This week’s Industry Perspectives comes from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI), which last week reported that online shopping satisfaction is at a 12-year low. Specifically, online shopping satisfaction dropped 4.9 percent to 78, the lowest score since 2001.
But the drop can’t be too much of a surprise given the customer service nightmare that UPS and FedEx experienced this past holiday season. An influx of last-minute online shopping, paired with weather-induced shipping delays, resulted in many, many unhappy customers.
David VanAmburg, director of ACSI argued this incident was the root of the customer dissatisfaction. “People expect a great experience when they shop online. This time it didn’t happen and it became a splash of cold water in the face. But I think this is more of a glitch or a blip rather than a long-term trend that there’s something wrong with online retail.”
Either way, this index report and infamous holiday season blunder are bound to have lasting impacts on the customer service industry as a whole. Here at Transera, we believe three factors will be key to preventing history from repeating itself:
How do you think the American Customer Satisfaction Index will shape industry trends for 2014? Is big data the secret to customer service success? And are there any other underlying issues that are causing this dissatisfaction?
- Understand that expectations of American consumers are simply higher than they used to be
- Break down the barriers that silo customer data so that you can understand customer expectations based on their behaviors
- Harness big data and predictive analytics to anticipate customer behaviors, expectations and intents so you can meet their needs in a timely fashion and keep them happy.
This week, I’m continuing our Industry Perspectives series by highlighting Kate Leggett’s blog post, “Forrester’s Top Trends For Customer Service In 2014”. In the piece, Kate explains how the recent shifts in digital communication, mobility, and the acceleration of innovation are impacting customer expectations. The article highlights the top 12 customer service trends for 2014 that enterprises should pay attention to in order to ensure excellence in customer service.
My favorites fell into two of her four categories:
- Personalize Customer Service Interactions
- Focus on Productivity for Optimized Service
Here are some quotes from my favorite trends Kate lists. If you are familiar with the product roadmap we’ve been working on for the past few years here at Transera, I think you will see why.
Decisioning Will Power Offers, Actions and Connections
Kate says: “In 2014, customer service organizations will continue to investigate methods to recommend agent “next-best actions” during the service resolution process to offer service tailored to the customer’s unique needs and past purchase history. Predictive analytics will continue to be explored to recommend the right content to customers, and connect customers to agents in order to increase satisfaction and reduce overall costs.
Analytics Will Improve End-to-End Service
Kate says: Customer communication channels and touchpoints are managed by different organizations within a company… Forrester reports that 58% of companies inconsistently measure, or fail to measure their customer’s cross channel journey.”
The Agent Experience is No Longer an Afterthought
Kate says: “Customer service agents, who use tens or even hundreds of disconnected applications during their workday, are demanding that their solutions be more usable, so that they can focus on solving the customer’s issues and delivering differentiated service.”
Customer Service Organizations Are Adopting SaaS Solutions for Agility
Kate says: “Forrester data shows that 15% of organizations have already replaced all or most of their on-premise customer service applications with software-as-a-service (SaaS)solutions; and 24% complement their existing solutions with SaaS. The main benefits of SaaS include increased business agility, and speed of deployment, and allowing for more focus on other projects critical to the success of the business.”
As the person leading product management here at Transera, I have been championing these very trends. That is why our Customer Engagement Analytics offering:
- Uses big data technologies and techniques to collect and connect all the data from the various contact center channels and systems
- Applies predictive analytics to this data to determine how best to serve customers in their “context” based on their history and intent
- Uses the analytics to match customers with the best agents and arming the agents with the data they need to serve the customer better
- Is offered as a SaaS solution to minimize our customers’ capital outlay, reduce their time to value and accelerate their ROI
The next few years should be very exciting and innovative ones for the contact center industry. I’ve been looking forward to them.
In honor of Valentine’s Day, last week, CMSWire posted an article written by Transera that likened customer relationships with personal relationships. The piece, How to Make Your Customers Love You This Valentine's Day, took three best-practice tips for happy, healthy, successful relationships and applied them to customer relationships in the contact center. We encourage you to give it a read, it’s interesting how well they apply, and the marketing team here at Transera had a blast writing it.
Just like in our personal relationships, there’s tremendous value to be had with the right “match,” and in this case, matching the right agent with the right customer. But obtaining this perfect match requires:
- Investing time in agents
- Looking at the customer holistically
- Prioritizing the customer perspective
Big data has a central role to play in making the perfect customer / agent match. A recent Forrester report on the future of customer service revealed two key things:
- Predictive analytics will play an integral role in helping companies recommend the right content to customers, and connect customers to the right agents in order to increase satisfaction.
- Customer service organizations will be investigating in methods to recommend agent “next-best actions” during the service resolution process to offer service tailored to the customer’s unique needs and past purchase history.
