San Francisco—What's the number one thing that consumers absolutely hate when it comes to customer service? It's the inconsistency of service that can be found when there is a lack of integration across channels, according to keynote speaker Mark Thompson at this year's Kana Connect user conference here Monday. Thompson, CEO and cofounder of Virgin Unite Mentors, Richard Branson's network for executive coaching, says that the disconnect between customer service channels matters to consumers even more than pricing and security issues.
These types of gaps are seen when customers try to transition between channels. A customer might be on a company Web site and have typed in her personal information. But perhaps she didn't get a satisfactory answer, which leads her to call into the contact center, where an agent might ask the customer to repeat her information, ultimately leading to frustration and distrust.
"The research is pretty clear about this," Thompson said. "The most dangerous thing in any personal business relationship is be inconsistent or forgetful, or not realizing that once you have a relationship, that it should be, 'Yes, I know who you are, you don't have to repeat your information.' It impacts productivity, sales, employee relations, and customer loyalty."
If the dots aren't connected on the customer journey between channels, not only do customers get upset, but agents get aggravated as well. The longer an agent makes the customer wait on the phone, the less trust there is in the relationship. "There no trust in that silence when you're on hold," Thompson explained.
"For the agent, it's that [the situation] is not going to get better the more times I have to repopulate the screen. Customers aren't thinking that they're going to get good news the longer they wait. Our reptilian response says that the longer we wait, the more danger there might be. There's an inverse proportion of the amount of time it takes to service a customer and the level of trust that you can build."
To illustrate those points, Thompson quoted Steve Jobs, who said, "What if you couldn't remember moment from moment, and that you'd have to repeat everything you said, of every point when you had a transaction with that individual? Would you want to do more with them? Would you trust them more?"
Thompson spoke about how Apple's business stumbled in the 1990s and was near bankruptcy. "Steve Jobs was a late-night television joke in the late 1990s. Michael Dell told him that he better sell his toy company while he had the chance."
However, Jobs at a later point spoke with Thompson about integrating the customer with the product."Back then, it was all about him; it wasn't about the customer in those early days. Coming back meant it was about the customer," Thompson said. Two years later, Apple roared back to the market with the launch of the iPod.
Kevin Savage, director, strategy and operations, for insurance and investment firm The Hartford, spoke about his recent mission to remove the need to repeat information. The Hartford is in the process of testing technology to see what happens on the customer journey between online and email channels.
"The testing is showing how effective that handoff has been in affecting customers and employees," Savage said. "We're on a path now to implement and integrate a platform for sales, service, and management that's going to open up a world of opportunity for our business, and give us insights and create the potential for distribution from a marketing standpoint. We're just now on the cusp of starting to realize these things."
Verint Engagement Analytics Is Unveiled
Following the keynote, the companies announced the release of Verint Engagement Analytics, the first offering from the combination of Verint and Kana technologies. The cloud-based solution provides data taken from the customer journey as it happens in various channels and delivers the results to agents via dynamic dashboards. Using several types of analytics, Engagement mines customer engagement data across all channels—the Internet, phone, chat, emails, social media, desktop, employee performance, and surveys. Additionally, employee data, such as where an agent was and what they did on a customer journey, is also collected. All of these disparate sources of information—structured and unstructured—is then aggregated into one view.
"Traditional systems tend to be structured, but this is not—this is big data on a big scale," said David Moody, head of worldwide product strategy for Kana. "Calls are coming in, agents are left to categorize calls and do wrap up codes. Did they wrap up all the calls directly? No. The big problem with all customer service managers is, 'We don't know what all the calls are about.' Actually they can find out if they start analyzing hidden or dark data. You then have to make all of this actionable."
The massive amount of data that is collected is the result of both of Kana and Verint's efforts as separate entities before Kana was acquired in January 2014. "With Kana, it's all about the customer; with Verint, it's all about optimizing the employee. It's important that these two things were brought together," Moody said.
"The market told us that this [Engagement] is what they wanted two years ago," said Scott Hays, senior director of product marketing at Kana. "That was an interesting part of this marriage. Even though Verint came with workforce optimization, it was their big data heritage, the actionable intelligence, that led us to this point. Kana could have joined forces with all kinds of workforce management companies, but none of them would have had the chops on the big data side to make this happen."
Hays said that Engagement brings a level of awareness about the customer's experience from the "moments" of engagement to the full journey that were previously unseen. "Now you can go back and trace [customers'] steps. You can literally walk the path in their shoes and use the information for insights and putting that into action. The trick is connecting all of it together."