by Michael Abramow
In the rush to cut costs, many companies are unwittingly pushing their customers through inappropriate “channel pathways” and complex or poorly executed interfaces—impacting near-term revenue and long-term relationships, whose value far outweighs any cost savings. Companies that fail to offer a customer experience that meets expectations can face escalating service costs, declining customer satisfaction numbers, and a poor service experience that can be amplified over social channels, deeply eroding company brand and reputation.
John Tschohl, author of Empowerment: A Way of Life, defines empowerment as giving users the authority to “make important decisions” to satisfy their own internal needs and timelines. “Empowerment is a guaranteed investment,” he says. “When you empower your users to make decisions quickly the results will be amazing: increased user adoption, enhanced customer loyalty, increased sales, decreased attrition, and word-of-mouth advertising that is less expensive and more credible than anything you could buy.”
Here are six best practice tops for empowering users through a multi-channel approach.
Customer knowledge. Customers know what good service is and they demand it from each interaction, over any communication channel they want to use. There is differences in channel preference by customer demographic; younger generation are more comfortable using peer-to-peer communication, social networking and instant service channels such as chat, so your company need to make those technologies options available.
Integrated lifecycle of customer engagements. Your service experience should allow customers to start an interaction over one communication channel and complete it over a different one—for instance, starting an interaction over the phone and then following up with an email containing more detailed information. Customer service should have access to the full multi-channel session history so as not to repeat questions or searches, thereby degrading the customer experience.
Consistency in the customer service experience. Applying business process rules to customer service processes via selective business flows whilst maintaining interface consistency will consequently expedite problem resolution and increase user satisfaction by allowing choice, but within the guidelines of company policy compliance.
Keep your customers’ experience top of mind. Not all service requests can be processed in real time. Allowing end users to track issues and be kept in the loop regarding problem resolution instills a level of trust. Offering services such as tracking, email/SMS alerts and proactive fixes for common issues for which they wish to be notified will assist with brand loyalty.
Maintaining accurate data. Allowing internal staff and end users to flag inaccurate or incomplete content dynamically keeps user and company data up to date and accurate. Automated tools should be pushing the most frequently accessed content to the top of the FAQ list with users being able to “self-serve” via user profiling, knowledge bases and user based forums. Computer maker Lenovo exemplifies best practices in tying forums to customer service. As a result of the information contained in its forums, Lenovo saw a 20 percent reduction in laptop support call rates and shortened problem-resolution cycles.
Listen to your customers across all channels. Gather customer feedback after every interaction and ask open-ended questions to solicit honest opinions. Append feedback forms to all user-viewable knowledge base content. Empowering users to always rate solutions, whilst also monitoring social channel comments, is critical to optimizing the service experience.
These empowerment tips can help facilitate a customer experience strategy to overcoming the ongoing service challenge. However, they are not silver bullets. It is essential to constantly monitor feedback and consistently track key performance indicators regarding satisfaction, loyalty, attrition and ease of use. Best-in-class companies are continually re-crafting their offerings to stay one step ahead of their customer’s changing needs.
Michael Abramow is director of Industry Strategy & Insight at Oracle.