By Arthur Nowak, Senior Vice President, Asia-Pacific, Teletech
To say CRM software is pervasive would be an understatement: More than 91 percent of companies with 11 or more employees use some kind of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) program, according to BuyerZone. However, whether that CRM is enabling a frictionless customer experience is an entirely different matter.
Many CRM platforms were built to support single channel interactions, traditionally voice. Today, customers demand a multi-channel solution that enables customers to interact with a company in their channel of choice. More importantly, if the customer chooses to shift to a different channel they want the context of their discussion to follow.
Here are some key components for an organization to consider when reviewing their CRM architecture:
- Think frictionless & omni-channel
- Simplify the interaction flow
- Orchestrate information access
Think frictionless & omni-channel
We all want a customer service call, text, or chat to be quick and flow effortlessly for both customers and associates. We do not want to be burdened by wait times, unnecessary questions, or having to repeat ourselves. In fact, 73 percent of consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service, according to Forrester.
Yet too often organizations fail to make the interaction easy because of numerous friction points. This waste the customer’s time and squander any investment the company has made in customer interaction tools and processes.
Lengthy customer identification and verification processes, asking customers to restate the same information to the same associate, long look-up times, and the need to transfer customers are just some examples. Many of these friction points exist due to security policies, regulatory compliance measures, siloed knowledge sources and systems, or lack of context when a customer chooses to shift from one channel to another. The result is a maze of systems and processes designed with an internal focus and lacking any regard for the customer’s experience.
This is where firms should “think frictionless” and “think omni-channel.” According to Forrester, 70 percent of customers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than use the phone or email. This should be considered a good thing as customers are seeking self-care options in a low cost channel.
When customers are unable to resolve their issue, it is important to carry the context of that interaction into the next channel. Today, customers who try to solve their problem online and may invest 30-45 minutes of their own time only to be funneled through chat or voice channels that cause them to re-authenticate, pass IVR menus that are deemed unhelpful (if it were something the IVR could solve certainly it could also be solved online), and then reach a contact center associate.
New or Existing CRM Systems Should Be Used To Eliminate or Avoid Friction and Enable Omni-Channel Experiences
The associate may ask them to restate their problem, perhaps transfer them to another department, before the problem can finally be resolved. It is no wonder customers are easily frustrated.
New or existing CRM systems should be used to eliminate or avoid friction and enable omni-channel experiences. For instance, the context of the online journey should pass through to the voice channel and chat channel so the customer is properly routed to resolve their issue. Companies should consider rewarding customers who try to self-service online by providing a temporary toll-free number unique to the customer that allows them to bypass the IVR and limits additional authentication requirements.
Simplify the interaction flow
CRM vendors spend millions of dollars to make their applications easy to use with out-of-the-box implementations. Workflow design is critical, yet sometimes companies provide too much flexibility in their workflow design, enabling contact center associates to skip valuable steps when attempting to fast-track problem resolution. However, the quickest answer may not actually be the most effective to resolve the problem for the customer.
One large banking client wanted help implementing CRM in its contact center. We were asked to look at ways to improve efficiency. We observed that the contact center had no structure for customer call interaction and each associate followed his or her own path for how a call was handled. We implemented workflow design principles and within its new CRM system, leading to a drop in average handle time (AHT) from 12 minutes to eight minutes in only a few months.
Orchestrate information access
The contact center is under pressure to leverage current technology investments, and sometimes it uses multiple applications to serve customers. Add to the fact that organizations must capture all customer journeys during their omni-channel interactions, and it becomes clear that call centers have many information sources to manage.
CRM is a great platform to serve as the central source to orchestrate all customer interactions and their supporting data. The platform can provide information access to backend systems and leverage omni-channel enablers such as voice, chat, text, and social interactions to provide a holistic look at customers and interactions. This “single pane of glass” allows your CRM system to focus on providing all the channel enablers and information to the associate without copying the business data living in other systems.
Single Pane of Glass Information Sources (illustrative)
For example, when managing billing interactions, transaction records are updated in the source billing application. In this case, use the CRM platform to note and track the service request while either the associate or a billing back office resource receives the request and completes the changes as part of a workflow process.
We recommend creating an information access strategy to determine how data will be connected. Look at your systems and data sources to determine if information should be only viewable in CRM, or if it should be pulled in so the data can be manipulated within the CRM tool. This is a primary step in your CRM architecture. In addition, channel integration also plays a major role in orchestrating information access, such as determining how voice and digital channels are managed within your CRM. As companies look to CRM in a service context, keep the focus on simplifying the experience. Make the complex seemingly simple for your customers.