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Customer Service Outlook for 2011

Customer Service Outlook for 2011

It’s that time of the year again, when we need to assess our performance for the past year, and maybe write our own annual performance reviews. It is also time to plan in earnest for 2011. Customer service and contact center managers can also breathe a sigh of relief after having made it through a couple of really tough years. Senior executives have paid lip service to the importance of the customer experience while CFOs proceeded to cut budgets. Planned and even approved projects that were intended to improve productivity and reduce operating costs were put on hold, and now we have to go through the process of trying to get them approved all over again. The unemployment rate is above 9%, which allows companies to justify either miniscule or no raises while the best agents and support personnel are going elsewhere to earn the salary they deserve. On top of everything else, this social media juggernaut is barreling towards us; something has to be done, but no one in the company is taking leadership and as a result, customers are more frustrated than ever.

Moving Beyond the Recession

While I know the story isn’t this bad in every organization, I am sure that some of this resonates with you. It has been a challenging two years, and while the worst appears to be behind us in the United States, many European companies are still reeling from the economic slump. Enterprises need to take a critical look at their businesses and figure out what they have to do to reinvigorate their customer base and employees. Customer (and employee) loyalty is at an all-time low and has to be earned on a daily basis from customers who are more cynical than ever.

Customer Service Needs to Take the Lead

Like it or not, much of the responsibility falls onto the shoulders of the customer service or contact center, as, in most companies, these departments interact with customers and prospects more frequently than any other. (They are also the group that should lead enterprise social media efforts, but are often prevented from doing so by marketing groups with great intentions but no skills or resources to respond to the feedback.)

Top 2011 Enterprise Initiatives for Customer Service and Contact Centers

So, now that we are in the planning cycle for 2011, here is a list of projects and investments that enterprises should consider for their service and contact centers to alter the dynamics, improve customer and agent retention, and reinvigorate the staff while helping to improve the cost dynamics. The top customer service and contact center initiatives for 2011 are expected to include:

  1. Renewed interest in traditional quality assurance programs in order to provide feedback and coaching to agents on a more consistent basis
  2. Critical operational assessments to identify activities and systems that need to be updated, including outdated policies and procedures that annoy and upset customers and drive them to competitors; ineffective and costly systems that need to be enhanced or replaced; and bad human resource policies that drive staff attrition
  3. Adoption of an at-home staff program to reduce real estate costs and strengthen contingency plans
  4. Introduction of pay-for-performance to better motivate behavior and reward outstanding performance
  5. Roll-out and/or enhancement of voice of the customer initiatives to take a holistic view of customer feedback and apply it on a timely basis
  6. Introduction of speech analytics into service and marketing functions to obtain customer insights into operational issues and revenue opportunities
  7. Creation of empowered and unencumbered inter-departmental teams to fix problems and address opportunities independent of organizational boundaries and politics
  8. Formalization of performance management in customer service and contact centers, including the addition of customer service and contact center key performance indicators into the corporate or executive dashboard so that senior management has visibility into their performance
  9. Investments in workforce management solutions, specifically in the area of self-service applications and long-term planning
  10. Transformation of cost-oriented service organizations into engaging, revenue generators
  11. Development and roll-out of a corporate social media strategy with defined roles for all internal constituencies so that managers know what is expected of their departments

All of these initiatives can deliver quantifiable benefits while dramatically enhancing the customer experience and agent satisfaction. No one is going to do them all, but all customer service or contact center environments should incorporate some of these items into their 2011 plans. These are the types of projects that can help overcome previous customer experience shortcomings while creating a differentiated service experience that is truly outstanding and profitable. We cannot make the negatives of the past couple of years disappear, but we can overcome them by setting realistic goals and doing what it takes to make the necessary changes and improvements.

Ask the Experts

We’re experiencing network bandwidth issues related to recording agent screens. We currently record screen activity with the ability to play back in a ”movie playback” method, versus the snapshot/slideshow method. However, we are considering changing our recording configuration to only capture the agent screen every 3-5 seconds. What could be the impact of seeing only snapshots of agent screen activity?

Before making any changes in your screen recording approach, we suggest that you speak to your internal network team and ask them to analyze the issue. Also, check with your recording vendor …Read More

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