Contact centers collect tons of data from their customers, but whether it’s the first time a customer picks up the phone, sends an email or interacts with a customer service representative online, this data is typically stored in disparate systems. Linking data across contact center and business systems, and then analyzing this data across interactions, allows contact centers to make intelligent decisions about each customer engagement, leading to happier customers and better, more rewarding relationships.
This week’s Industry Perspectives comes from a recent article by Patrick Budmar for Australia-based ARN. In his article, Businesses to turn to multi-channel customer engagement: Gartner, Patrick highlights Gartner’s recent prediction that companies will continue to transition into multi-channel customer engagement centers. We all knew this, but the big news is:
With this accelerated shift towards multi-channel interactions, Gartner expects organizations to prioritize a real-time single view of customers by consolidating data from social media, mobile, voice and email channels.
Gartner’s prediction reinforces what is at the core of Transera:
As companies provide multiple communication channels for more and varied customer interactions, they must grab the opportunity to analyze and unlock the rich customer insights that are inherit in the data these interactions create.
Companies will then be able to adapt their processes and agent behaviors to sync with the context of each customer interaction thus evolving their contact centers into true customer engagement centers.
The difference between the two?
- Contact centers focus on operational efficiencies and metrics
- Customer engagement centers have a deep understanding of their customers’ relationships with the company and their needs at any given time.
Customer engagement centers make a larger effort to consolidate data from each customer touch point to ensure a higher-quality customer journey, ultimately creating happier and more loyal customers.
How do you think the industry will respond to Gartner’s predictions? Are contact centers ready to make the leap? Are customer engagement centers the analytics-based solution we’ve all been waiting for?
Until next week!
This week, Transera is continuing our new Industry Perspectives series with a recent piece by Louis Columbus, a contributor for Forbes. In the article, 2014: The Year Big Data Adoption Goes Mainstream In The Enterprise, Louis highlights IDG’s recently conducted study on big data and enterprise predictions for 2014. The most notable of results are that on average, enterprises will spend $8 million on big data-related initiatives this year. The study also mentioned that 70 percent of enterprise organizations have either deployed or are planning to deploy big data-related projects and programs.
If this study is indicative of one thing, it’s that big data is becoming mainstream in the enterprise. However, if this mass data collection is an increasingly common practice, why haven’t contact centers caught on yet? We have loads of data: event logs from IVRs, agent and customer interaction logs from ACDs, agent performance and customer data in CRMs and Order Entry systems, web click streams and a variety of other data types and sources. This data meets the required big data attributes of variety, velocity and volume; surely we can derive some value from it all.
Like Transera’s Arnab Mishra discussed in a previous blog post, customer rage and dissatisfaction are growing problems with a viable solution – big data. But it’s not just the collection of data that companies should be investing in, but also the ability to put that data into context in order to improve customer satisfaction and produce better business outcomes. When used correctly, big data equals big opportunities. By making sense of customer information in historical and real-time context, this information allows contact centers to make smart, business-focused decisions more than ever before.
What do you think? Is the mainstreaming of big data the solution that call centers have been waiting for? And what kinds of new business opportunities will this data collection present?
It’s a great week for Transera, as our Customer Engagement Analyzer just won CUSTOMER Magazine’s Product of the Year Award. The award recognizes products and solutions that improve the customer experience in the call center, CRM and teleservices industries.
The Transera Customer Engagement Analyzer is cloud-based software that allows contact centers to capture, organize and cross-analyze customer interactions. This gives companies insight into every stage of the customer journey, leading to more profitable outcomes and more loyal customers.
Winning this award signifies the importance of knocking down organizational and data silos, and emphasizing analytics-driven customer engagements. We hope organizations will soon replace their focus on operational efficiencies with a new appreciation for metrics that drive desired business outcomes.
We couldn’t be more pleased about receiving this honor. Congratulations to our product management and engineering teams, and to our fellow award recipients. The official TMC CUSTOMER announcement of the winners can be found here.
Here’s to an exciting 2014.
This week, we’re introducing a new blog series, “Industry Perspectives,” to share insights from today’s top reporters, influencers and thought leaders. Our first post comes from Quentin Hardy and highlights a recent article he wrote for the New York Times. In “Big Data Shrinks to Grow,” Quentin writes about a big data paradigm shift that seems to be taking place. As companies are beginning to focus less on back-end technologies such as new types of storage or database frameworks, they are also rethinking how best to integrate human knowledge, algorithms and diverse sets of data into existing infrastructures.
Quentin highlights Kaggle and Palantir, two companies that are shifting their big data business models to accommodate industry-specific needs, such as oil and gas, and pharmaceuticals, respectively. He argues that these moves are indicative of a larger trend of big data companies thinning down and narrowing their focus.
