We know as consumers that there’s a certain feeling and satisfaction you get after having a really great customer service experience. We want the convenience of Amazon’s one-click ordering and speed of delivery, the relief of hearing that a Genius Bar representative at the Apple store can fix your device, the authenticity of Zappos, and that connection you have with the Chewy agent who is just as crazy about poodles as you are. Those standout moments make you not just remember the company, but want to purchase from there in the future and recommend it to your friends—a company’s dream scenario after every customer interaction.
The Path to Service Excellence
There is a not-so-secret recipe to all these shining examples. When it comes to designing great service experiences, companies believe they should focus on three areas: people, processes and technology.
- People: The people you hire and train will be the ones that represent your company on the front lines. If they are feeling supported by a great company culture, your customers will know it. If your contact center agents are trained to be empathetic while interacting with consumers but also professional and proactive in finding solutions that work, you will have loyal customers and a strong business.
- Processes: It is crucial that you work on streamlining processes. Remove the need for paper, document tribal knowledge, identify redundancies and empower agents to do more independently while ensuring compliance. The more efficient the process, the more time your agents have to actually help customers.
- Technology: If you have slow, disconnected, outdated technology and systems, it makes it challenging for your team to deliver great experiences. Automation reduces the risk of human errors, gives you more accurate real-time information, and ensures that your agents are productive.
However, I would argue that there is another key ingredient that is often overlooked and that needs attention. Let’s have a look at a few scenarios:
- Waiting for the call: Sara is nervously waiting for a call from the customer service department. She made a (potentially costly) mistake and immediately called the contact center to have it fixed. The agent was understanding of the issue, ensuring that this could be fixed. The agent wrote down Sara’s number and promised to call back within 15 minutes with an update. That was two hours ago. The agent made a mistake writing down the phone number, can no longer find it and has no way of reaching Sara.
- Lost promotional offer: Peter is a happy subscriber to a magazine. One day, he received an email with an offer for a complementary publication for 30% off. Three weeks later, Peter wants to sign up for that offer, but he cannot find the email anymore. He calls customer service to ask the agent to resend the email with the discount code. Unfortunately, the agent cannot help Peter, as customer service does not have visibility into what happens in marketing. Now, the company doesn’t have Peter’s business, despite marketing spending funds to make Peter aware of the offer, and Peter walks away from a subpar service experience.
- Unpaid bills: Gina is a happy customer of a service, but suddenly found the service was turned off. A few weeks later, Gina calls the contact center to find out what happened. It turned out the service was turned off because Gina hadn’t paid her bills in four months. Gina had moved to a new place five months earlier and had informed “the company” of her address change, but the billing department still had her old address on file.
The above scenarios should be familiar, as they are all too common across industries and regions. The question is, are these situations caused by not investing enough in “people,” “processes” or “technology”? Not really. All of these problems are caused by bad data.
It’s interesting to see in our crowded CX vendor space how many “buzzword” technologies are touted as the solution for this data problem—open APIs, AI, a data lake, next-best action, a customer data platform, a chatbot and so on. But no matter how many cool technologies you want to throw at this challenge, if your data is flawed, the outcome will be flawed. Or in other words, garbage in, garbage out.
So how do you solve for this problem and leverage data to provide the best service possible? There are two areas to consider: the impact of bad data and opportunity of connected data.
The Impact of Bad Data in Service and Beyond
Bad data affects almost every business. On average, across industries and the globe, 29% of any given organization’s customer data is inaccurate. If you think about how customer data enters a business’ ecosystem of applications, this isn’t surprising: customers wrongly entering data when signing up on a small mobile screen; service agents entering information in the CRM while under pressure to meet their average handling time targets; a sales representative quickly jotting some notes down before the next customer call; marketing buying a contact list. Customer data enters a company’s systems from many different places, each providing a partial view of the customer, leading to a fragmented customer profile.
On average, across industries and the globe, 29% of any given organization’s customer data is inaccurate.
To compound the situation, customer data tends to decay at an annual double-digit rate. People move, change their email address, get a new phone, or get a new surname when married. Every year, 1% of the population passes away. With all these factors, it’s no wonder organizations have bad data in their systems.
