• September 1, 2004
  • By Lior Arussy, founder and president, Strativity Group

Stop Wasting Everyone's Time

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I recently visited a customer contact center that functioned both as a sales and a service operation. When the company's customers request a price quote, agents need to search in six different applications and then write the results on a piece of paper before selecting the right response to the customer's request. This archaic guessing-game of a system was prone to error, and average handle time was very high. Customers were frustrated. The contact center agents were just as frustrated. They could not focus their efforts on the primary task of serving the customer, as they were too busy trying to deal with accessing corporate information, an issue that should not have been a problem. Agents are bearing the burden of the company's inability--or unwillingness--to deal with the cause of the problem: patched information in multiple and complex databases. Distracting agents from their real mission of delighting and winning customers is all too common. Strativity Group's global customer experience management study revealed that only 37 percent of respondents have the tools and authority to resolve customer problems. It is time for us to place the tools in the agents' hands. Simplifying access to information and providing the relevant information immediately is the key to ensuring quality service, initial sales, and repeat business--and to creating a competitive advantage. By freeing your agents from the burden of mastering your antiquated, patched technology structure, you focus them on the important objective: getting the customer to buy your products. Some companies have selected enterprise resource management solutions or have even built their own monolithic homegrown systems to address this issue. Unfortunately, both choices often require expensive, multiyear development efforts. As a result, many companies that implemented these systems forced employees to adapt to them instead of creating systems that adapt to the way agents work. Today new technologies provide a better, faster, and more user-centric alternative. These solutions enable companies to optimize employee desktops by fusing existing resources in an agile way--and at a much lower cost than older systems. Still, too many companies force employees to master searching multiple--and often confusing--systems. This can be attributed to corporate bureaucracy and a function-based approach. Agents can do just so much in a given amount of time. Organizations should reengineer their systems from the customer and agents' perspectives. The result will be reduced average handle time and employee training time--not to mention an increase in customer satisfaction. Owners of companies' data may find restructuring access to that information somewhat threatening. But the promise that these efforts are all geared to delight the customer will provide you with a defendable and almost unbeatable argument. After all, few managers will argue against the need to boost customer satisfaction. Speed of response is the competitive advantage. The faster you deliver relevant information, the more competitive your offering will be. By restructuring interactions to fit customer expectations, we also free our agents to focus on customers' needs and to enhance the quality of the interactions--hence, increase customers' loyalty and business. You have a choice: Either waste agents' time by having them conduct low-level, easily replaceable searches that also waste customers' time, or provide them with information faster and allow them to focus on the customer and his business. The choice is yours. Stop wasting everyone's time and start increasing your business. Lior Arussy is president of Strativity Group and author of The Experience! Contact him at lior@strativitygroup.com
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