So what is the message here for today’s contact center? In the contact center, data is power. And when utilized correctly, this data can provide long-term benefits to not only our customer’s overall experience, but also a company’s business outcomes. What this article confirms is the importance of having the right data and thinking strategically about what data you should focus on. While it’s easy to view big data as a blanket solution to the myriad of problems that come across a contact center on any given day, we must use this information strategically to better understand customer behaviors, needs, and potential value. This understanding is essential to delivering not only a truly personal customer experience, but also one that is fine-tuned for maximum business impact.
What are your thoughts? Does big data really need to shrink to grow? And what kinds of data are most important for contact centers to collect about our customers?
Thanks for stopping by, we’ll see you here again next week.
Last year, we focused our attention on the customer journey and the importance of understanding the business value customers represent to the larger company.
We thought we’d use this as an opportunity to highlight some of our favorite articles including insights from Transera’s Arnab Mishra, our VP of products and solutions, as well as from our CEO, Prem Uppaluru.
In the coming months, we’ll continue to share insights and best practices from our bench of executive thought leaders. But for now, our favorites from 2013.
Contact Centers: Why Customer Engagement Initiatives Fail
IT Business Edge
July 16, 2013
The global customer experience management market is expected to grow by $4 billion by 2017. However, many contact centers today still take customer calls with little understanding of the business value customers represent to the larger company. Even with access to a treasure trove of data, most contact centers have a hard time seeing patterns in customer interactions that can drive the business forward. As this often leads to mediocre business results, Transera examines the root of the problem, and shares the top five reasons why customer engagement initiatives fail.
- Missing the real business value of customer engagement
- Lack of a holistic view of the customer
- Not taking full advantage of Big Data analytics
- Lacking the customer perspective
- Not investing in agents
- Not organizing your company around the customer
Customer Engagement: More Than the Sum of Its Parts
WIRED Innovation Insights
August 1, 2013
Transera’s CEO, Prem Uppalaru explains that it is imperative for organizations to carefully consider each interaction a customer has with a company. By examining customer interactions from their perspective, companies can gather invaluable information and streamline the overall experience. Furthermore, to drive strategic change and make a long-term impact, companies must focus on the higher-level customer journey, which is the sum total of its relationship with customers.
5 Things Contact Centers Can Learn from the Butterball Turkey Hotline
November 27, 2013
For the last 32 years, the Butterball Turkey Hotline has made advice readily available to anyone daunted by the task of cooking the perfect turkey during the holiday season. The Butterball campaign’s model is often referred to as an example for branding and marketing, but the company’s contact center is really what organizations should be learning from. In the piece, I share five lessons contact centers can learn from the Butterball hotline:
- There’s business value in being helpful
- Intent matters
- Know your agents’ strengths
- Every interaction is an opportunity to build a relationship
- Contact centers are strategic assets
5 Ways to a Customer-Centric Contact Center
Retail Customer Experience
December 12, 2013
At the end of the day, every company is a customer company, and those who aren’t will only be replaced. Nowhere is this truer than in a contact center, which is the central point of all customer interactions. As managing these interactions is so critical to the success of business, Prem Uppalaru shares five ways companies can improve their contact centers and make them more customer-centric.
- Look at the customer holistically
- Use big data analytics to your advantage
- Stitch it all together
- Invest in your agents
- Make each customer front and center
Why Cloud-based CRM Systems Make Sense
December 17, 2013
Cloud-based CRM systems and other cloud-based applications are becoming increasingly common among businesses. Time and cost are the two biggest benefits of cloud computing, but cloud-based applications also tend to be more intuitive and integrated for users. Transera’s Arnab Mishra, VP of products and solutions, shares the advantages of CRM in the cloud and some of the larger CRM trends that are possible with cloud computing.
Thanks for stopping by, see you here next week!
This past holiday season, UPS and FedEx experienced what can only be summed up as a customer nightmare when an influx of orders created shipping delays and prevented on-time delivery of hundreds of thousands of packages. Both companies immediately kicked into damage control mode, and issued public apologies to customers about not being able to meet the high expectation of delivering gifts in time for Christmas morning.
While this blunder isn’t enough to make customers abandon online shopping, it will certainly have a long-lasting impact on the delivery companies who must now increase their shipping capacity for future holiday seasons.
This is but one example of what can happen when a company is faced with unexpected customer-related circumstances. As we enter the New Year, Transera shares five tips for contact centers in 2014 to prevent similar mishaps:
1. Be prepared for a crisis with a flexible system
In crisis situations, the contact center becomes the company’s main line of defense. What transpired with UPS and FedEx, can happen to any business without warning. So it’s important to implement a flexible infrastructure that can handle this unexpected boost in activity. Companies who have an adaptable system already in place during a crisis will be able to handle disgruntled customer calls with much more ease, minimizing the ultimate impact of the impending disaster.
