Improving Customer Service Across Industries

With the growing importance of complete customer service initiatives, especially in vertical industries like healthcare, financial services, government, and telecommunications, contact center agents need to have a full view of customer activity that delivers intelligent and accurate customer information, in one central location. Customers want to know that when they contact a company--whether via phone, email, chat, or self-service--the answer will be correct, quick, and most important, consistent. Historically customer service grew via piecemeal solutions. This began in the call center with databases of customer information and desktop customer service tools, and then grew to include email response, online chat, self-service, and most recently, wireless service. As a result, most organizations do not maintain all customer contact in one centralized repository. Making centralized customer service even more difficult are the many legacy databases within large, established organizations like healthcare providers. Most customer and patient information currently exists in offline systems or even on paper records, making the gathering of accurate information by a CSR difficult and time-consuming. For this reason most organizations cannot develop a real-time, universal view of the customer. With a conflux of databases storing information on a single customer, organizations seeking to provide a universal view of customer information, and therefore a more complete service experience for the end customer, must deploy knowledge-powered central databases that can store and automatically present all important and relevant data for a customer. Leveraging Web services, these knowledge bases can easily pull customer data from other databases and applications, including legacy databases, and can enable the single, universal view of customer data. This process turns raw customer data into knowledge and enables a more intelligent interaction with the customer. One large healthcare provider in the Midwest was one of the first companies to adopt this universal view of customer information, and reaped significant benefits in terms of customer satisfaction, agent response time, and adoption of self-service--all key facets of the universal view of customer service. As is typical the most daunting task associated with the deployment of this company's CRM initiative was migrating large amounts of customer data that existed in legacy databases into a database that could connect to a single, central customer-service knowledge base. However, this was also the most crucial step in the process of turning customer data into customer service knowledge. This process was made easier by leveraging Web services and a Web--architected knowledge base that could easily tap into the existing databases and pull the information. Without a Web-architected knowledge base at the core of this program, the project would not have been possible. Through the migration of data to the central knowledge base, years of customer data and more than 100 million records were cleaned and made customer friendly, as this was the first time the data was securely exposed to the public, via the self-service channel. Customer service agents manning the multichannel contact center were also given the ability to view all customer information through a single source within the contact center. The result is a single, central view of customer information via a robust and intelligent knowledge base that understands customer histories. This process of pushing information through a single knowledge base ensures that customers always receive a consistent, fast, and accurate response to their inquiry. There is no doubt that that customer service will continue to grow in importance, and the next step in the evolution of the contact center is an obvious one: a universal view of information. Contact centers must take this next step to bring information together into a knowledge repository. If not the result will be dissatisfied customers who do not get the personal attention that is required from today's educated consumer. About the Author Brian Kelly is executive vice president of product and strategy at KANA, a provider of knowledge-powered customer service applications. He is responsible for KANA's product vision and strategy. Kelly joined KANA after serving as president and CEO of Proveer, a software and services company that provides analytical applications and business intelligence infrastructure. Prior to Proveer, Kelly was executive vice president of products at Broadbase Software, before its merger with KANA. At Broadbase, he was instrumental in product strategy and actively participated in its successful IPO in 1999, and secondary stock offering in 2000. Previously he held product management and director positions at PeopleSoft. Kelly holds a BS in Computer Science from the University of Cincinnati.
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