And unfortunately for most organizations, the customer experience is breaking or splintering hundreds if not thousands of times daily – from how customers are greeted, to differences and inaccuracies in the information they receive depending on the channel, department or individual they connect with.
While customer service is just part of the customer experience, it’s a key place to start for organizational or brand alignment, as customer service typically owns a majority of the everyday multichannel customer interactions including service and information delivery across the web, chat and social media, as well as across assisted channels such as phone and email.
From brand messaging to product and service information, the goal is to have all employees unified in what they present and represent, but in customer service, as well as across the organization, there’s typically an essential base or glue missing to achieve that consistency – and that’s knowledge.
In a recent webinar, How to do Customer Service, 21st Century Style: Knowledge, Insight, and Interaction for the Demanding Customer, analyst Paul Greenberg called consistent knowledge “mission critical” in this regard. Yet it was clear that most participants were operating without it. When asked “do you have a unified knowledgebase that provides consistent answers across customer and employee engagement channels,” 71% answered no.
In a recent Gallup survey of more than 3,000 business professionals, only 41% said they were knowledgeable of even what their company stood for and what made it different from its competitors. That percentage dropped to 37% among non-executive and non-managerial employees, those most likely to interact daily with customers. It’s little wonder why the customer experience is fractured.
A House Built Upon the Sand
To add to the consistency challenge, many brands and organizations are jumping ahead and investing everything in items such as personalization and customized customer journeys, rather than shoring up their foundation. But this is like building a customer experience house upon the sand.
A recent Economist Intelligent Unit survey of more than 2,000 global consumers show that customers want fast and correct information above all else. When asked which elements were the most important in an ideal customer experience, respondents listed a fast response to inquiries or complaints (47%) as their top choice, with personalization (12%), relationship building (10%) and customized offers based on preferences (7%) all landing near the bottom.
The most annoying aspects of a negative customer experience reflected a similar view, with slow responses to inquiries and complaints (38%) and inaccurate or misleading information about the product (35%) topping customer experience turn-offs.
In trying to deliver on a more consistent customer experience, most employees are operating at a loss. According to IDC research, 44% of the time, employees can’t find the information they’re looking for, and more than 60% have to search across four or more systems when looking (13% across 11 or more systems). No matter how personalized each interaction, service is doomed in customer satisfaction and first contact resolution ratings – and the organization in customer experience ratings – if employees can’t surface and deliver consistent answers and information quickly.
Testing Your Knowledge
Just as a simple test in your own organization, ask three agents across your customer service team a question commonly asked by customers. Did all three provide or were they able to quickly find a consistent answer? Now ask one or a few employees outside customer service? Could they provide, or were they able to find, a consistent response?
In many organizations today, delivering a consistent customer experience is like playing a game of telephone. The information starts out right, but splinters again and again as it’s passed from player to player. Some players may not even get the message at the end.
In an effort to improve and differentiate based on customer experience, a major financial institution implemented a single source of self-service knowledge for all its agents and employees around customer service and experience information and procedures. The results included faster organizational training time, increased first contact resolution for customers including noted time savings on assisted service interactions (resulting in more than $650K in savings), greater profits resulting from fewer customer refunds given for wrong or inaccurate information or procedures, an increased Net Promoter Score and reduced customer churn (now at <10%) due to a more consistent and satisfying customer experience.
How many employees does it take to break the customer experience?
How many sources of knowledge does the employee need to help keep it from breaking?
Is your customer service and customer experience foundation splintered or strong?