At Vlocity, Mark leads the company’s global Customer Strategy team, focused on helping enterprises define their digital strategies and realize maximum value from digital technology investments. With more than two decades of CRM experience, Mark has helped hundreds of customers transform their business with innovative, customer-centric approaches that incorporate the latest digital trends and technologies. Prior to Vlocity, Mark was Vice President & Head of Global Value Services at Oracle. He has also held leadership positions at Siebel Systems, iXL Enterprises (now part of SapientRazorfish), and AT&T.
Benefit #2 of 7 – Service Excellence
Welcome to our continuing blog series focused on the business value of digital transformation.
It goes without saying that delivering outstanding customer service is critical to company success. According to Forrester, 72% of businesses say that improving customer experience is their top priority. However, many companies are reluctant to make the necessary investments that will foster a transformational approach to customer engagement. Further, few are honestly evaluating whether they are cultivating the sort of dynamic, exciting relationships with customers that digital leaders provide — a sort of digital symbiosis that not only responds to but anticipates needs. Successful companies have discovered they must evolve at an accelerated pace to serve and delight today’s customer.
Providing great customer experiences fuels advocacy, expands wallet share, increases loyalty and lowers cost to serve. Conversely, providing less than great customer experiences elicits the opposite effect; revealing to consumers an organization that’s content to conduct business via a “company-first” 20th century business model — a paralyzing prospect in today’s customer-centric digital economy.
72% of businesses say that improving customer experience is their top priority.
At its core, Service Excellence is all about leveraging technology to ensure a company is smart, responsive and proactive in keeping customers satisfied. I’d like to focus on three key aspects of customer care that are driving the greatest impact in delighting customers in the digital age:
- Employee Empowerment
- Customer Service Access
- Proactive Service Resolution
Employee Empowerment is absolutely essential for a company conducting business today. Empowerment starts with the ability to provide employees with a full understanding of a customer’s journey or “customer story” — previous purchases, prior service interactions, behavioral patterns, communication preferences and interconnections with other customers. Access to this depth of information is critical to establish a level of empathy and relevance with the customer. For example, agents can share a sense of frustration with the customer if she is calling for the second time to solve a problem or perhaps recommend an additional service that the customer has already been exploring. Knowing the customer story provides the basis for creating real human connections and, thereby, humanizing your brand.
Of course, to effectively solve problems, companies need to harvest this newfound empathy and understanding, and act on it convincingly. As has been said elsewhere, “empathy without action is meaningless.” Modern customer care tools, such as those offered by Vlocity, provide both a 360-degree view of the customer and a variety of industry-specific, guided flows to help an agent act in an optimal fashion. Sky Italia deployed Vlocity’s industry-specific agent console and reported amazing improvements in the speed of service resolution — a 20% reduction in call handle time. Vlocity’s intuitive guided service flows have also helped Sky Italia increase their agent NPS score by 40% and reduce new agent training time by 70%.
In the final step of agent empowerment, companies must establish decision-making policies (not just technologies) to delight customers. Ritz Carlton famously retains the “$2,000 Rule,” which allows employees—at all levels—to spend up to $2,000/day to resolve issues with customers they come in contact with. By empowering employees with a greater bandwidth of trust and decision-making authority, the company not only accelerates service resolution and creates a more committed workforce, but elevates the customer experience, providing a necessary arc of empathy that helps build relationships with customers that are emotional, deep and lasting.
Companies must establish decision-making policies (not just technologies) to delight customers.
Imagine going to work each day unable to solve impossible tasks in front of irate customers who cannot fathom how you can be so ineffective. Sadly, this is the life of many customer care agents today, and it is the primary reason why so many agents leave companies that fail to support them. According to Forrester, 42 percent of service agents are unable to efficiently resolve customer issues due to disconnected systems, archaic user interfaces and multiple applications. However, in the digital age, through a combination of information, tools and policies, empowered customer care professionals become the superstars, solving issues, strengthening relationships and serving as true advocates for the brand.
