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Industry Research : Fault Line Threatens Customer Experience
New research released reveals critical areas where organizations are falling short in addressing today’s growing expectations and demands for smart customer service. The key conclusion: Greater alignment is needed between the board room, marketing and customer service professionals, and in the metrics applied to measure customer experience activities, for organizations to succeed in today’s always-on multi-channel customer service environment.
The research was conducted by the Customer Contact Association (CCA), and sponsored by KANA Software, Inc., a global provider in customer service solutions delivered on-premise or in the cloud.
Based on a survey of CCA members and in-depth interviews with senior customer service professionals from a range of industry sectors, the study examined call center tactics and strategies as well as organizational dynamics as part of a wider investigation of key considerations influencing customer service delivery.
"Organizations are operating in a fiercely challenging business environment and customer contact teams are dealing with increasingly complex customer needs," said Anne Marie Forsyth, chief executive of the Customer Contact Association (CCA). "Our latest research reveals a pressing need for greater cross-department collaboration and better representation for customer service at the board level in order to deliver a truly customer-centric service strategy."
The study identified a number of key challenges that threaten organizations ability to provide "smart" customer service. These include:
Companies are using new channels to support customer engagement, but they don’t understand how and why customers are using those channels.
While organizations are today increasingly deploying multi-channel engagement strategies to support consistent customer experiences, survey respondents indicated a lack of understanding of when and why customers choose to use certain channels over others, and overall channel effectiveness in driving customer satisfaction.
"The advent of new channels is giving customers the option to interact with brands differently," said Steven Thurlow, worldwide head of Product Strategy, KANA Software. "As the critical moments of interaction, or touch points, between companies and customers are increasingly being spread across different channels and different parts of the organization, companies are being forced to support more channels; however they are struggling to get their arms around the full picture of how and why customers are leveraging particular channels to ensure they are organized to deliver the information customers seek from each interaction."
Customer service and the contact center are still not viewed as having strategic importance.
The survey also shed light on the fact that customer service and contact center functions lack adequate board representation, with almost 1 in 10 stating that the board is out of touch with contact center and customer service issues.
"Putting customers first will necessitate transforming contact center agents into customer advocates, which will require strong organizational and executive support," said Forsyth. "As customers become more vocal, particularly in evolving channels such as social, it’s vital for the contact center to acquire greater visibility and influence within the organization. Boards must have proper cognizance of the effect that key resource allocation decisions will have on customer loyalty and satisfaction -- this will not be possible unless they acquire a more meaningful understanding of critical contact center issues."
Marketing and customer service investment decisions remain siloed, at the expense of the customer experience.
The research also highlights conflicting views about the relationship between marketing and customer service. While many would argue the marketing function is well positioned to assist in orchestrating customer experience for the entire organization, a significant disconnect between marketing and customer service investment is revealed in the study findings.
"Organizations must forge closer links between marketing and customer service functions and move beyond their function-by-function view of the customer experience, said James Norwood, chief marketing officer, KANA Software. "A consistent customer experience requires complete coordination of activities across all touch points. Furthermore, organizations should evaluate whether different --and even diametrically opposed -- metrics or KPIs within the various parts of the organization are actually getting in the way of this collaboration and overall success from a customer experience perspective."
In response to the research, KANA offered the following recommendations to help rectify the shortcomings and organizational misalignments identified in the study:
* Bring the insights from the contact center and the voice of the customer initiatives into the board room, ideally with C-level representation from customer service
* Embed a rotation in customer service into senior executive training and personal development plans, and involve operational managers in critical stages of investment planning
* Partner with industry suppliers to create seamlessly integrated systems to enable complex business processes to be transformed into effective customer experiences, simplifying for both agent and customer
* Understand how to accurately gauge customer satisfaction and measurement in as much as it is a true predictor of future behavior
* Evaluate what technology investments will reap customer experience rewards, particularly when the current climate calls for a rational approach
* Manage contacts so that the correct proportion and type gets automated or is facilitated by a human
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Published: Thursday, December 13, 2012