We call center veterans have been focused on quality for years. We invented the phrase "this call may be monitored for quality purposes" some time ago and continue using it, even today, as a badge of honor for our companies' focus on providing quality customer service. Consumers are accustomed to hearing it, and many say they like knowing that their calls may be monitored so their experiences and voices can be heard.
Over the past several years, we've dedicated a great deal of time and resources to evolve our call centers into multimedia contact centers that also handle consumers' e-mail, Web sales and service interactions. Many of us have even established benchmarks for responding to these various types of customer contacts, such as e-mail response times and Web callback standards. What we're hoping to accomplish is a consistent level of customer service regardless of how our customers choose to interact with our companies.
Quality monitoring solutions--comprised of customer interaction recording and performance analysis software--are helping us capture samples of our levels of service and the effectiveness of our campaigns and products, so we can measure how well we're performing against our customer and business-focused goals, as well as the consistency standards we've set. Monitoring software also is helping us gauge the effectiveness of our customer relationship management (CRM) business strategies. We can now share recorded customer contacts containing agent-customer conversations along with collaborative chat sessions, the computer desktop activity (such as data entry and screen navigation) that's taking place at the agent's workstation, and any notes or feedback we provided while reviewing the contact throughout the enterprise.
There's no question that we've come a long way toward providing consistently high levels of customer service over the telephone. While it's clear that we have a ways to go before the quality of these new multimedia customer contacts is as polished as our telephone interactions, we're putting the processes, resources and know-how in place to monitor and evaluate them. In many cases, we're quickly learning that these multi-channel interactions are much more cost-effective than using our agents for traditional telephone calls--although recent Gartner research suggests that the cost for e-mail and Web chat interactions is close to that for live telephone interactions, averaging $5.50 per call. When mastered, however, Gartner also contends that an intelligent e-mail response system is 2.5 times more cost-effective than interactions with live agents.
That said, there's no rest for the weary. We all know that there is yet another medium looming on the horizon. It's one we've been forced to avoid while focusing on the others: self-service. Today, it's one of the fastest growing channels in the multimedia matrix. Gartner, for instance, estimates that an IVR handles interactions at 8 percent of the cost of an agent, and self-service is 25 percent the cost of an agent. Increasingly, our customers want to "help themselves" to research and gather information, find answers to their questions and purchase goods and services. Today, new toll-free numbers help our customers search via voice recognition over the telephone, and kiosks help our customers use touch screens to find answers and make purchases at the storefront. However, it's Web self-service that has us most concerned as our customers flock to our Web sites to gain access to information on their own.
Improving Loyalty While Reducing Costs through Self-Service
To realize the potential of self-service, industry experts are counseling firms that they must move aggressively to enhance their self-service strategy and offerings, or consequently face increased call volumes, customer defections and lost revenue. One market research study conducted by Forrester Research revealed that 62 percent of the Global 3,500 firms surveyed said that self-service is the most important CRM initiative at their companies.
This movement toward self-service is really just a reflection of our customers taking control of how they communicate with our businesses. According to analysts, we should embrace this trend because the economics of multi-channel and self-service are particularly compelling. According to Gartner, the ability to lock customers in by providing convenient touch points and consistent service not only improves loyalty, but also drives down costs and increases revenue. Self-service applications that are blended seamlessly into the customer experience, analysts at Gartner say, will lower operational costs, enable higher customer satisfaction and emerge as a cornerstone of competitive differentiation.
What's unusual about the Internet is it's the only business channel in which we can track and monitor every action that our customers make--enabling us to collect, analyze and respond to data very quickly. We can use this feedback to analyze valuable business information using Web analytics--and respond proactively to make the experiences our customer have more effective, the information they seek even easier to find, and the service they need efficient, easy to acquire and timely.
Getting Beyond Self-Service Speculation
Companies engaged in e-business initiatives today already have access to Web metrics that provide quantitative assessments for measuring Web effectiveness, such as the number of clicks a site has received. Early e-business leaders are recognizing the Internet as an experiential medium, and they are, therefore, looking for additional insight around the end user experience to make Web self-service simple and convenient. What we need is a "game film" of customers' experiences on our Web sites. What pages did they visit? Which products did they select? What information did they look for? And in what order did all of these movements on the Web take place? Did their Web user experiences flow well from a design, content and navigation perspective? Will this channel prove to be a profitable medium for the organization, as well as an easy medium for consumers to track information, receive service assistance and purchases products? All of this information serves as a form of intelligence that helps an organization react in a positive manner to customers' buying patterns. Existing software provides little perspective into visitor intent, end user behavior and visual flow.
Your organization likely uses click stream analysis tools to report basic Web site activity statistics. Although it provides information to manage a Web site, it does not deliver the drill-down analysis that includes captured samples of the actual customer experience. As a result, you're forced to speculate what the Web site visitor was trying to do.
Companies need a targeted solution for evaluating Web site customer satisfaction, a critical component of Web site effectiveness that is today limited to focus groups and anecdotal feedback. How can you find out what a visitor was trying to accomplish on your Web site? Recorded customer interactions can reveal their intentions by watching what they "tell" you. Visitors show you what they were trying to do when they call the telephone number provided, click the "call me" button, initiate a Web chat, send an e-mail or abandon their shopping carts. As Web initiatives evolve, measurements must evolve as well to include qualitative assessments pinpointing the customer experience. This evolution intersects quantitative data with observed user behavior gathered through qualitative means.
Organizations are finding it increasingly important to combine samples of what the visitor was trying to do with how they were trying to do it. As more consumers turn to the Web to self-serve, companies are leveraging the proven solutions for optimizing quality and efficiency in the call center to achieve the same level of success with their Web initiatives. Capturing observed Web visitor behavior enhances core business processes, including transactions, commerce and customer care.
But how does Web self-service monitoring software work? It functions in much the same way as the same technology you're using to monitor other mediums. Some systems on the market today, for example, monitor a company's Web site and stores recorded sample Web visitor sessions based on "business rules," trigger immediate notification via e-mail when specific events or customer scenarios occur, and then provides playback of selected Web user experiences to alert managers in the contact center, as well as corporate managers, IT departments and company executives so they can respond quickly to opportunities and even areas that require improvement. With this technology, companies can quickly identify clusters of user behavior and key objectives, and in turn improve quality, not only through better customer service, but also by helping to keep site design and performance on track. The resulting captured Web experiences reveal "nice to have" versus "need to have" functionality and identify clear action steps for improving Web effectiveness moving forward. Measuring self-service effectiveness helps companies eliminate the speculation surrounding what their customers are trying to accomplish.
A customer's overall satisfaction level will be defined by your company's weakest business channel. Your call center might be award winning, but it is not the only touch point that customers will use. Those who have had positive experiences through your call center but have a bad experience on your Web site, for example, can regress from being loyal consumers to lost ones. In a day and age when your competition is only a click away, the importance of streamlining all sales and service channels is at an all time high. Recording and analyzing self-service transactions also can help ensure you're achieving your goals of consistent service across all customer touch points. Now is the time to start taking action to improve your self-service channels. Including captured samples of your customers' Web user experiences can strengthen customer contacts throughout your company, fine-tune your processes and strengthen your Web offerings--encouraging customers to return time after time.