The low-cost channel isn't always the right channel for customer service.
Posted Jan 18, 2005
In the late 1990s the buzz in CRM was directing customer service inquiries to the low-cost channel. With the growth and expansion of the Internet Web self-service, at just pennies per transaction, was hailed as a panacea to an overreliance on high-cost human-assisted channels, particularly the telephone. Companies believed that empowering customers to find their own answers on the Web would lead to a reduction in inbound call volume and service delivery costs, and that both they and their customers would be happier as a result. Were they right?
Well, yes and no. With the continued maturation of the customer service industry, many organizations are beginning to realize that the low-cost channel isn't necessarily the right channel for every customer interaction. Web self-service is a great addition to the overall customer service tool set and can reduce call volumes, but it is most appropriate for certain types of customers and/or certain types of inquiries. For example, it is great for people who prefer to use the Internet as their point of contact with a company, or for companies to make applicable information available to their customers (such as a checking account balance, product information specific to a customer's recent purchases, as well as a listing of FAQs).
Some customers prefer, however, to send an email or pick up the telephone over trying to find their own answers, and more complex inquiries or questions often necessitate the use of these channels. In the financial services industry applying for a credit card is a transaction that might easily be completed over the Web, whereas submitting a claim or rolling over a 401(k) contains a level of complexity that often requires human-assisted channels to be successfully completed.
Evidence suggests that the need for telephone interaction will continue to exist, regardless of the Web channels available. According to John Ragsdale, research director at Forrester Research, "support interactions increase on average 20 percent year over year, so even if self-service siphons off some of these, it won't handle all of them." Ragsdale goes on to suggest that "the faster and easier it is to get information, the more people will call with more complex problems."
As such, a single dogged focus on pushing customers to low-cost channels is not the best approach to customer satisfaction and retention. Rather, organizations need to offer customers multiple points of contact, including Web self-service, as part of a right channel approach. The one caveat of right-channeling is the ability of contact center agents to resolve customer inquiries faster and more efficiently across all channels.
Fortunately, service resolution management (SRM) is emerging as a way for organizations to reduce resolution times across all channels, which reduces the cost per transaction--even for traditionally high-cost, human-assisted channels. By supporting contact center agents with an SRM solution organizations can let their customers choose their preferred means of communication, while being able to resolve inquiries quickly and effectively regardless of the channel they ultimately choose. The results are increased customer satisfaction and reduced overall service delivery costs.
By resolving inquiries faster contact center agents can create cross- and upsell opportunities with existing customers. A customer is much more willing to listen to an agent talk about a new product or service or an add-on to an existing product if he or she is happy with customer service and any questions or concerns have been resolved in an efficient manner. There is a proven correlation between customer satisfaction and increased sales, and, in many cases, organizations using SRM are effectively able to transform their call centers into profit centers.
About the Author
Brian Kelly is executive vice president of marketing and product strategy for KANA. Mr. Kelly brings 15 years of experience in CRM to KANA, including the knowledge and experience of working with the current KANA analytics and enterprise CRM tools in his former role as executive vice president of products at Broadbase Software. He comes to KANA after serving as president and CEO of Proveer, a software and services company that provides analytical applications and BI infrastructure. Prior to Proveer and Broadbase, he held product management and director positions at PeopleSoft. Brian holds a BS in computer science from the University of Cincinnati. He can be reached at email@example.com
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