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  • 06:50:59 pm on June 3, 2010 | 0 | # |
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    Aligning your social service strategy with your traditional one

    Many of you say you need a “social CRM” strategy. However, much like the evolution of eService as just another way of doing customer service, to be successful in the long run, you should look at social channels as part of your overall service strategy, and make sure that your brand remains consistent across all the communication that you have with your customers. This means that you should look to provide similar experiences on Twitter, as you do on the phone.

    How do you go about determining what social channels you want to engage in? It’s best to take a two-pronged approach that involves both monitoring and moderating.

    From company to company, the social channels to monitor vary. Loosely defined, these should be any communities where your customers express emotions and opinions about brands, products and their service experiences – like LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter; rating and review sites like Amazon and Yelp; open source communities; and/or popular industry publications and blogs that solicit reader input. Ask your customers where they engage on-line. You can learn a lot about customer perception of your brand, products and services from monitoring these communities. And, you can translate these learnings into, for example product/service capabilities that are better aligned with your customer base or organizational changes to better service your customers. Monitoring activities do have a real ROI.

    In addition to monitoring activities, you should also decide what social channels you want to moderate in order to engage with your customer base – like company-sponored forums/blogs. Successes include ComcastCares Twitter profile as a viable customer service channel. Dell’s Idea Storm discussion board helps the company gauge which product ideas are most important and most relevant to their customers. After registering, users are able to add, promote, demote and comment on product innovation ideas.

    Whichever route you choose, you will need to realign your people, processes and technology to ensure that the experience across all your touchpoints – traditional or social, remain consistent and in alignment with your brand.

  • 05:17:16 am on May 15, 2010 | 0 | # |
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    Customer Experience vs Customer Service Experience

    Jeff Bezos says that Amazon’s customer experience is to deliver goods at the lowest price, fastest delivery, in a self-service mode that is simple and easy. Save customer service for when things go wrong.

    And, in times when customer service is needed, it needs to be fast, simple, easy – that is aligned with the experience that customers have when using Amazon, and reinforcing its brand.

    The reverse also applies. Bruce Temkin says that “Good customer experience management is about consistently delivering on brand promises that resonate with customers. You can’t rate a firm’s customer experience management efforts without fully understanding its brand strategy.”

    If your brand is low-cost self-service, then your customer service offering can reflect that with simple, self-help Web service and limited assisted-channel support. If you brand is expensive products delivered with the utmost care, then your service offering will likely require multiple high-touch channels including the phone and live chat.

    What is your customer experience? Is it aligned with your customer service experience? 

  • 03:22:26 am on April 22, 2010 | 0 | # |
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     Benchmarking your Service Offering

    The crocodile Dundee school of management says that you just have to move fast enough to outrun your competitors.

    How do you know how you and your competitors are doing in offering a good service experience? One easy way is use a customer service maturity model, and benchmark you and your adversaries against it.

    Maturity models are industry-standard models that focus on organizational and process maturity instead of actual technology used.

    They let you rank your service offering on many different dimensions which include the efficacy of communication channels used, the self-service experience, the agent experience, the management of content across channels, and governance programs in place that allow you to coordinate and roll out new initiatives. Each of these dimensions has a list of capabilities that you use to benchmark yourself against a scale of 1 (ad-hoc capabilities) to 5 (mature, adaptive).

    Here’s a snapshot of part of a maturity model. The green boxes indicate the maturity of the customer service organization.


    If you benchmark yourself against this maturity model, you will see your points of failure, and will give you a very clear list of projects that will help you improve your service experience

    You should also do this with your competitors. You will only be able to benchmark them on visible dimensions (for example their self service offering vs their agent experience). Yet, you will be able to easily see if and how you are outrunning your competition.



  • 10:13:37 pm on April 15, 2010 | 0 | # |
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    Call for Heroes — or Not

    Who are your heroes in your customer service organization? Can you name them? Are they the ones who get the most difficult problems to troubleshoot, or who know everything about your business? Are they the ones that you route troublesome customers to?

    It is not a good thing to be able to identify your heroes. Because, it means that your agents offer a different service experience based on the agent – probably ranging from less than adequate to heroic.

    What a contact center needs to be able to offer the same experience across all customer touch points which is independent of agent, seniority level, or method of communication (think phone, email, chat). Bruce Temkin from Forrester says it like this: “It’s not about Disneyesque moments of truth – Its about consistently delivering on brand promises that resonate with customers”

    If you break this down further, you need (1) consistency of process and (2) consistency of information that your agents use.

