Article : New Approaches To Customer Management
by Rob McDougall, President and co-founder of Upstream Works
Speak to any Customer Relationship Management (CRM) pundit and you will quickly find that CRM is not a technology. CRM is an approach to managing relationships with customers that must be determined through alignment of your various business stakeholders and your business goals. Once this strategy has been determined, then a supporting technology can be introduced.
Managing your customer’s interactions is a new approach to CRM that must have the same strategy and alignment across the business. Executives are realizing that the interactions they are having with their customers are driving their business and that understanding how the customers affect the business and how the business affects the customers is vital in this new century. Key to this understanding is a strategy that serves to capture interaction drivers, details, and contact reasons from every customer facing system for every interaction.
Traditionally, interactions have not been the prime focus of a CRM implementation. In the early days of CRM, the idea of understanding every interaction you had with a customer was known, but the typical implementation used technology that was more focused on providing an overall view of what we knew about a customer, not what we the customer was doing with us. As a result, interactions were not the prime focus and, if tracked at all, were added in a poorly thought out and ad hoc manner.
This led to agents in a contact center being unable to manage large, poorly organized lists of contact reasons. As new business initiatives were undertaken, more codes were added without strategic thought as to how they would be used – both by the agent in the contact center, and by the management reporting systems. In short, tracking contact drivers and interactions became an afterthought to the strategic goals of the system and were not deemed to be very important.
Today through, senior management is starting to understand that this interaction information is of great importance, and is searching for new ways to collect and manage the information they know they need. This leads directly to the implementation of an interaction management strategy, which uses a single format for interaction context across all channels, and then uses that information to derive key performance indicators to measure the success of the business, and to outline areas for process improvement with supporting, auditable contact details.
As corporate silos increase in complexity, they reduce the ability to provide efficient customer service. Efforts to solve this too often miss the main requirements of speed, simplicity, convenience and adherence. Contact centers, web sites, or retail locations operate differently because of varying business drivers. Merging all three business systems becomes an expensive exercise of normalizing a lot of information that is not terribly important to the business. When you look at what drives business – your customer’s interactions with you – the task becomes significantly easier.
When considering an interaction management strategy of this type, keep the following in mind:
Compliance and analysis must be built in up front. A large part of any interaction management strategy will be undertaken by the contact center, and the importance of the task must be communicated to the front line agents, and compliance tools must be used to ensure that the information collected is correct.
Support contact reasons. The technology does not exist that can accurately interpret the meaning of a live call, and agents will need to select the reason(s) for the contact. These reasons must be selected and normalized based on what you want to find out. Categories and sub categories can be entirely eliminated once you determine what your KPI’s are going to be, and how you are going to use the information you’ve collected.
Contact reasons change. A good Interaction Management Strategy does not implement new contact reasons on a whim. They list is managed within the business but is not dependant in IT implementation delays.
Eliminate customer silos. Interaction management occurs across every customer silo, and contact reasons should not be restricted to a single channel. A customer’s self service attempt at an account inquiry on the Web, in the IVR, or with a live agent all represent the same customer intent. Do not, however, lose the information about which channel the interaction occurred on.
In the contact center, remember the process is run 80 times a day, 5 days a week. Agents will take whatever shortcuts they can to be as efficient as possible. A good interaction management strategy can use the context of any interaction to assist the agent with their job and improve compliance while at the same time providing a ‘What’s in it for me’ for the agent.
Account for all work activities. Workers who are involved in customer interactions will undertake many activities that are related to an interaction but are not actually interacting with the customer. These activities are related to the interaction and should be tracked and managed, as they relate specifically to the customer experience and to the efficiency of the process being used.
Business Interaction Management provides an entirely new toolset for managing all customer facing portions of your business. Understanding how customers interact with you using a properly developed interaction management strategy is a radical shift in thinking that many executives are looking to in order to help guide their business successfully over the next decade.
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About Rob McDougall:
Rob McDougall, President and co-founder of Upstream Works focuses on business interaction management and has provided contact center solutions to many customers. To ensure that Upstream Works continues to be a leader of innovation, Rob plays an active role in promoting the company through corporate evangelism, articles, and speaking engagements.
About Upstream Works:
Upstream Works delivers advanced contact center solutions for businesses that view their customer service as a strategic competitive advantage and want to improve both their agent capabilities and their customer satisfaction ratings. Upstream Works has been recognized as an enabler for improving Business Interaction Management and First Contact Resolution. Upstream Works specializes in Cross Channel Analytics tools that enable a business to deliver the right product to the right customer at the right time using the right channel.
Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011