5 points for enhancing customer experiences rapidly and pragmatically.
April 8, 2014
Communications Service Providers (CSPs) are not just competing against each other but also against the impressive customer experiences eCommerce and mCommerce leaders continue to introduce to the worldwide digital business marketplace. Set against this backdrop, CSPs’ customer interaction solutions and end-to-end customer experiences too often appear out of date. Improving these experiences radically is a strategic imperative. To avoid having transformation initiatives unravel into long term, ungoverned boondoggles, CSPs can consider these five priorities as focus points for enhancing their customer experiences rapidly and pragmatically.
1) Leverage an Enterprise Product Catalog
An Enterprise Product Catalog provides a common view to all customer-facing channels of not only what services you can sell and fulfill, but also how you want to sell them. That means products, bundles, packages, promotions, pricing, discounts, and campaigns are all made consistent across all channels. This in turn makes the sales process easier for agents and simpler to present to customers through self-service channels. Furthermore, new products, offers, and promotions are easier to introduce because they can be created, staged and synchronized all in a common catalog, reducing confusion, enforcing consistency, and enabling better timing with ad campaigns and promotional periods. The end result can be significant reductions in time to market for all stages of the product lifecycle.
2) Enable Multi-Channel Ordering & Support
Customers increasingly engage with their service providers across multiple channels – via the contact center, retail store, mobile app, and PC – even to complete a single product purchase or upgrade. As a result, they expect orders – or shopping carts – to persist across these channels, remember where they were in the process, maintain any data they entered, and be ready for completion when they’ve finished doing their homework on what they want to buy. Furthermore, when customers want help via phone or chat, they expect agents to be able to share their screen and configure orders in real time. Agents should also know their history – what they’ve bought before, what they use, and what their order looked like 10 minutes or 10 hours ago, before they changed it…again.
Persistent, multi-channel ordering and support is becoming table stakes for the customer experience. Not only does it make selling to and helping customers easier and smoother, but without it, a service provider looks woefully out of touch with today’s common eCommerce experiences.
3) Integrate with Billing
Too often the web portals and apps used for ordering lack adaptive and extendable integration with billing systems. In some cases, service providers that lack such integration are forced to maintain teams whose job it is to re-key orders into the billing system so that they can be fulfilled. This manual process not only results in slow and inaccurate fulfillment, but also in inflexible order management processes that don’t allow for changes to be made easily in mid-stream. If a customer wants to change some element of an in-process order, they have to spend substantial time with a customer service representative via phone or chat to make the change. The initial order often has to be cancelled out and a new order created and submitted. This type of process results in negative customer experiences.
Integrating ordering with billing enables greater flexibility for customers while streamlining order fulfillment and vastly improving accuracy. Ultimately this translates into reduced cost to fulfill every order. As important – without integration, a service provider will not be able to present a self-care process that approximates what customers have come to expect from common eCommerce and mCommerce sites.
4) Create a 360-Degree Customer View
The days of the old “swivel chair” effect are over. A service provider cannot expect to reduce its customer interaction costs, present a strong experience across channels, or keep contact center and retail staff satisfied if its processes rely on outdated interfaces and disparate applications. To often these are difficult to navigate and require one to hunt through tabs, screens and windows for information pertinent to every customer contact.
A 360-degree customer view puts the most logical information an agent needs all on one page with simple ways to pop-up additional information on the fly. This view needs to minimize clicks for the agent and drastically reduce user error or complex navigation within and between applications. A 360-degree customer view delivered through a streamlined user interface consistently reduces key metrics like time-to-resolve; raises job satisfaction for agents because they have better tools and greater success rates with customers; and enables the kind of customer-aware and knowledge-rich experience customers have come to expect.
5) Utilize Web Services APIs for Third-Party Integration
Enabling a 360-degree view tends to require information aggregated from a variety of applications that impact the customer experience. These applications tend to change, evolve, and face replacement over time. Integration is required to put all of the right data, process visibility, and flow-through functionality in customers’ or contact center agents’ hands. Point to point approaches to integration are outmoded and obsolete. They are too static, too inflexible, too difficult to maintain over time, and ultimately far too expensive. Integration should be achieved leveraging web services-based APIs that can accomplish effective, business-driven integration through simple and flexible scripts. These should not be tied statically to any specific application. It should be simple to modify and update them without disrupting business processes when changes in the application environment occur.
These are just five of the most visible and tangible must-haves for customer experience enhancement that service providers should include in any requirements list. They only represent the part of the iceberg – so to speak – that a service provider can see above the water. Hidden beneath the waves, however, are issues like data, process, and service code standardization; security; and adjustments to existing move-add-change-delete (MACD) processes. Creating a customer experience that meets or exceeds customers’ rising expectations and incorporates these five keys is a critical strategic enabler for service providers who, almost universally, want to grow revenue, reduce cost, and minimize customer churn.
Photo by Garry Knight with Creative Commons license