Smarter Service in a Changing Economy: Intelligence Supports the Customer Experience

The burden on the service and support organization has never been higher. Customers have more options and a bigger impact than ever; competition has recognized the profitability opportunity in service; and global sales have forced service into newer markets. In Aberdeen’s State of Service Management: Outlook for 2013, sampled respondents said they were most challenged by three macro trends—competition in products and service, reduced customer spending, and global economic uncertainty. These pressures have escalated the importance of the service organization and elevated the need for service differentiation. To respond to these myriad challenges, top-performing service organizations have displayed a few best practices to ensure customer expectations are exceeded without any adverse impact on operational efficiency and profitability:

IT is integral to customer service success. Make them a part of the service team. More than half of respondents (58 percent) listed IT as the most vital internal partner tied to service success. As factors such as big data, mobility, and cloud continue to push into the service and support organization, the need for service to do more than just communicate with IT and actually collaborate to ensure that technology is customized to enhance the service operations (i.e., the contact center) will continue to become more integral to the viability of business.

Leadership must lead service strategy. This should be a no-brainer. But oftentimes, service and support is considered a functional activity (for example, the contact center is managed separately from field support, which is separate from inventory management). However, as seen in Aberdeen’s study, nearly three-quarters of top performers (72 percent) have an executive leadership structure in place to execute and construct service strategy. Service leaders not only have the responsibility to drive strategy, but they also have the authority to escalate the service agenda to the C-suite to procure budget, resources, and recognition.  

Invest in insight, not just technology. As technology advances at a rapid pace, both in the consumer and business world, many firms blindly throw dollars (and resources) at the next flashy device or database. Technology for technology’s sake is a waste of time and money. Top-performing organizations look to technology to both support good processes and provide key stakeholders with the intelligence to make real-time business decisions that positively impact the customer experience. For example, in Aberdeen’s Next-Generation Customer Experience Management research, released in March 2013, organizations with a centralized repository of product and service information have been able to achieve 70 percent customer retention (as compared to 56 percent for others) and 59 percent overall sales team attainment of quota (as compared to 46 percent for others).

The service organization plays a major role in delivering the experience customers want, and therefore service must continue to improve processes across the operations. The story isn’t one of just technology or people or process—the convergence of all three is integral to establishing a service culture which puts the customer first.