If you've ever encountered an issue when setting up an Internet router, there's a chance you've run into the following circumstance: Your laptop won't connect to the home network you have set up through the cable company. You call the cable service provider to troubleshoot the issue, only to be directed to the router manufacturer's support line. The router manufacturer, upon hearing your problem, say it sounds more like a networking issue and sends you right back to the cable company. After several hours on the phone (and on hold), you search your problem online, only to find the real answer in an online community unrelated to either of the aforementioned providers.
This game of finger-pointing has become all too commonplace in the high-tech and communications markets. The time is ripe, points out Joe Hughes, managing director of the customer service and support business with Accenture, for industry participants to step up and find a solution. In Hughes' latest research, "Lessons from the Recession: Where Customer Service and Support Investments Yield Superior Returns for Communications and High-Tech Companies," he investigates customer service investments and how -- if at all -- the increased spend is leading to increased customer loyalty.
Perhaps most surprising out of his findings, Hughes reports, is the statistic that 61 percent of communications and high-tech organizations say that they have been making investments to pump up customer service capabilities. What's interesting is that the majority (60 percent) of consumers and enterprise customers say they believe their service and support experience has declined with their current vendors.
"Investments are being made in customer service, but they aren't having the impact that companies hoped," Hughes says. "Our position is that a lot of customer service expenditure is ... cost savings measures." One cost-saving measure that has little impact on the customer's experience, Hughes mentions, is the focus on average-handle-time. First-call resolution is a much better metric -- and it might actually solve a customer's problem, Hughes says. Here's why Hughes believes the high-tech and communications verticals need a reboot in customer service strategies:
1. The black hole of service:
"Social media tools are critical to increase engagement," Hughes insists, returning to the home networking scenario mentioned previously. Customers often get caught in the middle, and fall into the "service black hole," he says. The opportunity is there for the providers to connect with customers -- and potentially one another -- to guide through the customer through self-service via the Web or to engage in a discussion in a community.
2. Convergence creates more need for support:
Hughes uses the Digital Living Network Alliance (DLNA), a standard to which electronics manufacturers are abiding in order to share content with one another, to make his point. The use cases for various electronics devices are converging. Consumers want them to interoperate; however, vendors appear to be trailing behind in response to the consumer demand. A good solution might be through online forums or at least through allocations of dedicated online agents serving consumers' needs on the Web--similar to what Best Buy has brought to market with its Twelpforce. "It's not hideously expensive to do some of the things that are necessary," Hughes says. "But no one is really stepping up with really good support." The converged home, Hughes says, is going to be reeling up call centers. "They need to step up."
3. The need for additional customer touch points in field service:
While most service people have you at home twiddling your thumbs during the eight-hour window given for arrival, some (perhaps few) companies are catching on to technology that enables them to give customers a narrow window of time for when to expect service. Hughes recalls a recent encounter with a furniture company in which they gave him a two-hour window for arrival. They also had GPS in all of their trucks, he recalls, so you can go online and you can see a time-table of all the dispatches, and locate your house in the mix. This is the future, Hughes says.
While consumers are waiting at home, there's a good chance, they are mentioning it on a social network. If given a reason to be frustrated, they will hold nothing back on Twitter or Facebook, or wherever they might be killing time before the long-awaited service appointment. A communications company needs to be online to not only monitor those anxious tweets, but to engage when necessary. A little engagement, after all, can go a long way.
"We don't need to rewrite all this," Hughes says with assurance, "It's more making the organizational commitment."
News relevant to the customer relationship management industry is posted several times a day on destinationCRM.com, in addition to the news section Insight that appears every month in the pages of CRM magazine.
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