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CSDs: don’t let technology hinder customer experience!

Lady Confused Bills

Echo's Software Services Director, Andy Mack, discusses the link between technology and customer experience.

The ability to create an experience which meets, and exceeds, customer expectations in a seamless, personalised and easy way, is what underpins almost every successful business operating in today’s marketplace.

It’s what all disruptors have in common and what many other organisations are striving to achieve. Indeed, the recent annual Salesforce ‘State of Service’ report found that 82% of global customer service directors think their company’s customer service must transform to stay competitive in an increasingly tech-focused world.

Customer service directors (CSDs) therefore have an important opportunity to lead the change within their organisation; to overhaul their service provision, stay ahead of changing customer expectations and drive impactful industry change. But a commitment to service quality isn’t enough on its own. The fact is that, in many cases, companies and customer service aspirations are being held back by a multitude of technology related challenges.

A key aspect of this is legacy software systems; many of which don’t allow for the speed of change and flexibility required to constantly modernise and drive better customer experiences for the future. Given that modern business transformation fundamentally rests on the power of technology, this is highly concerning.

Flexible, rapid and cost-effective change

Buying in external software solutions can drive important business benefits. However, it also means that businesses must usually rely on software vendors for even simple system changes. Often, this small-scale work is less likely to be prioritised and will therefore take longer to be delivered. Not only does this hinder agility, it can also be costly - providing an ineffective model for the future of business transformation.

For example, should a customer service issue or regulatory change suddenly arise, it could take weeks – even months – for a software provider to react to a change request and also eat into valuable budget. It also means that the business is constantly on the back foot; reacting to change rather than innovating to stay ahead of it.

CSDs should therefore seek out software that gives them greater control, empowering organisations to both react to change and independently drive their own evolution via rapid, cost-effective enhancement of customer service processes.

Of course, this isn’t to suggest that organisations should become completely self-sufficient and cut ties with software developers completely; but rather reduce their reliance on them through empowering their own teams to drive change to create better and more seamless customer experiences.

Personalisation – the next frontier

A fundamental challenge for today’s CSD is how to drive personalised customer experiences. Indeed, a recent retail report found that just a fifth of customers were satisfied with the level of personalisation they receive. Given that the retail sector commonly tops customer service rankings, this is clearly a common problem spanning the vast majority of UK sectors.

Intelligent use of data – and therefore the ability to implement customer segmentation - is, naturally, central to personalisation ambitions. But many companies find that system integration challenges for customer-facing technologies such as CRM and billing platforms means that they cannot access a real-time, 360-degree view of the customer, so offering tailored, proactive service becomes impossible.

Currently, businesses must often choose between more lengthy, complex integration processes – which are intended to provide a more well-rounded view of the customer, but often never achieve that ambition – and simpler integrations, which compromise the quality of rounded customer data. Neither of these options are ideal, both engender some degree of compromise, and so this balancing act continues to be a real headache.

However, the recent rise of “zero-integration” models enable companies to deploy a single platform approach, inclusive of “plug and play” market-leading, best-of-breed solutions, with a single data model. This supports CSDs to empower their teams to deliver efficiently against their promises and get it right first time.

Reducing complaints

Complaint handling and speedy resolution are a vital part of any customer service offering; particularly so in highly-regulated industries such as utilities, communications and banking. It’s not only important in terms of company reputation, but can also be a huge drain on budgets, too.

The complaints journey includes identifying a customer’s issue, finding a resolution, learning from it and making changes within the wider organisation to ensure it doesn’t reoccur. To implement this effectively, businesses must closely examine service failure themes and root cause trends, as well as highlighting the cost of getting things wrong.

This requires powerful reporting and analytics capability – so CSDs should take care to choose systems that are inherently insight-driven to help support complaints reduction now and in the future.

Prioritising usability

Often, companies make concessions on the usability of their software systems because they meet particular requirements or have added benefits such as artificial intelligence (AI) elements.

However, this is not always an effective strategy for long-term business success. Great customer service relies on a team of well-trained and empowered advisors that can confidently use business technology on a day-to-day basis. People-friendly software with a modern and well-designed user interface is therefore vital if a business is to support its teams to drive great customer experience. It’s about helping employees to be more customer-focused, putting customers at the heart of operations.

Customer service – a vision for the future

Competition is fierce in the UK business landscape and shows no sign of slowing down, and even in non-competitive markets such as water, regulators are driving challenging agendas for improvement in a number of areas. Customer satisfaction and loyalty are hard-won commodities, and even harder to keep. Customer service therefore provides an important, if not the most important, differentiator of an organisation. The modern CSD must therefore be supported in order to stay ahead of the game – not let down by inefficient systems that deny rapid and cost-effective change. It’s only when customer service teams feel empowered to make a difference that businesses will truly transform.

Andy.

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