desktop, but an agent will also become more attuned to the customer dialogue, not the next step to take or what to say.

A Smart Contact Center

A contact center powered by smart agents and a smart desktop will be an efficient, productive, and successful contact center. Could you imagine increasing your first contact resolution rate by 25%? How about reducing your average handling time by 10%? What about doubling your conversion rate? Many contact centers have experienced these revolutionary improvements because of a unified agent desktop. Sometimes, the benefit comes down to the numbers.

Running a contact center is a complex matter in the simplest of forms. Don’t add more layers of complexity by clouding the agent experience. A unified agent desktop interface is simpler, and a fraction of the cost of large scale software implementations.

Read our agent desktop case studies to see real-life testimonials on how a smart desktop has improved efficiency metrics (e.g. average handle time, agent training time) and agent effectiveness (e.g. conversion rates, first call resolution). If you’d like to discuss ways to make your agent desktop smarter and more unified, please contact us here.

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Key Metrics Impacted by a Unified Agent Desktop

In general, an average of 25% of inbound calls are a follow-up to a prior interaction. This means that roughly 25% of the calls are happening because the company did not resolve the customer’s issue the first time. Imagine a call center with 5000 inbound calls a month, or 1250 follow up calls. This translates to $4.75 million in direct labor costs (assuming an average salary of $38K year for a 500-seat call center) related to customer follow-ups. A modest 15% improvement in your first call resolution (FCR) would translate to $712,500 in cost savings. (Calculations based off of Cornell University’s research The Global Call Center Report).

A unified agent desktop has the potential to improve FCR by 15% or more while at the same time impacting other key metrics like average handle time and conversion rates.

Last year, we published a research report based on detailed responses from 65 contact center leaders. Not the least bit surprising, the most cited metrics in assessing contact center performance were Average Handle Times (AHT), First Contact Resolution (FCR), and Conversion Rate.

While there are many levers (agent training, campaign variables, etc.) to improving KPIs, the agent desktop can be the greatest inhibitor or catalyst to immediately impacting KPIs. This is the positive customer experience effect that results from agents’ using an intelligent agent desktop.

I’m going to take the top three metrics that contact center leaders use to measure performance and provide examples of how these metrics were improved by consolidating their agents’ desktops.

First Contact Resolution (FCR)

Keep your customers happy by resolving their issues the first time they contact you. Based on empirical research by SQM Group, when there is a 1% gain in FCR it translates into a 1% gain in customer satisfaction.

If you can’t resolve an issue the first time a customer calls, you will increase your chances of losing that customer, and will definitely lose money as you spend more time fixing their problem.

Can a unified agent desktop improve your FCR? Let’s look at the facts: Blue Casa (Telecommunications provider) implemented a unified agent desktop and experienced an increase of 25% in their FCR. Such a definitive, measurable improvement cannot be underestimated. This contact center watched their operation costs decrease as their customer satisfaction increased.

Average Handling Time (AHT)

If you share belief that AHT is an important metric, consider how Service Master took advantage of a unified agent desktop to reduce their centers’ AHT. Their average handling time was reduced by 10%, thus refining a customer service process that was already fairly productive.

Contact center professionals may argue whether or not reducing AHT positively affects the customer experience, but no one can argue that reducing AHT does not positively affect the bottom line and agent productivity.

Conversion Rate

How important is your conversion rate? I know – that’s like asking how important profitability is!

If I could prove to you that the unified agent desktop can improve your conversion rate by a significant percentage, would you be surprised? Maybe you’ve already gathered that if the average handling time and first contact resolution are improved, then your agents have a better chance at making a sale. As it turns out, SQM also found in its research that when a customer call is resolved you increase customer cross sell acceptance rate by 20%.

We checked Service Master’s new conversion rate after implementing our solutions, and their conversion rate had doubled! Bottom line, that’s a lot more profit.

Read our case studies, examine our statistics; I’m excited about the improvements in key metrics that RiverStar has witnessed. If you value your metrics and want to see them improve, talk to us about the unified agent desktop. Justifying the adoption of a unified agent desktop means that there must be bottom line impact, and we would argue that the improvements to the top three metrics in the contact center does just that.

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Are You Losing Customers Because of Your Agent Desktop?

At the recent Customer 360 Summit, analyst firm Gartner stated that 83% of customers are likely to change service providers after a single failed service attempt. In other words, only 17% of customers will stay with your company when their issue is not resolved on the first attempt. Another customer of ours sees a 60% decline in service renewal unless first call resolution is met. Customers are unforgiving when their time and money are on the line. And who’s to blame them?

Given that, it is hard to understand why companies fail to give agents a fully consolidated desktop to help achieve an optimal first call resolution rate. Customer loyalty is affected by things that customers can’t see or influence – such as the agent desktop.

Here is an example of how the customer service process breaks down at the agent desktop level, and why it could be costing you customers. This recently happened to Joe, a friend of mine.

