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Is It Time to Replace Your Complaint Management System?

Flexibility is key to meeting evolving business challenges.

By Donna Fluss

View this document on the publisher’s website.

If your company is like many, you built a home-grown servicing or complaint management system or installed a Siebel (or similar CRM) application 10 to 15 years ago, and have not revisited the decision since. In the meantime, the underlying technology has improved substantially, the cost of computing and storage has dropped precipitously, and network capacity has increased dramatically, changing the entire servicing paradigm. Customer service philosophies have evolved, and government regulations have become onerous.

While technical, regulatory, and business landscapes change, organizations face the same servicing challenge they always have: the need to efficiently and cost-effectively deliver an outstanding and differentiated customer experience. Organizations need a flexible customer service and support application that can rapidly adapt to the evolving needs of their business. While today’s primary challenges are handling regulatory requirements and incorporating social media into the servicing framework, tomorrow’s will be the adoption of predictive customer service and applying advanced analytics. It’s time for organizations to implement a complaint management system that enables them to provide outstanding service.

Build the Right Infrastructure

Delivering an outstanding service experience requires the right blend of people, processes, and technology. The most important element in the service equation is the agents who interact with customers and prospects; they are what the public remembers most. But agents need enabling technology to efficiently and productively perform their jobs.

When customers call, email, or send an SMS, they are looking for help. They may be requesting information, trying to process a transaction, making a complaint, or simply placing an order. Unless enterprises can respond to all of these issues rapidly and effectively, they will disappoint their customers. Today, when outstanding customer service is often the primary differentiator between products and services that are otherwise similar or commoditized, building a strong and efficient servicing infrastructure is a necessity.

The essential systems in a servicing environment are the automatic call distributor for capturing, queuing, and routing work to the most appropriate agent, and the servicing application for managing the customer’s relationship with the organization and tracking the resolution of inquiries. While as many as 45 different systems and applications may be used in contact centers, these two are mission-critical.

The pace of innovation in the servicing arena during the past 10 to 15 years has been impressive. If your company is limited by an inflexible servicing system that requires IT resources for even the simplest of changes, if agents have to visit multiple screens to obtain or input basic customer data, if it takes seconds to retrieve information, if agents require substantial training to use the application, or if system reports fail to provide the information needed to effectively manage the operating environment, it’s time to update your infrastructure.

Managers have shied away from replacing their CRM, customer service and support, and complaint management applications because of legitimate concerns that the project would not realize the promised payoff or even succeed. The new generation of servicing applications is designed to address many of these issues. These systems are built to handle a specific challenge (or set of challenges), not to conquer all customer-facing needs with a single database. The good ones are designed from the ground up using a services-oriented architecture that allows organizations to successfully implement one module at a time. These new applications come with prebuilt Web services and APIs to facilitate integration to other contact center, customer service, and enterprise applications. Just as important, they are supported by customer service subject-matter experts who have vertical knowledge and implementation experience.

Characteristics of an Outstanding Complaint Management System

Building an effective complaint management application can be challenging for enterprises and vendors. The developer must have deep knowledge about handling customer issues and complaints, along with the specific requirements of each vertical. The solution’s framework must be compatible with the process flow of the organizations that are going to use it; applications should be verticalized and come out of the box with 80 percent of the functionality that organizations require.

The ideal complaint or customer service and support application should include a practical and friendly user interface that can handle interactions from a variety of channels, including phone, email, chat, SMS, and social media. Additionally, it should allow companies to add channels as needed, without substantial investment. The application should come with a content-sensitive knowledge management module and support case collaboration so that multiple people can address various issues at the same time. The application should apply computer telephony integration and skills-based routing to deliver work to the appropriate employee. Scripting should be an available option. Ideally, the scripting functionality should be driven by worker skills and deployed only when necessary to facilitate resolution.

From a reporting and analytics perspective, the application should come standard with real-time and historical dashboards. Dashboards should be widget-based and fully customizable without requiring the assistance of IT. The application should include standard reporting templates designed to analyze the performance of agents, teams, sites, and the overall department. Users should be able to filter report findings and drill down to the underlying interactions. They should also be able to schedule and render reports in many formats, as well as download the data for further analysis in an enterprise repository. The application should include analytics to categorize and identify the root cause of issues; this should include heat maps and similar analytical capabilities.

Complaint management applications are used in highly complex operating environments; they should include an integration framework to make it cost-effective to integrate with internal and third-party applications. Work flow should be a foundational component of the solution, allowing users to automate the resolution of inquiries and other customer requests by applying work rules and logic, as well as streamlining the routing of inquiries that require live support to the appropriate people. The application should be Web-based to allow customers to self-report and follow the status of their inquiries. It should be designed with a services-oriented architecture and come with mobile capabilities that allow managers and customers to work via smart devices. Lastly, the application must enable users to comply with all types of regulatory requirements and be adaptable, as regulations are constantly changing.

The application should be available on-premises and in the cloud. It should be supported by a proven implementation methodology and a professional services team with vertical expertise. The company should provide on-site and Web-based training and certification programs for IT, system administrators, and agents. The vendor should offer a standard program in which its users are visited every three to six months to identify ways to improve system utilization and effectiveness. The vendor should use an agile development environment that delivers innovation on an ongoing basis; the development should be 30 percent to 50 percent user-driven and supported by an idea-sharing environment and user groups.

Final Thoughts

Most organizations are using outdated and inflexible customer service and support and complaint management systems. These systems are costing companies millions of dollars in lost productivity due to their inefficient processing capabilities. Managers have figured out how to work around their limitations and failings, but many of these solutions are way past their prime.

Given the cost and effort required to implement CRM-type applications, it’s understandable that companies are hesitant to replace them. But times, technology, and best practices have changed. Many of these systems have turned into costly liabilities for enterprises, if only because they can’t ensure compliance with internal and external regulations without system overhauls. Before investing in a major internal development project, take a look at the new servicing applications that are custom-built to address the handling of customer complaints. Many of the vendors that sell these products today have learned important lessons from the past. They are offering solutions that come with 60 percent to 80 percent of the required functionality, are designed for rapid implementation and integration, and can flexibly adapt to a changing business environment.