The overall impact of bad data is bigger than most might think. All those packages, letters and invoices that field service technicians sent to the wrong address are costing a business a lot. The time your service agents spend trying to cobble together the complete view of the customer is hurting productivity and probably morale. If you accidentally send two different sales representatives to the same customer, you’ve probably lost a lead or at the very least, confused one. The tremendous time, effort and money that marketing gives toward targeting customers that have moved on is all wasted. All the ongoing costs of redundant data storage and the cost of IT personnel is in reality, not helping the bottom line of the company. It’s a fact that bad data has a seriously negative impact on the business.
Leveraging Data for Personalized Service
Connecting your data is a massive opportunity that is often overlooked in the service field today. Businesses have more data sitting in their systems than they know what to do with, but it’s a good problem to have. Let’s narrow this data down to a few different types:
- First is the data we service professionals are most familiar with: the data sitting in your CRM which includes identifier, name, address, email and more.
- In addition, there is a layer of transactional data service agents typically interact with as well to help customers: subscription information, orders, assets, loyalty tier, invoices and balance.
- On top of that, there is a wealth of marketing data that could be of great value as well for service—demographics, social likes, propensity-to-buy or churn scores, Customer Lifetime Value, opt-in data to name a few.
- And finally, there are all types of data from events such as IoT data streams, website visit behavioral data and app usage data.
Now, think of the possibility if all this data was consolidated to craft a truly complete and dynamic customer profile used to offer more personalized experiences for your customers across sales, service and marketing touch points. It’s an opportunity that can make a demonstrable change in your customer loyalty and growth.
The number of available data points about your customer has grown a lot in the last decade. We went from a handful of customer attributes to having hundreds or thousands. That said, the reality for most organizations is that these attributes live in different, disconnected silos and not much is done to combine them. Only a select few companies successfully aggregate and consolidate thousands of attributes to drive hyper-personalized experiences.
Don’t just take my word for it either—the consulting and analyst firms we rely on see the opportunity, as well. McKinsey & Company said that using customer intelligence for personalization helps companies lift revenues by 5%-15% and increase marketing efficiency by 10%-30%. According to Gartner, brands using personalization in customer service see a 16% lift in commercial benefit. And according to Forrester, personalized service, good communication and quick resolution of issues make customers seven times more likely to stay loyal to companies and nine times more likely to spend more with them. The business case is clear.
Steps to Become a Shining Example of Customer Service
Now you may wonder, where do I start tackling these challenges?
Before anything else, the first step toward solving data challenges in service is to acknowledge that this isn’t a problem for someone else to solve. Too often the scope of how customer data affects service operations is thrown over the fence to IT to take care of. Yet, in today’s data-soaked world, service leaders need to become knowledgeable about data quality management and how it affects the outcome of your service operations. The first step is to take ownership of data.
As a next step, check that the data entering your systems is clean. The easiest way to do that is to use an address, phone and email verification service that will warn users about—and give the opportunity to correct—incorrectly entered data. Having clean addresses, verified phone numbers and active email addresses already goes a long way toward fixing the foundations of your customer data.
After that, ensure that your various lines of business and systems base their different processes on the same core customer data (also called the golden customer record). By using a Customer Data Management solution, a system can be established that will ensure different applications (e.g., CRM, fulfillment, ERP finance, Service, etc.) are all working off the same record, and importantly, will also propagate any changes to the different subscribing systems automatically. This will help ensure that your service agents are informed with the most up-to-date information on the customer when speaking with them, and will also drive more streamlined back-office processes like billing, RMA and fulfillment.
Finally, connect your service operations to the broader ecosystems of applications. This is not just for a handful of core—golden record—attributes, but for all relevant data. This means feeding service transaction data to your marketing systems so that marketing campaigns can be orchestrated with the context of Service. It means collating relevant customer data from other systems to augment customer service interactions, whether assisted or unassisted. The recommended approach for this is to build a rich, dynamic customer view using an Enterprise Customer Data Platform (CDP).
Data sits at the foundation of a myriad of challenges, as well as opportunities for standout customer experiences. The challenges listed are not easy to tackle but when correctly collected, aggregated and leveraged, data is the secret to your company being named among the Apples, Chewys and Zappos of the world. Take that first step—your people, your processes and your technology will all benefit from having good data, and so will your bottom line.