Joe called a customer service line to get help with a mobile phone account. After many layers of an automated IVR script and waiting on hold for several minutes, a polite, cheerful agent answered the phone with the standard intro, “Hi, this is Amy. How can I help you today?” She then proceeded to re-ask for all the data the IVR system already collected to identify Joe as one of the company’s account holders. Why the need to re-ask this information!? Joe had already entered his phone number in the IVR system, and was calling from the cell phone connected to his account.

Getting Lost in a Sea of Windows and Applications

Amy was working with an agent desktop that is not fully integrated with the IVR system. But, that’s not all. She was forced to struggle through multiple application interfaces on her desktop, each containing silos of critical data to assist Joe. She had to put Joe on hold multiple times so she could find a resolution across various systems and databases.

Joe was in a hurry. He had to address a billing dispute from an international trip, but he didn’t have a lot of time. He was asked for the same information and asked to sit on hold too many times. Joe reluctantly ended the call, frustrated that he didn’t get his answer, and that he’ll likely have to go through the entire process again.

Not only did the company not resolve Joe’s issue on the first attempt, but the company wasted the agent’s (Amy’s) time and increased the cost of service. Worse yet, companies that do this systematically damage their brand and customer base.

Stop Losing Customers Due to a Disjointed Agent Desktop

Fragmented desktops are solvable, and you don’t need to spend millions or take 9 months to solve them. In fact, you can solve these problems, even in very complex environments in as little as 3-4 months.

In a previous post, I highlighted the story of an airline customer service interaction that outlined the need to integrate systems to create better processes. Embracing a process-based approach to customer service requires flexible business process management and system integration tools (see RiverStar Studio) to enable an intelligent agent desktop.

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Three-Year Deal Signed with Compass Bank

RiverStar signed a three-year contract renewal with Compass Bank, Milan Italy. Compass is part of GrupoMediobanca. Compass is primarily a consumer focused bank. They provide personal loans, credit cards, etc. to their consumer base throughout Italy. With more than 3.000,000 customers and 150 branches across Italy, Compass is a leader in Italian consumer banking.

Over the last nine years, the Compass – RiverStar team has collaborated to implement a comprehensive enterprise business solution for Compass that manages the interactions with their consumers. The solution was built using RiverStar Studio, a platform used to rapidly create web applications using a graphical drag and drop interface that doesn’t require traditional programming.

For Compass Bank, the RiverStar Agent Desktop framework, built using RiverStar Studio, has been configured to provide a unified agent desktop for telephony, chat, SMS and inbound email.

RiverStar supported key business activities through:

  • Embedded call control in the desktop for telephony, chat and work items,
  • Process based workflows within the desktop,
  • Searchable, data-driven reference information, e.g., FAQs, Reference Documents, Reference Links, and
  • Rapid integration with enterprise systems embedded in the workflows
  • Business process management functionality to manage customer facing business processes

The solution provides a wide range of functionality to support interactions with the customers, such as:

  • RiverStarAgent Desktop
  • Activity scheduling, planning,tracking, escalation, andmanagement
  • Inbound customer service
  • Outbound customer service
  • Inbound email handling
  • Loan application processing
  • Outbound email campaigns and surveys
  • Contact management
  • Case management
  • Contact history, and
  • Reporting

For a base of approximately 1800 users, this solution has become the focus for all interactions with the customer.

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Improving Agent Efficiency with a Single, Unified Agent Desktop

How many application interfaces must your agents navigate in a typical customer interaction? If you said more than one, we’re not off to a good start.

One recent call center survey claimed that the average number of applications for an agent to work with is 6 or 7, while 15% of agents work with over 12! For customer-facing processes, applications are the main tool that agents use to handle the call, resolve issues, and provide answers.

In any company, applications supporting internal business processes are sprinkled around various departments – manufacturing, billing, scheduling, returns, customer service, and marketing, to name a few. Customers are expecting resolutions and answers when they call your company. Access to real-time customer data for the agent is critical to enabling more effective customer interactions.  Providing access to the myriad of internal systems doesn’t really help the agent solve the customer’s concern; it simply provides a source of data.  The agent must be trained on how to access each system, what data is available within each system, when each system is needed, and how to get to the specific information needed to address each possible request.

Every time that an agent must exit one application and open a new one, it adds about 10-15 seconds to the call and makes them less able to do their job at all, much less deliver an outstanding customer experience. From the agent perspective, complex system and data searching can add stress to the interaction – more time is spent, customers want to get off the phone, and agent metrics are taking a beating.  Agents have to learn not just what information is available where and how to get access to it, but when and why they need it.  How they address customer concerns is dependent on what they have learned, with no guarantee of consistency across agents.

