If you were to ask any CEO in the world today whether they want their business to be a customer service leader, they would undoubtedly answer "yes." As markets become more competitive, customer service is widely acknowledged as a key differentiator. But if customer service is so strategic, then why do many consumers and customer service representatives keep asking about the gap between what executives promise and what their companies deliver?
An independent research firm recently conducted a comprehensive worldwide study addressing this question and, in the process, uncovered some alarming disconnects between C-level executives and their customer service managers. A CEO's intentions and expectations for the contact center are often not carried through on the ground.
The firm surveyed executives and customer service employees from 927 companies in North America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and the Asia Pacific region to get more insight on the disconnect that exists between the executive perspective of customer service and what customer service personnel in the trenches are seeing. The results showed that most C-level executives underestimate the emphasis their organization places on efficiency, and overestimate how easy their organization makes it for customers to make a purchase during interactions. Fifty-five percent of C-level executives believe that their operations use "average speed to answer" as a critical metric, compared to 70 percent of customer service.
The results on the topic of garnering customer feedback are worth highlighting. The study revealed that there is a major gap between the views C-level execs who believe their companies are capturing important customer feedback and the views of customer service professionals. For example, while 78 percent of executives think their company is doing a good job of gathering customer feedback on their companies' products or services and passing that information on to the sales team, only 62 percent of customer service professionals agree.
It is also important to note that 79 percent of companies plan to add services and functions to their customer service operations, including business processes focused on customer-centric needs (37 percent), Web chat (25 percent), and virtualization (21 percent). This is a positive sign that companies are taking action to provide better customer service.
When it comes to reporting, adding efficiency metrics is the number one goal, with nearly 58 percent of companies planning to do so. Forty-five percent want to identify the reasons customers contact customer service, 43 percent want to better understand how customers interact with customer service, and 37 percent want to take advantage of improved caller segmentation to identify high value customers so they can better serve their needs. As a result, 38 percent of companies have plans to improve efficiency metrics in the next 18 months.
Bridging the disconnect
So, how can companies begin to bridge this disconnect? One step is to start treating contact center agents like a sales force. Because CEOs don't see the contact center as strategic, there is little, if any, pressure to focus on high performers; most businesses seem content for the contact center to just be there. Change that and make a high performing sales team of them-with performance metrics such as a compensation plan, quota, and merit system at the heart. This will allow businesses to measure revenue and identify Net Promoters, and it will provide a more realistic overview of contact center performance.
In 2007, businesses spent an average of 20 times more on advertising than they did on their contact centers, despite the fact that the majority of CEOs-92 percent-count the contact center as an important part of brand identity. So why is there so little investment in something that can consistently deliver excellent customer service and re-enforce brand values?
The new generation of routing solutions can gather information from across the company to both resolve a customer's inquiry and personalize the experience-providing a better customer experience, fostering customer loyalty and even enabling cross- and up-sells. The whole interaction, from start to finish, is based on the customer's previous activities with the organization.
Better service and shorter call times mean the customer will be more open to hearing about new products or services you have to offer. This gives you a greater chance to cross- or up-sell and increase revenue streams.
In today's economic climate, it is imperative to deliver consistently excellent levels of customer service-not just to retain existing customers but to help win new ones. With the right culture, the contact center can be everything the CEO thinks it is.
About the Author
Nicolas de Kouchkovsky is president of Genesys Labs, a contact center solutions provider. De Kouchkovsky's career includes more than 20 years of IT and telecommunications industry experience. For more information on this research and Genesys, visit www.genesyslab.com.
Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.