Companies Hate Their Customer Service, Too
Consumers continually demand better service, and yet today's organizations already seem unable to provide consistently satisfying service across every channel. But customers aren't the only ones feeling underserved. Statistics recently released by Forrester Research indicate that one complaint is surprisingly common with North American companies: Their own needs aren't being met by the customer service channels they've built.
According to the study, "Specialized Customer Service Solutions Fill Gaps in Suite Functionality," no viable channel for delivering customer service, from phone representatives to chat/IM, is delivering tolerable results. According to the study, the percentage of respondents who say each respective channel "almost always meets their needs" are as follows:
- phone representatives.......61 percent;
- retail branches...................54 percent;
- Web...................................41 percent;
- email.................................38 percent;
- mail/catalog.......................34 percent;
- kiosks.................................30 percent;
- phone self-service...............23 percent; and
- chat/IM..............................19 percent.
Even though companies know they have a customer service problem, the comprehensive customer service solution suite most of them already have in place can't fill in all the gaps -- they need to look elsewhere to supplement their existing technology. "Specialized tools can offer compelling differentiation in one or more of the key subareas of customer service, such as enhanced search and knowledge management, chat, or community management," the study states.
The authors were not available for comment by press time, but many industry analysts note the trend for organizations to move away from point solutions in favor of having a solution suite -- particularly in the workforce optimization space, which is growing in popularity among contact centers. "People are talking about the suites right now," says Paul Stockford, chief analyst at Saddletree Research. "Workforce management, like most of the other markets now, has very few point solutions out there."
The Forrester report notes the need for many companies to incorporate a solution suite, but argues that point solutions are still relevant in the customer service space. The study identifies three types of point solutions available in the market that can help improve the customer service delivered by broad suites:
- advanced search and support tools, to help solve complex problems that could challenge many embedded tools;
- chat tools, to allow text-based chat to bridge the gap between Web self-service and the telephone; and
- forum tools enabling customer communities, in which customers can interact with one another and share knowledge and opinions about products or services.
Interestingly, the final tool Forrester mentions -- forum tools for customer communities -- is also a point of emphasis in a recent Gartner study on customer service processes. That study stresses the need for companies to embrace the idea of an online customer community -- indicating a growing consensus among analysts that the peer-to-peer revolution is not just limited to sharing music and entertainment, but also product and service experiences.
"The must-fix is going to be how you become more customer-involving," says Michael Moaz, Gartner vice president. "You're working much more from a sense of the customer as part of a community. Today more people -- particularly the new generation of consumers -- are trusting information from their peers more than they trust information from the enterprise."
The Forrester study emphasizes quality over quantity in regard to selecting a customer service solution product, especially for companies with broad customer service requirements -- but point solutions can still be viable options. "For organizations with specific holes in their customer service platforms or those with more focused needs, specialized vendors can supplement or complement these suites," the study notes.
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