Transform Customer Service Into a Connected Digital Experience
August 21, 2017

Holly Simmons

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There's no denying it, the world of customer service is changing. So much so that businesses around the globe are rethinking how they approach customer service and are looking at new strategies. Recognizing that the old way of handling customer service interactions is no longer enough, many forward-thinking businesses are turning to digital technologies that connect people, systems, and workflows across the entire organization. Considering that nearly half of US consumers have switched service providers in the past year due to poor service, businesses would be wise to take a closer look at what's driving the changes in customer service and what they can do to keep up.

Even with the rising demand for quality service and research indicating that customer service is a strong competitive differentiator, companies still struggle with reinventing their customer service operations.

Today's customers are knowledgeable and connected. They don't just want good service; rather they expect a personalized, seamless, end-to-end experience with proactive and efficient service from proficient agents. Yet, most companies aren't focused on what the customer desires. Instead, organizations are siloed and processes are frequently disconnected, resulting in a sub-optimal experience for the customer. Most service to date has been focused on front-end engagement, the tip of the iceberg, but ignores what happens “under water”. The latter is where companies can differentiate by becoming a connected enterprise.

Traditional CRM systems have been managing individual customer interactions, but a modern customer management system connects the whole enterprise – customers, employees, and partners. This allows customer service teams to respond immediately to customer requests, deliver effortless service, and anticipate problems before they happen. To start on the path to becoming a connected enterprise, organizations should consider self-service strategies, make customer service a priority across all departments, and transform from reactive to proactive service. The following looks at each of these areas in more detail.

Connect Processes: Self-Service and Automation Save the Day

Today customer service agents fail to answer customer questions up to 50 percent of the time. With little resources to find answers and resolve issues themselves, customers are left feeling frustrated. At the same time, customer service agents spend hours each week buried under manual processes and fielding recurring questions. These inefficiencies are felt by both sides.

With self-service and automation, companies can cut costs while improving customer satisfaction and freeing up customer service teams to focus on more strategic work. In fact, a recent Deloitte survey reveals that 83 percent of respondents expect higher use of web self-services going forward. By moving routine inquiries such as password resets, address changes, or product questions to a self-service portal, community, or knowledgebase, customer service organizations can empower their customers to get the answers they need.

With automation and machine learning, companies can get requests to the right agents and field technicians more quickly. With automated workflows, companies can streamline and connect complex processes, such as insurance claims processing or loan approvals, through multiple departments or external partners.

Connect Teams: Break Down Barriers To Drive Accountability

To be truly customer-centric, everyone within the organization should be collaborating and working to support customer requests and resolve issues. Too often, customer service operates independently from other parts of the business with little to no connection with operations, field service, finance or product development.

When departments are siloed it's difficult to drive accountability. According to Accenture Strategy, the lack of cross-organizational integration is an oft-cited barrier to successful delivery of a superior customer experience. Problems aren't fixed and customers suffer from the inefficiencies of disconnected interactions. All processes, data sources, and business functions need to be connected, and working together to reach final resolution efficiently and effectively. The quality of service, as well as the quality of the company's products and services, improve thus increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Connect Technology and Systems: Move From Reactive to Proactive Service

Ideally, organizations want to get ahead of potential issues that might affect customers. This proactive approach to customer service gives businesses the ability to predict what customers will need rather than always reactiving. Companies can do this through the use of performance analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT). In fact, the IoT is the fastest-growing area of digital investment for B2B customer service organizations and is leading the way in providing more efficient customer service. Performance analytics can help customer service predict trends to act on. For example, analytics might show that a specific issue is recurring at a high frequency and can be automated for immediate efficiencies. Or proactively review service costs to see where adjustments can be made to improve the business.

The customer service needs of today have surpassed what traditional customer service tools and support can give. To meet the increasing demands placed on customer service, a new approach to customer management is imminent. Doing so will allow organizations to provide proactive service that breaks down barriers between departments while improving the quality of the service. By capitalizing on innovative technologies, companies will see improved efficiency, reduced costs, more engaged employees, and what's more, they will be able to meet the high expectations of today's customers.

Holly Simmons is Sr. Director, Product Marketing, Customer Service Management, ServiceNow
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