This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Recently, my company, Dimension Data (News - Alert), a global IT service and solution provider, released its 15th annual Global Contact Center Benchmarking Report, entitled, “Transforming Customer Management.” Providing insightful information from our clients, peers and industry colleagues, the 2012 report summarizes the survey results of 637 companies from 72 countries – including over 100 respondents from North America.
It covers six key areas: strategy and development, operations, customer interaction management, self-service, workforce optimization and technology.
A few major themes jump out from the 2012 Benchmarking Report and warrant discussion: the rise of mobility and agility; increased customer expectations for collaboration; and self-service needs help.
Mobility and Agility
The most dominant theme in this year’s report is mobility and agility. As we’re all experiencing in our daily lives, consumers are more in control than ever in how they interact with the organizations they do business with − whether it’s via a smartphone, wireless connectivity or social media. The demand for service excellence is now anytime, anywhere, anyhow, with the consumer determining all of those conditions.
This proliferation of interaction types is a double-edged sword. Self-service continues to dominate as the primary interaction type for most customers, and while voice is still a critical component, Web and mobile applications must also provide robust service capabilities. But that puts the other edge of the sword on agent-assisted service, which is now more complex than ever. And with that increase in complexity, the implication is that standard measures of agent performance, such as average call handle time, are no longer as useful as they once were.
Customer Collaboration and Convenience
Following on the mobility and agility theme, one of the major findings of the 2012 Benchmarking Report is around what I call the convenience factor. Consumers, whether they’re engaged in business-to-business or business-to-consumer interactions, are now driven as much by the convenience of service as anything else. Smartphones, free (or near-free) and ubiquitous Internet access, and social media all play a part in this.
Further, the commoditization of products and services has left customer collaboration – or customer care – as one of the few competitive differentiators. Add to the mix that, overall, the number of interactions between organizations and their customers, across all channels, is rising − as are expectations. The good news is that over 63 percent of the respondents acknowledged that their contact center and customer care is viewed as a competitive differentiator.
On the other hand, analysis and fine-tuning of the most used channel of customer care – self-service – is largely absent.
Self-Service: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly
The 2012 Benchmarking Report contains an entire section devoted to self-service, and the results are a mixed bag. The good news is that for almost 90 percent of the organizations surveyed, self-service is considered a critical tool for the company and its customers. Further, many organizations are responding to the demand for self-service from channels that didn’t even exist a few years ago, such as mobile devices and social networks. Even with the significant uptick in the use of emerging technologies, interactive voice response self-service continues to grow.
On the bad side of the equation, over half of the organizations surveyed don’t pass any information collected in the IVR on to agents. This is one of my personal pet peeves – and my guess is that I’m not alone. Imagine how annoying it is when a consumer finally gets to an agent (after stepping through the IVR prompts) and is asked, “Can I have your account number, please?” – a question they’ve already provided an answer to.
Moreover, most companies don’t perform any regular performance analysis of their IVR systems, and nearly half don’t seek any IVR-specific feedback from customers.
Are you ready for the ugly? Most organizations aren’t even attempting to analyze their emerging technology self-service capabilities, including speech-driven IVR, nor are they seeking to measure customer satisfaction with self-service channels. If we proposed this hands-off approach for human-assisted channels, my belief is that we’d be told that we simply don’t understand how to provide consistently good service.
On average, 80 percent of customer care traffic now goes through some type of self-service application. I would definitely recommend discussing your self-service strategy – including performance analysis, tuning and satisfaction measurement – with your solution provider.
Dan Goodwin is practice director of customer interactive solutions at Dimension Data.
Edited by Braden Becker