Are You Prepared for the Customer Service Perfect Storm?

Customer Engagement
Customer Experience
"There's never been a more interesting of challenging time in the customer service business," inContact CMO Mariann McDonagh told attendees of the company's Problem Solved tour in New York yesterday.

"There's never been a more interesting or challenging time in the customer service business," inContact CMO Mariann McDonagh told attendees of the company's Problem Solved tour in New York yesterday. McDonagh warned that it will only get more difficult to differentiate brands based on product attributes; driving sustainable growth more and more requires a superior service experience. "The next five years will bring more changes to the customer service market than the past 15."

What's driving those
major changes?

A perfect storm of three converging mega-trends--self-service, social media, and smart phones--McDonagh said. Self-service - According to Gartner, by 2012 "consumers will be willing to perform all possible customer service functions themselves." To adapt to this sea change, McDonagh recommended taking the time to uncover customers' service pain points and determining ways to resolve them using self-service, as well as putting in place a process for encouraging customers to adopt self-service. Additionally, McDonagh advised doing more than just providing self-service tools; she said that it's also essential to measure their effectiveness. Currently, she said, too few companies do this, citing an inContact survey that found that of the 73 percent of respondents who offer self-service, only 50 percent measure its effectiveness.

Social media - By 2013 only 35 percent of companies will have integrated social capabilities into their contact centers, Gartner predicts. "Social media can make or break a business," McDonagh said, noting that some financial analysts estimated that Dave Carroll's "United Breaks Guitars" video cost the airline about $100 million in lost business, process reengineering, training, etc. She recommends that companies start now to determine how they can best use social channels to provide customer service, including connecting social channels to the contact center and leveraging existing service resources.

Smart phones - Gartner also predicts that by 2014 more people will access the web using smart phones than using computers. There are numerous ways customers can use their smart phones to connect with a company, including texting, phone calls, email, website self-service, and social media. McDonagh said that businesses today must serve customers in customers' preferred channel and in context. For example, a customer may prefer to receive invoices via email but want, say, deposit alerts via text. According to McDonagh, only 20 percent of contact centers in North America have full multichannel capabilities; this means there's both a need to adopt multichannel and opportunity to gain a competitive advantage by doing so. "Companies have to do a better job of integrating [touchpoints] and using multichannel," she advised.

"There's a democratization of the customer experience today," McDonagh said. "Brands are starting to move into the hands of customers, which is both wonderful and frightening. We have to consider how that, along with self-service, social media, and smart phones, will impact our business.... We need to get relevant; to deliver a differentiate customer experience for each customer at every touchpoint."