Lessons from the recession: Customer Service Spending Needs to Increase in Social Media and Field Service

May 21, 2010
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Hello again everyone-you last heard from me on the Teradata webcast-thanks again for the great feedback.

One of the cool things about working in Customer Service CRM is that the landscape is always changing-always something to learn and do better. Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested in the phenomenon of social media and the effect it is having on customer relationships and how companies interact with their end-users. Also the effect it is having on being a consultant-there is a real community of great folks out there to work with in the social media space.

Anyway, in addition to our recent point of view around the notion of Social CRM and the need for a cohesive Social CRM strategy, we most recently worked to release some global research on how the latest wave of communications and high tech (CHT) corporate investments in customer service have fallen short in some areas during the downturn in a variety of ways. These two topics complement one another. They are also critical for companies to address as they emerge from the recession and learn to leverage new channels to increase loyalty and ultimately increase revenues.

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Hello again everyone-you last heard from me on the Teradata
webcast-thanks again for the great feedback.

One of the cool things about working in Customer Service CRM is that
the landscape is always changing-always something to learn and do
better. Over the past few years I’ve become increasingly interested in
the phenomenon of social media and the effect it is having on customer
relationships and how companies interact with their end-users. Also the
effect it is having on being a consultant-there is a real community of
great folks out there to work with in the social media space.

Anyway, in addition to our recent point of view around the notion of
Social CRM and the need for a cohesive Social CRM strategy, we most
recently worked to release some global research on how the latest wave
of communications and high tech (CHT) corporate investments in customer
service have fallen short in some areas during the downturn in a variety
of ways. These two topics complement one another. They are also
critical for companies to address as they emerge from the recession and
learn to leverage new channels to increase loyalty and ultimately
increase revenues.

It’s important that companies in the communications and high tech
industries consider directing their investments at new levers that
enhance the customer experience. These levers include offering social
customer relationship management tools, remote services, and flexible
scheduling and re-scheduling of a field service professional for
customers. Clearly, Social CRM needs to be, and will be, a driver of
improved customer service by improving the increasingly important
customer experience.

Industry leading companies are investing in customer service, but at
the same time customer expectations are rising–in many cases faster
than the investments. Some of the industry leaders’ investment has
focused on reducing their cost to serve.  Spending on costing measures
matters, but those types of pure cost-reduction initiatives should be
tracked separately from investments that have the potential to increase
customer satisfaction.

For example, huge investments in revamping interactive voice response
(IVR) under the guise of “improving customer satisfaction” often turn
out to be projects focused on “call avoidance” as opposed to “first-call
resolution.” The issue is not that the IVR investment “has no impact,”
but rather the money is being spent on traditional approaches that today
have less impact on customer satisfaction than newer approaches would
in social media.

Having a 360 degree view of the customer is great-but do we need it
in one SQL record? In some cases a list of records will help; let’s get
that out there while we try to make it one universal customer record. If
we have multiple records on a customer in the same database-yes lets
clean that up-but if it is multiple sources with different models then
we need a new paradigm. The sad reality is many single customer record
projects cost a lot but never finish because the number of data sources
grows faster than we can control it. Each new social media channel is
another source so this is going to get worse-not better. A few records
may be OK-the consolidated one from last year-and the new sources for
this year. Next year we consolidate and trim the base-and add new.
Repeat. Or get from a social media scanning service-maybe we maintain
the core-but the social media footprint comes from a managed service. If
we recognize Sisyphus trying to push the boulder up the hill again and
again-we can work with him.

Data warehousing or MDM initiatives have their place, but may be
relegated to initiatives around improving billers or mailing lists, as
opposed to direct impact on customer experience. Today, CHT companies
can sometimes get a high percentage of the value and give customer care
and sales folks what they need without the huge investments in those
traditional approaches. Another shortcut is that there is one vendor
which has a creative MDM hybrid approach. They create a composite
customer model from the get go with data cleansing optional.

When Communications, Electronics or Manufacturing companies make
mistakes with customers today, the customers have numerous avenues to go
public; people are chatting on and referring to forums, knowledge
management search, plus other social media. This opens the door to
companies that want to create a “virtuous loop,” where they leverage
what customers feel and know back into their call centers. After all,
consumers sometimes know more than you do about your own products. So if
you study Web FAQ pages, third-party forums and internal staff, you can
perhaps do more to impact customer satisfaction. To use an example from
DirecTV,-they now monitor DBSTalk officially, one of the prominent 3rd
party satellite TV technology forums.

Also needed is a renewed focus on “field service” as a key
touch-point with customers, and maybe even cross-sell and up sell
opportunities. This is often an under-invested part of business; too
many companies treat field service as a third-party ‘black box’ element
of their business. But now you see some companies paying attention to
the branding on the clothing of their third-party contractors, and even
their professionalism and the way they present themselves. The next step
is to further personalize the relationship by training these folks to
interact with customers in a way that improves the overall brand image
and the customer experience, and thereby loyalty.

Scheduling a “cable guy” to come to a home can significantly impact
perception and loyalty. Missing a day of work waiting for the
repair person to show up at your house is inconvenient and a widespread
problem. Yet the technology exists today for example in Oracle Real Time
Scheduling (ORS) to have same-day scheduling or rescheduling over phone
or web. We have no technology excuses on this one anymore. These teams
can be viewed as more than just technicians, but as a valuable
touch-point to customers at the inception of a service or during a
problem resolution; it can make or break perception of the company. When
is the last time you tweeted about great installation/delivery service?

Thoughts? Feedback as always is welcome.

For a copy of the survey, please visit: www.accenture.com/2010recessionlessons.

Joseph Hughes, Accenture

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