Wednesday, 04 March 2015 16:58

'No excuse' for poor customer service

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When it comes to poor customer service, "there's really no excuse" given today's technology, according to an executive at a major customer experience vendor.

Given the opportunity to talk with Genesys executive vice president of global sales, services and care Tom Eggemeier (pictured), iTWire asked why there is such a gap between best practice in customer experience and the reality of our everyday interactions with organisations.

Eggermeier outlined three issues that have contributed to the situation.

• The GFC - while its impact on Australia was relatively moderate, he said one global effect was a reduced investment in customer service, despite the direct link between customer service and the health of the organisation.

• Complexity - several years ago, customer service occurred face to face or by phone (and possibly by letter). Now, there are more channels and more touchpoints than ever before, and this makes it more difficult to provide a good and consistent experience, especially across organisational silos. Organisations that try to provide consistent service across multiple channels do fare better, he said.

• Leadership - clearly, some organisations provide better customer service than others, and for Eggermeier "it starts at the top," whether that is the CEO of a company or the minister responsible for a public-sector organisation.

Eggermeier noted that people in Australia and New Zealand get "very good customer service" compared with other countries. For example, we are ranked number eight in the world for customer service in the insurance industry, and in his experience Australia is one of the most innovative countries for customer experience. In particular - and notwithstanding recent concerns about the 'on hold' time at Centrelink's call centres - our government agencies have shown they can improve customer satisfaction despite shrinking budgets.

"There's really no excuse" for poor customer service with today's technology.

For instance, analytics can be used to predict what a customer is contacting the organisation about, and that can be applied to direct the call or other communication to the most appropriate person.

A very simple example is that if a customer phones a few days after the monthly invoices were mailed out, they probably have a billing enquiry.

And around 70% of customers will attempt to self-serve via the organisation's web site or mobile app, and only escalate to phone or chat if they can't find the answer they need. Information about what they have been doing can be applied to give the contact centre agent or other employee a head start towards providing a good experience.

"You can have a really good educated guess about customer intent," he said.

Furthermore, mobile app users are probably already authenticated, so there's no need to ask them 'security questions.'

"It really can be a win-win," he said, because customers get a better experience and the organisation's costs are reduced.

Eggemeier also noted the growing importance of social media, suggesting that will continue during the next five years.

Best practice is to integrate social with other channels, he said, suggesting this helps reduce customers 'queue jumping' by taking an issue straight to social media or by being excessively negative.

"This is where providing good service matters," because if you usually do a good job then satisfied customers seeing negative posts will come to your defence.

Contacts via social should be taken as seriously as other channels such as calls or emails, he added.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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