What are the top customer service “must have” projects we’re hearing about right now? Without a doubt, the number-one trend – for the 150th year in a row – continues to be cost reduction.
I’ve long argued that contact centers are best viewed in terms of the revenue opportunities they create. But based on the many conversations I’ve been having with customer service VPs, their mandate from the business remains simple: reduce costs. Perhaps that’s because most businesses still see contact centers as just cost centers, driving them to keep asking: “How can we make our service team more productive, to handle more customer inquiries with less?”
With that in mind, as VPs of service plan their next service projects and budgets, here are my predictions for the four hottest service CRM projects for 2013:
1. Delivering Knowledge
The number-one service department strategy that we’ve seen last year has been businesses embracing knowledge management systems. Expect this trend to continue at full steam throughout for some time.
Why the push for knowledge management? Simply put, using a system to capture best-practice approaches and problem solutions is a no-brainer. Without an effective knowledge management system, service reps have to comb through multiple databases, retrieve and open network files, or create a “personal” knowledge management systemaka Word docscontaining home-cooked verbal scripts and answers for top issues, together with tips and tricks.
Using ad hoc processes, however, results in slower customer service interactions, poor repeatability, and leaves too much room for error. In other words, to improve service productivity as well as the customer experience, service reps need better knowledge.
2. Lowering Costs Through Integration
To provide that knowledge, many businesses are not just tapping knowledge management systems, but also using integration to deliver relevant details directly to customer service agents.
Too many businesses today skimp on providing “just in time” customer information to their service reps. For example, when one of our insurance customerswho shall remain namelessgot a service call, such as when a customer wanted to resolve a claim, service agents had to look up information using 17 different applications. Literally, agents toggled between open windows, all the while intoning “my apologies, but the system sure is slow today.” Talk about a productivity hit.
Integration solves this challenge by bringing all of the information that a customer service agent needs into one interfacetypically, their view of the CRM system. When a customer calls, the agent can immediately see all required information about the customer. In an insurance context, this includes details of exactly which policies they hold, as well as when policies are due for renewalthus increasing cross-selling and up-selling opportunities.
Yes, integration requires an upfront investment. But giving service reps essential customer information in one place offers businesses the opportunity to dramatically reduce their support costs, and we’ve seen it pay off handsomely for our clients.
3. Ensuring Disaster Recovery Via Cloud
When evaluating cloud CRM providers, we’ve long recommended that businesses always ask: Which vendor will do a better job of ensuring that we stay backed up and online?
With Hurricane Sandy still a very recent memorynot least because many people remain homeless as a resultwe’ve been having numerous discussions with clients about disaster recovery, specifically in a cloud context. Interestingly, the overwhelming opinion seems to be that the cloud is a better fail-safe option than an on-premise application and service environment.
In part, that’s because service operations can’t afford any downtime. If a hurricane knocks your on-premise application down for a few days, the sales team might need to scramble later, but with their commissions at stake, expect a rally. If you’re a health insurer, however, and customers are attempting to get procedures authorized or claims filed, you can’t afford for your customer service department to get knocked out. Same again if you’re an energy or telecommunications company attempting to troubleshoot widespread outages.
By using a cloud-based CRM application, you can buy yourself the ability to get a backup service operation up and running, and anywhere in the world, at a moment’s notice.
4. Finding Social Satisfaction
What’s your social strategy? Today, the number-one customer “dissatisfier” that we see involves the intersection between social networks and customer service. Time and again,people take to Facebook and Twitter to blast companies’ inability to hear their cries via social networks. While businessesand their CEOsremain silent, reputations suffer. When customers do finally call the contact center or log onto the self-service portal, their attitude toward the business will be that much more negative, and a satisfactory outcome harder for businesses to obtain.
While many businesses haven’t yet mastered social serviceor acknowledged the need to do sowe are seeing leading-edge companies embrace the concept. The Apple Store, for example, is breaking retail sales records in part because it treats customers with respect, in part by not wasting their time. Throughout 2013, we expect to see more businesses bring similar attitudes to bear on their customers via social networks, not least by aligning their CRM programs and social strategies.
Cloud Sherpas is one of the world’s leading Cloud Solutions Providers and helps businesses maximize their CRM returns by identifying desired business goals, finding the right tools and technology for the job, and delivering rapid implementations that remain focused on achieving your desired business capabilities.