Customer Service Access expands the service function to a wide variety of channels and empowers customers to decide when, how and from what device they’d like to resolve an issue or perform a task. The greatest rise in customer service access is digital self-service, which offers a portfolio of guided interactions. Digitally savvy companies leverage historical experience and self-learning algorithms to optimize the best process to resolve issues or perform tasks. Effectively integrated, these flows can dramatically reduce demand for live assistance while empowering the customer to access solutions seamlessly, through any device. Of course, deflecting inquiries to self-service channels also has the benefit of driving massive productivity savings to your customer care function.
Another cutting-edge self-service tool ripe for greater adoption is voiced-based virtual assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa and Google’s Assistant. In fact, according to Nuance Communications, 89% of consumers want to engage in conversations with virtual assistants. In the coming months and years, expect “chat bots,” to dominate the landscape, as they leverage sophisticated Natural Language Processing systems to interact with customers in a proactive “human-like” way. It’s all part of the larger trend of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning that digital leaders are leveraging to provide greater value and innovation to their customers and improve productivity.
Keep in mind, customer service access extends beyond the organization and its digital tools. With the aid of social service and passion communities, customers are often able to interact with peers to solve problems, solicit advice and enhance customer experience. While this method is not always sufficient to adequately resolve issues, it continues to be a popular way to swiftly leverage collective intelligence to empower users.
89% of consumers want to engage in conversations with virtual assistants.
– Nuance Communications
In terms of access in the digital age, we can never say enough about the necessity of employing an omnichannel approach to customer service that integrates channels and provides a consistent customer experience. Aberdeen Group Inc. recently claimed that companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, as compared to 33% for companies with weak omnichannel strategies. Individuals expect to have ultimate flexibility in how they start and resolve their issue(s), and omnichannel allows customers to begin their transaction (or query) on one channel (like self-service) and conclude it on another (like a contact center or retail store). While the distinction between channels can sometimes blur, it’s important for companies to have the capability to visually archive the full history of all service-related customer actions so agents (and intelligent assistants) can better understand the context of the issue if the customer decides to connect live. This helps avoid needless repetition, which is at the core of pre-built applications like Vlocity’s innovative OmniScript™ technology, where intelligent business processes can be crafted without code and deployed identically across multiple channels in a clear, consistent and personal manner.
Proactive Service Resolution is perhaps the most compelling strategy for Service Excellence today. Through the use of data mining/analytics, next-best action algorithms and connected objects (IoT), companies can actually work to resolve customer service issues before they materialize or are noticed by a customer. Consider some of the triumphs of predictive service resolution strategies emerging in our digital culture:
- A telecom customer is notified that he is approaching his data limit
- Another telecom customer is credited a portion of her monthly service bill because she experienced a significant number of dropped calls
- A health insurance customer is alerted that he is entering a facility that is out-of-network
- A delivery company is notified that a driver’s next delivery distance will exceed a tire’s expected life.
Leading the charge in proactive service resolution are Vlocity partners Salesforce and IBM, which recently joined forces with their respective Einstein and Watson offerings. With Salesforce and Watson, insurance companies can now integrate sophisticated weather data to proactively deliver safety and policy information to customers who are at risk of being impacted by severe weather events. In other words, “Hi there, there is a massive hail storm coming your way. Better get your vehicle in the garage and take shelter. Be safe!” This is just one example of how intelligent system are being combined with service channels to proactively serve customers.
Companies with the strongest omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers.
– Aberdeen Group Inc.
As these newer technologies evolve, proactive service resolution will become the norm. Most service issues and their resolution process are known, so it is only a matter of time before intelligent, connected systems will be able to identify and resolve these issues before humans can perceive them — or prevent them altogether.
Service Excellence is a cornerstone of success in the digital age. It starts with establishing a culture dedicated to service excellence and empowering employees with the tools and processes to become problem-solvers and front-line ambassadors for the brand. It requires a broad set of capabilities to allow customers to engage, resolve and transact on their own terms. And it requires a digital mindset to embrace the emerging technologies that promise to reshape what Service Excellence will mean in the future.
I hope you enjoyed this discussion, and I welcome your feedback. Please join me for our next installment of The 7 Business Benefits of Digital Transformation — Product & Service Innovation!