The easier the process is for the agent, the more beneficial it is for you and your customer. Here are just a few reasons why agents should have a consolidated application experience:

Improved Agent Training

Think about the first time you had to learn to use an application, like your CRM application or ERP system. It takes a while to get familiar with the layout, to learn how to navigate to different areas of the application, and to feel confident using it. The same logic applies to agent training. The more applications the agent has to use, the more time it will take agents to become confident in using them, and the greater the stress on the agent, which also results in a higher probability of user-error.

Improved Agent Experience

Nothing is more tiring for an agent than getting bogged down by searching through multiple applications for the correct data while the customer is waiting for them to answer their question. When information is readily available in one application, agents are more productive, and they can focus on the customer, not the system.  If you’re trying to solve the constant high-turnover issue that plagues many call centers, simplifying an agent’s application experience can make a huge difference.

Improved Average Handling Times

Why? Because Agents spend less time clicking and tabbing through various applications. If agents are constantly switching screens and applications, call handle times rise and profitability goes down. Shaving off 10 – 15 seconds for each ‘alt tab’ application transition can translate to a significant reduction in the duration of each call. Thankfully, a consolidated desktop will eliminate that.

Happier Customers

Have you ever called customer service and had to wait while the agent put you on hold to find an answer? I know I have. More than likely, the agent is searching through various screens and applications to find the answer. It’s not necessary, and it’s not efficient.  Providing the information to the agent when they need it during the call can give customers an experience that exceeds their expectations, leaving them happier and more loyal.

Does a Unified Agent Desktop Exist?

According to the Gartner “What’s hot in CRM applications 2012” report, an intelligent agent desktop is the second hottest item in the customer service space.  Not only does a consolidated agent desktop exist, but they have been around for at least 10 years.  It starts with integrating applications into one user interface; it follows by seamlessly weaving application data into the business process-based workflow provided, and it results in an efficient interaction.  To see what the ideal unified agent desktop should look like, contact RiverStar today.

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Why ‘Out-of-the-Box’ Can Kill the Customer Experience

Complex customer experiences require a well-thought out process that identifies and optimizes value throughout the customer interaction process.  The pace of advancing technology, rising customer expectations, and competitive pressures are all hammering away at companies looking to improve the customer experience.
Customer experience excellence is always a work in process; making it difficult for “out-of-the-box” software (e.g., CRM) to meet the unique needs of customers and businesses.  Oddly enough, most of these types of software products are focused on customer data and configured to support internal processes, not customer needs or processes. This is a critical flaw.
Customer journey mapping is one exercise that companies perform to understand the customer touch points requiring attention. Regardless of the method used, companies need to look at each customer interaction from the perspective of the customer’s experience.  According to a Gartner, 86% of the customers who changed service providers did so because of a bad customer experience.  Eliminating unnecessary tasks and streamlining customer facing processes leads to faster service times, lower call handling times, and a number of other benefits.  Customer service software should be built to support or at least be capable of supporting the ideal customer process.

Let’s take a deeper look at why out-of-the-box solutions may have difficulty realizing customer experience goals.

Fitting a square peg in a round hole

Part of the predicament is in how rarely companies actively analyze the metrics around the customer experience as The Temkin Group outlines in this diagram. Additionally, the data shows that only 10% of the companies surveyed are either good or very good at measuring customer experience metrics as an integral part of operations across the organization. The lack of a sound strategy explains to some degree why the inward focus on technology and internal processes (that is common with out of the box software) take precedence over creating an outstanding customer experience. Thus, the square peg called “out of the box solutions” doesn’t quite match up to the round hole associated with the needs of the customer.

The ROI is measurable

There are many moving parts required to gauge the financial impact of the customer experience. Measuring the cost factors and ROI of great customer experiences is not easy, but it is doable.

For instance, a recent study by Forrester Research indicates that the average large bank can increase revenues by about $210 million a year by delivering a better customer experience, quantified in three areas, with over half driven by reductions in customer churn, followed by increased share-of-wallet and word-of-mouth driven acquisition.

Customization is King

In a perfect world, every single customer experience process will be custom to the requirements and needs of the customer. Is it impossible? Maybe. However, getting as close to this state as possible is nothing short of required for businesses to compete. Settling for software that meets up to 70% of the customer service needs of the business is not enough to stay ahead.

Customer service is THE differentiating factor that determines customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

An out-of-the-box solution MAY deliver a lower up front price tag than a custom solution but is likely to cost significantly more when a 3 or 5 year total cost of ownership assessment is performed. Even more importantly is the impact on customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.  If you knew that the software you were using meant you would lose 5 more customers, 50 more customers, 500 more customers…  would you factor that into your decision to select a product to stop that blood loss? Out of the box software can end up costing an exponential amount to wrangle the software to TRY do what you want it to.

Force-fitting your customer-facing processes into an out of the box solution can kill your customer experience strategy and is a recipe for disaster, unless the product mirrors the needs of the customer. We’ve been engaged by a number of clients for this very reason (read our case studies).

Looking at solutions designed around the process can greatly aid customer experience initiatives. Due diligence will prove valuable to both your organization and your customer.

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