    You need agents to be guided through discovery processes, and be pushed the right data and knowledge at the right point in the service interaction. That way all agents are doing and saying the same thing. We need to take the BPM tools that made the back office so efficient, and bring them to the front office. Meld multichannel customer service best practices with BPM, and we would no longer need heroes.

    Is anyone actually doing this in their contact centers?

  • 04:01:08 am on April 1, 2010 | 0 | # |
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    Should We Shut Down our Call Centers?

    If we care so much about controlling customer service costs, why don’t we just shut down call centers? Asking ridiculous questions often forces you to deeply consider why you engage in certain activities.

    Customer service is not just about cost. It’s about a tight balance of four key performance indicators — the customer satisfaction with each interaction; the revenue that’s generated through the interaction; the cost of the interaction; and the level of compliance with company and governmental policies (think HIPAA).

    Each company has their own KPIs that they drive towards. For a retail company whose brand is “do-it-yourself”, the most important KPI may be cost of an interaction which can be kept low with good self-service tools. For a high-touch brand who is focused on repeat purchases, the most important KPI may be customer satisfaction which can be kept high with personalized phone or in-store service. However, it still cannot be cost at any price – cost does come into the equation at some point.

    What is important is that you understand what your KPI drivers are, and which one is the most important to you. You must also be able to measure your KPIs, and react if they are out of whack so that you keep your customer service objectives aligned with your customer’s expectations and company’s business goals.

    So, what ridiculous statement can you make about your business? What does it make you think through?

  • 08:16:40 pm on December 14, 2009 | 0 | # |
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    Provide a Service Experience, Not just Customer Service

    We all know that the voice of the customer has disrupted the tight control that companies have on their brand. Bad experiences are easily amplified and heard round the customer community. Think of stories like Dell Hell and Yours is a very bad hotel . The fallout is that 55% of customer don’t want to talk to customer service reps anymore (Forrester, 2008) and 90% of shoppers trust community input more than your company’s input (Neilsen 2009).

    So, what does that mean for customer service? You now need to engage your customers in a collaborative environment, which melds community and company recommendations, and is as transparent as possible to your customer base who demand honesty as they ultimately control the conversation with you.

    It also means that customer service has become increasingly important compared to the sales and marketing pillars of traditional CRM. Customer service has morphed into providing a service experience. Your job now is to do better than to solve customer problems, as they can do this with community input – it is to provide them with an end-to-end experience that keeps them coming back for more. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos defines the customer experience as: “ it includes having the lowest price, having the fastest delivery, having it reliable enough so you don’t have to contact anyone. Then you save customer service for those truly unusual situations.”

    This means that you need to provide your support agents a new set of tools focused on providing a customer experience. Here’s a short-list some of what is needed in this new world

    • Your customer-facing web self-service site must include community content as well as corporate content, and your user base must be able to express their voice on your site.
    • Your search results are social – You let the community dictate important content on your web-self service site.
    • If a user chooses to interact with a customer service agent, your agents must have all the data and knowledge that they need to solve their issue pushed to them at the right point in the resolution cycle.
    • You must extend business process management to customer service so that agents solve issues in a consistent, reproducible way that doesn’t vary from agent to agent.
    • Your agents need to be cognizant of your customer’s emotion and satisfaction with the service process, and react appropriately so that the service experience keeps them loyal.
    • You need to monitor, measure how you do, and use data, including customer feedback to tune your service experience to be aligned with customer demands.

    In what other ways can you evolve customer service  offering into providing an experience?

  • 04:08:11 am on November 18, 2009 | 0 | # |
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    Thoughts on Choosing Customer Service Software

    The most important thing to remember when selecting Customer Service software is to choose an offering that supports your company’s brand perception. It is not the goal for all companies to offer the most ideal customer experience that vendors try to sell you. For example, the expectations of users of a discount airline is not “over-the-top” service, but service that is streamlined, and heavily reliant on web self-service and email. On the other hand, a luxury retailer’s service offering is very different – It should be white-gloved service, reliant on personal contact that is tailored for a particular customer.

    In evaluating Customer Service software you must also understand your customer’s demographics, and their communication channel requirements as baby boomers for example, have very different communication needs that the more tech savvy Generation Xers and Y’s. Finally, you need to understand the communication channel requirements that your company can afford as channel costs differ widely. Web-self service and email costs are typically a fraction of those for the “live assist” channels of chat and phone. Irrespective of the communication channels that you can support now, you must architect your offering so that channels are not siloed, that corporate knowledge is shared and that alternate channels can be added at a later time as the need arises.

