Last month I published two separate pieces of research on the use of Analytics for Customer Service. (I published five pieces of research last month, which explains why I have not been around here on the blog site to write for three weeks: Clients first!) The first focused on the different roles (consumer, customer service rep, manager) and how analytics can make a difference. The second looked at the business functions that are carried out, and the technologies available to add intelligence to each function. The response has been good but not great, and usually I prefer great to good.
In the Customer Service Contact Center, we often need to accept good over great. The folks in Business Intelligence would rather be helping the CEO and Marketing. Way cooler. IT is busy with application portfolio renewal and consolidation – we must have our ducks in a row. The Customer Service and Support manager is still trying to get budget to refresh rickety systems held together by spit, and the best they can get is a new interface from a company promising a solution.
The funny thing about these Cloud-based systems for customer service in the contact center: they are mostly a framework, a gilded cage of superficiality, a Potemkin village masking complexity. These so-called CRM systems are the rage, yet in the end deliver very little in the areas of business intelligence. They don’t help with the question of ‘what is the next best action to take,?’ or apply business process logic. Yet rather than dig into this obvious next level of capabilities, most managers – well over 85% of the clients with whom I speak – are accepting ‘good enough for all practical purposes’ over solid-state capabilities.
Good enough? Imagine going to a surgeon after learning that they were ‘good enough?’ or letting the door to your commercial jet close behind you after learning that the maintenance crew and safety record were ‘good enough?’ What has our attention now? Social CRM, for one. And it is cause for celebration, because businesses are learning more about the true sentiment inside of their customer base. Customer service across the board should improve. Curiously, it improves whenever the economy improves and erodes when economic conditions deteriorate – but save that for another day.
Some companies are looking at the next logical step for customer support: understanding the most likely reason for a customer turning for help and applying the appropriate level of service supported by the right information. This is where it gets harder, and more rewarding. After we capture the Tweet and respond, are we placing the content and interaction detail in the reach of the Customer Service rep to make them aware that an event occured? Are we analyzing a customer survey and getting back to the specific customer and supplying our own feedback? (as an aside, I have completed 29 online surveys over the past 18 months without a single comment about anything on any survey. How social is that?)
The great companies have a passion towards customer service. The rest are slackers. I hear all of the reasons – lack of a budget, competing initiatives, lack of compelling ROI, lack of urgency, lack of authority. Kind of what you hear in a marriage gone bad. But then I talk to the minority that are doing fabulous things in customer service and overall in support of the customer and again the issue of commitment and passion are front and center. I am working with the team right now on the 2011 Customer Service Hype Cycle report that will publish next month, and I can almost align the innovative technologies with specific clients without asking them whether they will be piloting any projects with the technologies over the next 12 months. You can just feel who ‘has it.’
It isn’t the mainstream CIO who ‘gets’ the customer excellence story. A key reason that Gartner has themed conferences like our Customer360 Events is exactly because the rank-and-file CIO is thinking of ‘big picture’ as innovations at the core to support the structure. The CIO who understands where the customer fits in sees that the ‘core’ is really at the periphery: the customer. The customer may be ‘outside’ for most businesses, but for leaders with vision, the customer is always at the core.