2. Be ready to handle economic growth
Alternatively, as the economy continues to improve, contact centers must be able to absorb the influx of business that comes with this growth. Economic growth requires better agents, advanced technology to handle the additional customer engagements, and a stable sales team to tackle incoming business.
3. Contact center software should look to better understand agents
Operational efficiency, while important, still remains too high of a priority for contact centers. This is particularly true for how contact centers track the performance of agents using metrics built around average handle time, service level, abandon rate, first call resolution, etc. This year, contact centers should focus more on understanding agent skill sets, what types of customers and inquiries they perform best, and then matching the right agent to the right customer and type of inquiry to improve business outcomes.
4. Cross-analyze data to unlock customer happiness
As contact centers empower their customers with multiple communication channels and increased access, companies should have the ability to cross-analyze data to unlock hidden customer insights. Companies will need to take a big step forward in getting a complete customer picture by making correlations across customer touch points and internal business operations. Once they successfully unlock this data from their silos, companies will see a more substantial payoff from their big data initiatives.
5. Utilize multi-channel analytics to complete the customer journey
At the end of the day, all companies need to do a better job of getting to know their customers by analyzing the information that’s at their disposal. From the customer’s perspective, interactions across the contact center are viewed as one experience, not multiple distinct interactions. By stitching together these customer touches, companies get a clear view into that customer’s journey. This insight will allow companies to get a better understanding of the customers themselves and ultimately improve business.
As we prepare for the New Year, companies can’t afford to leave their contact centers in 2013. Take advantage of these tips to ensure success of your contact center and most importantly, the happiness of your customers.
Until next week!
In 1989, the song “If You Don’t Know Me by Now” by U.K. pop band Simply Red hit the number one spot on the Hot 100 list. Almost 25 years later—in the era of big data—the lyrics “If you don’t know me by now, you will never, never, never know me,” probably ring true for most people purchasing goods and services this holiday season, as I will explain.
For years now, large consumer products and services companies have been collecting and analyzing vast amounts of data on customers, looking for patterns that will help them achieve better service and increase sales and profits. Big data technologies have made these same capabilities available and accessible to just about every business.
With so many companies now collecting and mining so much data on all of us, one would reasonably expect them to know us well by now and be able to deliver a personalized experience. At the very least we’d expect a superior level service than they were able to deliver even a few years ago, let alone 40 years ago when the first Customer Rage Study was conducted.
Disappointingly, that’s not the case as the most recent Customer Rage Study made clear.
The study revealed that more American consumers are dissatisfied with the products and services they buy than ever before. Among the findings of the study:
- The amount of people reporting customer problems went up from 32 percent in the 1976 study, to 45 percent in 2011, and then 50 percent in 2013.
- The number of households experiencing customer rage went up from 60 percent just two years ago to 68 percent this year.
And the stakes are high—according to the authors of the study, “about $76 billion in revenue was at stake for the businesses involved.”
If companies don’t know us by now, will they ever, ever, ever know us? In my view, yes. And based on conversations with many companies grappling with this vary issue, the disconnect between the increasing amount of data companies are collecting on all of us and the perceived decline in the customer experience boils down to three main factors:
- Expectations of the American consumer are simply higher than they were before. As technology has advanced, the pace of every aspect of our lives has quickened and our expectations for speed, quality and efficiency have gone up. This means that companies need to be more agile and adopt new technologies to keep up or even stay ahead of expectations. This is one of the reasons companies are moving more of their business software to the cloud.
- Companies are still trying to figure out the best way to apply big data to get the most value out of it. The mainstreaming of big data is truly transformative. But there’s a learning curve, and with so many opportunities to use big data across different parts of the business and various customer touch points, companies are still trying to understand where and how to get the most out of their data.
- Customer data remains fairly siloed, which makes it difficult for companies to get a complete picture and make correlations across customer touch points and internal business operations. Until they can fully unlock this data from their silos, companies will mostly see incremental gains from their big data initiatives.
We’ll be talking about this topic quite a bit in the New Year. We’ll specifically explore how contact centers can stitch their data together to gain a deeper understanding of both the customer perspective and the agent behaviors that lead to the desired business outcomes. We’ll also be showcasing companies that are successfully using this data to build genuinely stronger, more meaningful and more rewarding relationships with customers.
Our hope is that by this time next year, more American consumers will be singing a different tune when it comes to their views of customer service.
In the meantime, here are some of our tips on how to make your contact center more customer-centric.
From the entire Transera team, we wish you happy holidays and a prosperous New Year.