Unified Communications

11:45 AM
Jon Arnold
Jon Arnold
Commentary
Connect Directly
Twitter
LinkedIn
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Why Does Customer Service Suck?

Businesses need to get on the ball with implementing unified communications systems that can break down silos and improve their sinking customer satisfaction ratings.

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.

Join Enterprise Connect for an intensive day-long series of sessions in a free four-city road show focused on helping you design strategies for successful adoption and implementation of Microsoft's Lync. During this free program, we will help you evaluate Lync as a voice solution, address the challenges of integrating Lync into your existing UC architecture, and analyze total cost of ownership. Join your peers and leading vendor companies making Lync adoption possible in San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, and New York. Register for the Enterprise Connect Lync Tour today.

Jon Arnold is Principal of J Arnold & Associates, an independent telecom analyst and strategy consultancy based in Toronto, Ontario. The consultancy's primary focus is providing thought leadership and go-to-market counsel regarding IP communications and disruptive ... View Full Bio
Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
AmyB053
50%
50%
AmyB053,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/10/2014 | 3:53:45 PM
Great article..but wait, there's more...
Great article and a very interesting take on how to solve this issue of poor customer service. One added benefit is the level of accountability you have when all of your VOIP systems/locations are tied together. I've have some experience with building and managing a national VOIP system for a government contractor. Not only can it help an organization realize cost savings for their telecom services, but it creates an opportunity to capture data centrally.  This is important when you're tracking agent behavior and trying to identify root causes for such common issues as frequent hangups, long hold times and multiple transfers. Unfortunately, for those companies doing business internationally, the ability to build such a network (or even capture this data centrally) has its challenges. If you can cite an example of a company that is currently doing this, I'd love to read about it. 

I agree UC is not the silver bullet that will completely solve these customer service issues. While the concept and technology sound great, this doesn't address the larger problem. Customer-facing agent behavior is driven by metrics.  If your support metrics are focused on quantity of calls taken, shorter handle times, decreasing costs or increased revenue, rather than being focused on quality resolutions and driving actionable feedback to your organization, your customer satisfaction ratings will reflect that. 

On the topic of silos, there is a lot more to that as well. Silos can be created by an organization that requires internal teams to compete for funding of their resources and projects. Silos are further encouraged by an organization that does not reward achievements by collaborating teams, rather they are given to the sponsoring team.  If organizations shift towards holding all of their teams equally accountable for issues and achievements, I believe you'd see a shift away from silos. 

Thanks,

Amy

 
Shane M. O'Neill
50%
50%
Shane M. O'Neill,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/11/2014 | 10:40:32 AM
Gettting better, but still a disconnect
I see customer service slowly improving using chat, email, IM and other UC technologies. I recently resolved a newspaper subscription problem via a chat session. The problem was a little complicated but was resolved efficiently without lengthy phone calls.

Sometimes an issue needs to be talked out on the phone. Although I rarely come across a rude customer service person (most are trained to be polite), phone support is definitely where the silo problem mentioned in this article rears its ugly head. I get transferred two or three times and there's no continuity. Each time the person says "Can I help you?" when they should know who I am and where I'm coming from. I have to explain my situation each time.
Zain Ali
50%
50%
Zain Ali,
User Rank: Apprentice
5/6/2014 | 6:09:36 AM
Live Chat Benifits
It`s an obvious thing that if you provide best customer services then you can take a good benifitfron it. There are lots of businesses that have been cosed due to their bad customer responsiveness issue. If you install software to check customer`s visits and responce on your website then it will be more easy for you to boost your website up. You can instal live chat software services in this regard for better performance and customer`s satisfaction to provide them ease of communicating as they want.
Susan Fogarty
50%
50%
Susan Fogarty,
User Rank: Strategist
5/6/2014 | 1:10:07 PM
Re: Live Chat Benifits
Ali, we recently posted an article on visual customer service technologies such as co-browsing and Amazon's Mayday button that you may be interested in. I personally have been unimpressed with text chat services, with the notable exception of Norweigan Cruise Lines, which has an excellent chat feature. There seem to be real live people on the other end there, unlike other chats I've tried!
@david__allen
50%
50%
@david__allen,
User Rank: Apprentice
9/29/2014 | 2:49:53 PM
Re: Live Chat Benifits
That is very true @Susan while text chat sounds good in principal, in many cases there is ofren a lack of details and even more annoying is the speed in responding to questions etc. 
Cartoon
Slideshows
Audio Interviews
Archived Audio Interviews
Jeremy Schulman, founder of Schprockits, a network automation startup operating in stealth mode, joins us to explore whether networking professionals all need to learn programming in order to remain employed.
White Papers
Register for Network Computing Newsletters
Current Issue
2014 State of Unified Communications
2014 State of Unified Communications
If you thought consumerization killed UC, think again: 70% of our 488 respondents have or plan to put systems in place. Of those, 34% will roll UC out to 76% or more of their user base. And there’s some good news for UCaaS providers.
Video
Twitter Feed