Investment in and attitudes towards customer service have changed radically over the past decade.
There is no doubt that investment in and attitudes towards customer service have changed radically over the past decade. According to the Institute of Customer Service, there is a direct link between high quality customer service and customer retention, reputation and business performance.
Yet in recent years, the concept of customer service has become blurred. While organisations recognise the importance of customer retention and have made clear efforts to become more efficient in handling queries and improving call resolution times, they are primarily focused on increasing revenue creation opportunities, leveraging customer service insight to drive up product quality, and cross selling.
The Institute of Customer Service has identified a number of areas of focus for business to improve business growth and deliver return on investment – at the heart of which are concepts of trust and confidence.
Such changes are meaningless unless backed up with required information. How can staff be empowered if they do not have the full picture of the customer history in order to make effective decisions? However well-trained the agent, if the information required to resolve the issue is scattered across emails, or other manual documents, simply assessing the status of the order will require significant time and certainly cannot be resolved via the telephone.
There are several fundamental issues to ensure the rapid, one time problem resolution customer’s demand. And the most essential requirement is speed of information access. Organisations need to provide customer service agents with rapid access to pertinent customer information.
This information needs to be provided in context, in a way that can highlight the full history of the customer’s interaction. A flexible approach to information management transforms the customer service process.
A complete 360 degree view of the customer gives organisations the ability to make these soft changes delivering real benefit. Rather than limit customer service staff to specific information, and instead providing each member of the team with a complete, searchable history of an entire customer relationship, the proportion of queries resolved first time can increase dramatically.
There is also a clear cost benefit. Customer service staff are more effective and productive when customer call backs are radically reduced. Having created this complete searchable, information resource, it is also then far easier to build a self service option for customers that delivers problem resolution at a far lower cost.
Gathering and acting on customer feedback is one of the eight requirements cited by the Institute of Customer Service – by creating a full audit trail of customer interactions, organisations can not only analyse performance but also use automation to address recurring problems within the customer engagement processes to ensure proactive steps are taken to resolve them.
Organisations are striving for both greater efficiencies and growth opportunities. Yet the insistence on exploiting customer services ‘tools’ to focus on revenue generation is resulting in many businesses missing out on both. Rapid, ‘right first time’ resolution is at the heart of good customer service. It drives retention and therefore feeds directly into the bottom line.
And whether it is achieved through self-service via online tools, or the completeness of a customer service form that can ensure the problem is solved quickly, organisations simply cannot achieve this objective without transforming the quality, depth, context and availability of customer information.
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