Want to transform customer service? Question conventional wisdom!


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1838. It was the year that the term “conventional wisdom” (CW) was first used in print. Over the decades, CW has prevented or stalled progress in many domains, and customer service is no exception. Here are some common beliefs about customer service that you are well-advised to question and perhaps jettison.

CW #1: Older customers are digital dinosaurs

According to Pew Research, 42% of adults aged 65 and older now report owning smartphones, up from just 18% in 2013. Thanks to the smartphone’s ubiquity and ease of use, seniors are increasingly going digital. In fact, we have heard from clients that seniors would rather use digital self-service than talk to agents since they feel embarrassed about not being knowledgeable while talking to a human! So, if older consumers are the only or a big part of your market, don’t assume they are digital luddites. Think twice before dismissing digital touchpoints (including self-service) as their favorite channels for customer service.

CW #2: Customers always want multichannel journeys

A recent survey by CEB (Corporate Executive Board, now part of Gartner) found that 58% of customers who call a contact center do so because they could not get their question answered/problem resolved through self-service. Likewise, a customer might visit a bank only because she was not able to do fill out an online form. Unwarranted or involuntary channel switching creates additional effort for consumers. And additional effort is directly linked to customer loyalty, according to the same CEB research project. Depending on the customer’s problem or goal and their emotional state, “one and done” problem resolution—which has more to do with channel containment than channel switching—can be what is called for.

Deep customer engagement capabilities for each touchpoint, a smart knowledge-base, and AI-enabled problem resolution and process guidance capabilities can simultaneously improve one-and-done problem resolution, reduce unwarranted channel switching, and help with channel (and cost) containment. In fact, with the next generation of consumers (and even older consumers) going digital, digital containment has fast become a business priority.

Of course, customers also want to embark on multichannel journeys quite often. As an example, they may want to research products and services on forums and social networks, check out information on the business’ website, and talk to an advisor before they buy products like insurance or a home appliance. Therefore, delivering effortless omnichannel experiences is also equally critical to improving service excellence and enhancing brand loyalty.

CW #3: Empathy is everything when it comes to agents
While empathy is a good trait to have, consumers complain that the biggest customer service hurdle they face is the difficulty in getting the right answer to their questions, and getting different answers from different agents. In fact, younger consumers are even more frustrated by these roadblocks: 40% of Gen Y consumers did not find agents to be knowledgeable versus only 23% of seniors in the same research. Only 9% of Gen Y consumers found non-knowledge issues as the main roadblock to service versus 35% of seniors. The solution here is to arm agents with a unified, AI-infused, omnichannel knowledge-base that can be accessed at the push of a button. This will ensure consistency of answers while guiding agents (and consumers) to fast, accurate answers with step-by-step AI guidance, where needed.

CW #4: Our agents are constantly on the training treadmill; they should be “fit” when it comes to knowledge

Absorbing information and expertise through training requires agents to pay sustained attention for hours or days in training sessions. While millennials have a short attention span of 12 seconds, Gen Z, increasingly today’s agent workforce, has a “gnat” attention span of 8 seconds! (Source: Sparks & Honey.) Gen Z does not like formal training either: 65% of them would rather just learn on their jobs, per research by Capita. After all the training is said and done, agents will be subject to Hermann Ebbinghaus’ (German psychologist and memory expert) famous “forgetting curve,” where agents (and most humans) tend to forget one-half of anything new they learned in a matter of just a few days! After all the training, agents still have to contend with voluminous documents to figure out entitlements, rules, answers, logic, and steps in service processes—all while the customer is on the line, which adds to their stress. Again, contextual knowledge and AI-enabled process guidance that is proactively served to the agent at the point of customer interaction, or made accessible to the agent on demand, can go a long way in helping address this challenge.

CW #5: Agents always need a 360-degree customer view

When the customer is on the line, it is better to provide a 360-degree view of what is relevant to that interaction rather than a complete 360-degree view of the customer, which, while valid, creates information clutter. A persistent 360-degree all-encompassing customer view is like gazing at a complete map of a city rather than zooming in on what is relevant to a trip in the city a driver may be on. Instead, it is better to show drivers just what they need to see and do next on that trip to get to their destination (i.e. resolving a customer problem in the case of a service call.) A modern agent desktop should therefore morph itself into hyper-relevant views over the course of an agent’s interaction with the customer, just like a GPS does (and a paper map of an entire city doesn’t).

CW #6: My organization is the best in customer service in my industry. Why bother?
Today’s consumer doesn’t care if a business offers the best customer service in its own industry sector. The whole domain of customer service has been Amazoned and Ubered in terms of customer expectations! Moreover, many sectors are being disrupted by intruders—digital businesses or entrants from other industries—who often reset customer expectations of service. So, the question any business needs to ask itself is whether, in order to earn customer loyalty, it needs to deliver the same or better caliber of effortless service experiences than the Amazons and Ubers of the world.

CW #7: Customer service technology consumption is painful and risk-laden
Granted there are risks in any technology investment—risk of technology not working in your environment or not creating the promised value, delays in implementation, etc. There are also non-technology risks, involving people, process, and culture that can doom an implementation. All that said, the fundamental requirement for deployment success is that the technology should work, and should be easily consumable. Here is the good news: Solution partners, who have the domain expertise and proven technologies, are putting their own skin in the game, eliminating virtually all risks. For example, eGain offers a completely risk-free consumption model called “eGain Try+Buy™,” which has set a new standard in derisking customer engagement technology consumption:

– Production pilot in the cloud, not a toy sandbox
– Free, expert guidance to quick business value
– Options for easy A/B testing
– Risk-free delivery at no charge with no obligation to buy

Leading companies across industries such as banking, financial services, insurance, retail, and manufacturing have already taken advantage of this program to derisk consumption and create fast business value!

2018 will mark 180 years of CW’s life since it was first coined in 1838. So why not choose 2018 to do a 180 on CW instead of celebrating its anniversary? You might, in fact, wind up transforming customer service!

Anand Subramaniam
Anand Subramaniam is SVP Marketing for eGain Corporation, award-winning provider of cloud solutions for knowledge and AI-guided customer engagement



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