The big switch to smart service
- Outsource Magazine
- On October 24, 2011
With some organisations taking up to 70 million calls a year, and with workforces of close to 10,000 agents, outsourcers continue to be selected on the basis of their expertise in technology, process capability and forecasting customer contact.
With cooperation between the stakeholders, outsourcing contracts have been amended to eke out greater savings . The improvements in technology offered by outsourcers have resulted in better management information. The revised measurements bring with them a new agenda for outsourcers. A new era of customer contact is evolving. Low cost ‘smart service’.
Can efficiencies be customer-led?
Organisations are truly tuning themselves to consumers’ lifestyles, their relationships with brands and enabling technologies. Today, consumers want to deal with organisations that limit the time and energy required to complete purchases or service interactions. In fact, recent independent research by Davies Hickman – The Autonomous Customer – found that 83 per cent of online consumers agreed with the statement: “I buy more from companies that make it easier for me to do business with them.”
Consumers notice poor customer service – over 50 per cent of UK consumers agree that “I know about good service interactions because I have to provide it in my own job”. Decision-makers need to be reminded we really do live in a service economy.
The research further identified that consumers are becoming less dependent on advice from organisations. More than three quarters of online consumers research their purchases online first, and 59 per cent said that they preferred purchasing online because no one tries to sell you anything. The ability of organisations to market themselves is being further challenged as consumers share opinions and turn to each other – half of respondents say they trust online forums more than an organisation’s website.
Customer service – good for the organisation?
Is this the time to ask whether outsourcers can use their technology platforms to create customer service revenue streams? Should customer service be perceived as something to be avoided, a sign of failure – or is it the opposite? Customer service is an unavoidable aspect of dealing with people. Inevitable when trying to meet disparate capabilities and behaviours of consumers today (no one can design perfect products and services that allow for every exception to the rule or a ‘Black Swan’ moment). It is inherent in a product, service or government policy on offer.
Customer service issues are myriad
Consumers have any number of quite reasonable customer service issues, and these are not set to reduce as the pace of change in product and policy development continues to quicken. Organisations looking for long-term relationships with customers, who subsequently have diminishing customer service demands, are turning to smart service.
What are the new rules of smart service?
Smart service takes advantage of a range of process, cultural and technology developments that make monitoring and actively dealing with service issues easier. This is in tune with consumer demands (including the uptake of smartphones, now owned by 50 per cent of the population).
Smart service means that instead of customers doing most of the work, organisations are actively monitoring and tracking service issues, and then contacting customers to put things right. There are lots of examples of smart service in practice, whether its real-time updates for changes to booked flights and train departures, or GPS location based services which give smartphone users directions to restaurants or nearby good offers. It could be car manufacturers monitoring cars remotely to identify the correct time for servicing based on driving conditions, rather than a standard interval or banks using smart service by alerting customers about debits and credits on accounts.
Four steps to getting smart service right
1. Redefine the role of customer service in the organisation and recognise its increasing role in generating long-term revenue from consumers. This involves a strategic shift towards actively monitoring and helping customers to get it right.
2. Monitor issues through objective customer feedback, speech and text analytics, social media to seek out problems. Some brands are beginning to use sensors and location based information to track service failure.
3. Integrate and analyse different data sources available using the latest analytics to create clear network maps of customer service issues.
4. Intervene customer service responses across all inbound channels – phone, internet, social media, webchat and others – to change processes and resolve customer’s issues. Use outbound interventions to help customers to get it right. Deploy online interaction tools to personalise web pages, co-browse, pop-up webchat, smart FAQs and tracking information.
About the Author
Jo Davies is co-founder and Director of Davies Hickman Partners Ltd. She has worked in the city, at KPMG and Cranfield School of Management and is MBA and MIPD qualified in psychometrics and accountancy. She is experienced in financial services and multi-channel research and marketing consultancy and has wide experience in project management, interviewing consumers and facilitating workshops with senior managers.
Davies Hickman Partners is an independent futures research, marketing and service consultancy, advising over 50 of the largest B2C contact centres in the UK and some of the leading B2B technology and outsourcing organisations: clients include BT Global Services, CCA, BBC, L&Q, and Vodaphone. The free report The Big Switch: How customer service is becoming smart is available at www.davieshickman.com.