    Once your Customer Service system is implemented, you need to measure its efficacy and tune it using a balanced scorecard approach. You need to measure key performance indicators – for example, the cost of delivering customer service against the satisfaction of your customer base, the compliance of agents to company policy and generated revenue. These measures then need to be mapped to the overall customer perception of your company to ensure that the chosen Customer Service systems are supporting and not eroding your brand image. And finally, you need to be agile enough to change your service offering based on customer feedback and the gathered metrics.

  • 10:52:27 pm on October 27, 2009 | 0 | # |
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    Email Done Right

    Customers don’t trust email as a reliable communication channel with a service organization. How many times have you sent in an email to a company, and received no response? Or received only a partial answer after waiting for days?

    Poor performance of email tools can usually be traced to their implementation history – email systems were typically deployed years ago with little tuning to maximize their productivity.

    Even with history working against you, here are some basic steps to follow in setting up your customer service email.

    • Make email part of your multichannel strategy – Don’t think of email as a siloed channel. Provide seamless escalation between your web self-service offering and email, and be sure to have a single source of knowledge that is used across all your communication channels.
    • Keep your customers in the loop from the time they send an email into you, to the time that they get an answer to their questions. Always send them an auto-acknowledgement letting them know you got their email. Tell them how long it will take to answer their email. And provide them with alternate contact channels if the SLA you have communicated to them sounds too long to them.
    • Manage your email flow so that you can meet your SLAs. Set up your rules and queues to ensure that emails get sent to the right skillset of agents. And staffing each email queue with the appropriate number of email agents to ensure that your SLAs are met
    • Use automation tools – like auto-responses, auto-suggestions to take the load off your agents. Use text matching algorithms to read the intent of incoming emails in order to route them to the right email queue.
    • Teach your agents to properly answer email – like answering all the questions that are contained in an incoming email, and answering all questions that are asked, and ones that are implied.
    • Monitor, measure and optimize your email performance. And be flexible enough to change if you find yourself falling behind in your SLAs or quality of customer care.

  • 11:03:41 pm on October 15, 2009 | 0 | # |
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    New Contributors Joining Our Blog

    KANA historically has had two blogs: this one, and Speak Out .

    Evolved Thinking’s charter  has been to provide a forum for Practice Leaders to share their perspectives on customer service and support trends, self-service best practices, Web 2.0, knowledge management and other topics central to improving customer service delivery.

    Our other blog, Speak Out, provided KANA’s executive management with an outlet for sharing their insights regarding the emerging technology category of Service Experience Management.

    Next week we will be folding the Speak Out blog into this one. This means that you will see more posts and a broader variety of contributor voices, like those of KANA’s CEO Mike Fields and CTO Mark Angel. The focus of this blog will remain unchanged, and we encourage you to keep reading and commenting.

    What topics are you interested in hearing our point of view? Please let us know and we will consider them as our charter evolves.

  • 11:37:25 pm on October 9, 2009 | 6 | # |

    Customer Support Myths…are They Really Myths?

    Managing a call center is more of an art than a science. Some service managers use a set of pigeon-holed metrics to manage their business to – like average hold times, number of emails processed per agent, and in some cases customer satisfaction ratings on their service. Others apply established best practices to their organizations, without thought of what works for their company size, their product or service set and their customer demographic. Some jump on the current trend bandwagon without an analysis of what this means stragecially for the company.

    I have been compiling a list of “half truths and total nonsense” about management philosophies and technologies in Support. Which ones resonate with you? Which ones do you believe are not myths and work for you?

    Kate’s List of Common Services and Support Myths

    • Social CRM is giving customers control of your brand
    • Established best practice apply to my call center
    • Longer calls are not good web self-service candidates
    • Discussion forums cut call volumes
    • Good web self service cut call volumes
    • Front-line support agents don’t know anything
    • When you measure operational activities, you measure business outcomes
    • Support can act independently of brand –Support can have a different brand identity than marketing and sales
    • Customers can’t create reliable knowledge
    • Complex interactions are not repeatable / process-oriented
    • Better search means that I can find everything
    • Email doesn’t work as a support medium
    • Chat won’t work for tech support.

    What is your favorite myth?

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