Choose the Right Customer Service Technologies by Acknowledging Your Problems

The customer service vendor landscape has been roiled with mergers and acquisitions in the past few years. It's also been made more complex because of the number of point solutions that offer a small subset of best-in-class features, like messaging, chatbots, or natural language understanding. Yet, the struggles that customer service organization face are the same. Organizations still struggle with the basics. They still have difficulties with the following:

  • Using a consolidated customer service toolset. Transactional data and customer history are often neither consistent nor consistently available across communication channels, which erodes the quality of service delivered.
  • Following consistent processes. Agents often uses multiple disconnected applications when resolving a single customer issue. This lack of a standardized discovery process affects agent consistency and productivity, increases agent training times, and leads to higher agent turnover.
  • Complying with policy. Regulated industries must conform to policy and process or risk penalties. For example, the most egregious General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) violations can cost companies up to 4 percent of their annual revenue.
  • Providing cross-channel customer service the way customers want to receive it. According to NTT's CX Benchmarking report, 66 percent of organizations have no cross-channel contact management strategy, and only 25 percent claim good or complete consistency as CX remains erratic across contact channels.

To provide a great quality of service, organizations must tap into vendor technologies that enable communications with customers over voice and digital channels. In an ideal world, those technologies should also deliver contextual content to agents so they can answer customer questions, deliver proactive and personalized service using analytics-derived insights, and listen and react to the voice of the customer. These technologies can be grouped into five functional areas:

  • Omnichannel communication. These applications support business processes for interacting with customers over voice and digital channels. They support both automated interactions and agent-assisted interactions.
  • Knowledge management. These applications help identify, create, review, publish, and maintain multimedia content, including video, which allows agents to answer customers' questions and enables customers to find answers to their questions via web self-service portals.
  • Agent desktop solutions. This category includes applications that agents use to create and manage tickets in response to customer inquiries.
  • Customer service analytics. This category includes analytics that deliver an optimal service interaction that targets the persona of the customer and the issue at hand. Technologies include next-best-action and interaction analytics.
  • Voice of the customer. This category includes applications to gather structured and unstructured feedback from customer interactions.

These are the broad categories of applications that you need to assemble to empower customer service to deliver great service. You then must make the choice whether you build, buy, or outsource these capabilities or leverage technologies that are already used in other parts of your company.

Kate Leggett is a vice president and principal analyst at Forrester Research.