Why are customer satisfaction rates getting worse, and not better? While this may not be a universal truth, there is plenty of supporting research and no shortage of anecdotes. The negativity is particularly troubling because unified communications technology exists to deliver a great customer experience every time.
To illustrate, consider some basic findings from the 2013 Global Consumer Pulse Survey by Accenture. In 2013, 51 percent of consumers who switched buying goods and services from one company to another did so because of poor customer service. That incidence is up from 46 percent in 2012, and it's one of several indications from the study that customer service is becoming increasingly ineffective.
The leading causes of frustration with customer service were having to repeat information over and over to multiple agents, waiting on hold too long, dealing with impolite or unfriendly agents, having to contact a company more than once for the same reason, and having to deal with agents or self-serve options that cannot provide answers.
Just considering these examples, it's not hard to see how unified communications (UC) could address each one and have a major impact on improving customer satisfaction. UC adds value with its ability to integrate such real-time modes as voice with near-real-time modes, especially email, chat, and messaging. If you don't think these tools are important for improving customer service, consider why Facebook just spent $19 billion to acquire WhatsApp.
To provide great service, you must use the tools that customers use and find ways to engage with them when they want to engage with you. More often than not, this means connecting with them on their PCs or mobile devices. When using these endpoints, the conversations become different, and often multimodal -- and that's exactly where UC makes an impact.
However, UC is more than just a communications platform. When fully integrated with business platforms such as ERP or CRM, UC can become an intelligent communications platform, and go a lot further to mitigating the frustrations noted in the Accenture study. Armed with full information about the customers, their buying history and their interactions with you, your contact center can go beyond the reactive mode and take on a proactive role. Consider these examples:
- After resolving a problem with tech support, the customer receives automated notifications of new features he has expressed an interest in, along with automated follow-ups and confirmation that the issues have remained resolved. The customer indicates the preferred mode for receiving these updates to ensure they suit his preferences.
- During a voice-based session, the agent notes that the problem is getting complicated, and suggests they continue in a Web-based mode. After the customer informs the agent what type of device and operating system she is using, a WebRTC-based link is pushed out to the customer, and a pop-up website allows the session to continue with a richer set of tools and applications.
- Shortly after taking a call, the agent determines from the customer's history that she has a complex situation and has spoken several times with a particular agent. Instead of starting from scratch and wasting the customer's time, the agent asks if the customer would like that particular agent to call back and handle the inquiry.
To varying degrees, UC plays a big role in these scenarios, and I'm sure you can envision others. I'm also sure you can see how each of these can lead to the frustrations cited earlier and, by extension, why UC can help improve customer satisfaction.
It's fair to say that we have enough of the right technology to reverse the trend toward customer dissatisfaction. There is, however, a bigger challenge, and it has nothing to do with technology.
In short, the word is silos. The bigger the organization, the more pronounced operational silos tend to be. Every function in an organization has an agenda and a master to serve, and only in the most enlightened cases do they all work towards a common goal.
Silos prevent good customer service. When it comes to making customers happy, it's understood that you need to access various bits of data from across the organization to get the complete picture. If not, the customer has to explain his life story over and over as he gets passed from one agent to another. This is where UC can be a driver for change, because it enables businesses to engage with customers in more effective ways. Silos can still exist, but in a more permeable state.
The technology certainly exists to consistently deliver great customer service. The real problem lies in how businesses function. In that regard, UC alone is not a silver bullet. For UC to be effective, the overall plan must include a way to draw data from across departmental silos.
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