As customers are ultimately the key to success for any business, CRM programmes are becoming more and more popular. FST spoke with Verizon Business’ Roberta Mackintosh, Talisma Corp’s Jon McNerney, Dimension Data’s Jean-Marc Pajot, Verint Systems’ Richard Ray and Graham Technology’s Paul White to find out more.
FST. What are the potential effects for a company that fails to take proper care of its customers?
PW. Good customer care matters because keeping your existing customers is much easier and more cost effective for your organisation than finding new ones. We know that customers vote with their feet and defect if their customer experience isn’t up to scratch. Dissatisfied customers also spread the bad news amongst your suspects and prospects and, as such, threaten to undermine your business potential.
A recent UK Customer Experience Report from Harris Interactive revealed that good service is extremely high on most consumers’ agenda, with 78 percent saying they would give more business to companies that provided good service. This would indicate that good service is as important to many consumers as price. In times of economic uncertainty, where your customers are scrutinising their service experience, failing to nurture your valuable customers is nothing short of foolhardy.
RM. The question here is what benefits good customer service can bring to the bottom line, rather than the opposite. Good customer service will lead to both higher revenues from existing customers, as well as below market churn rates; it will help in the new business process, as customers who realise the benefits of good customer service become firm advocates, recommending suppliers to their peers. This is obviously the desired status for most companies, particularly in the current market climate.
Competition is now fiercer than ever before. Product life cycles are getting shorter and competitive advantages quickly erode. Information is readily available to the market, increasing the leverage of the customer. Over the last decade, we have seen that customer service is an increasingly important competitive advantage. Not only does excellent service provide a way to distinguish enterprises from the competition, but it will also provide customer insight, which enables firms to better serve their clientele, identify market opportunities and generate new business.
JM. In a sector where trust and confidence are valued highly by the customer, delivering a high level of personal, effective service is key. A recent Mintel study revealed that retail banks in the UK are struggling to meet these demands, engendering a lack of confidence. The report found 42 percent of customers were dissatisfied with the level of service they received from their bank, almost a third stating the main reason they stayed with their current bank or building society was because they did not believe they would get a better level of service elsewhere.
Some banks may become complacent about customer service. After all, unlike online shopping, where it’s easy to browse and buy from any store in a matter of seconds, it’s a far more complex process for an unhappy customer to defect to another bank. Banks may not lose their existing customers but, by failing to take care of them, could simply be missing out on the chance to develop a mutually beneficial relationship with them.
RR. For more mature markets, organisations that want to grow need to win customers from competitors or increase the value of their existing customers’ spend by selling them additional services. If either of these approaches is to be successful, organisations need to deliver a strong customer experience, with competitive products and impressive service levels.
Not taking proper care of their customers will have a dual negative impact. Not only will they not secure the new customers they need, but surveys show existing customers are walking away from organisations delivering poor customer service. It shouldn’t be difficult for businesses to measure the cost of this disaffection in pounds and pence, and it’s important to remember that disappointed customers are more likely to make negative recommendations than a satisfied customer.
JP. Appropriate and prompt response is critical in customer care. In the current situation of the financial markets today, when customers interact with their financial institution, they are expecting to receive the best offer, the best advice, proactive information and the right answer for their credit query, no matter which channel they use. Failing to do that can have huge impacts on customer loyalty and could lead to loss of revenue as well as an increased cost of acquiring customers. It is critical to ensure that the right customer information is easily accessible to the call handler
FST. How important is the ability to leverage customer data to drive value-based product recommendations and cross/up-sell offers and enhance customer experience?
RR. It’s very important, however you’ve also got to successfully differentiate between a positive customer experience and the actual customer behaviour that drives revenues. Customer service matters, but it shouldn’t be the end game – customer behaviour is, and the focus needs to be on driving the kind of behaviour that leads to customers buying more, championing your products and services more, and complaining less.
Only by analysing real customer interactions and their specific impact on customer behaviour can you identify the call characteristics that had the most positive effects. Once identified, these characteristics can then be instilled as common practice in the contact centres, and have a wider impact on call outcomes.
JM. According to a Gartner report, online banking is now a mainstream access method for UK retail customers, with 26 percent of customers now banking online. But the introduction of yet another communication channel presents a challenge for banks.
Gartner highlights that customers want consistency across different service channels and business units, and the fundamental principle behind any effective customer experience strategy is the integration of communication channels. By presenting staff with a blended view of previous customer interactions they can fully understand the customer and deliver a personalised service offering the most valuable, accurate and relevant information. Empowering customer service agents with a unified view of the customer, in turn presents the customer with a unified view of the bank.
PW. Too many organisations continue to show either unwillingness or an inability to effectively capture valuable customer data during the course of an interaction that would assist with selling and enhance the overall experience. Companies constantly fail to record specific customer details relating to basic name and contact information for lead follow-up and to target future outbound sales and marketing activity. Demographic characteristics are rarely tracked, but can help companies to determine appropriate customer segments for sales and marketing purposes. And companies are all too often missing out on recording their customers’ product requirements, which would help them identify which products best meet their customers’ needs.
Being able to capture, route and track customer requests for product information and collateral, and systematically manage these as actionable leads requiring prompt follow-up contributes to positive conversion rates. Understanding patterns of purchase behaviour based on your customer segments ensures you offer the right product, at the right time to the right customers.
JP. This is a fundamentally important requirement, but we are also aware it has not been developed to its full extent in many companies. Contact centres do not traditionally have access to enough information about their customers, the product they have, nor the interactions they have with the company. We found that only 36 percent of companies have a single view of the customer across their multiple channels.
With the help of historical data about products and services across different types of customer transactions combined with solid business processes, contact centres could become profit centres instead of their current perceived status as cost centres. This journey of increasing the customer value is not only a technology exercise; it also needs significant input on the process and operational side. If we look at some of the technologies that are able to guide the agent to the ‘best offer’ for the customer, companies could significantly improve their cross/up-sell rate while improving the customer satisfaction.
RM. It is essential to provide the most appropriate information for each individual customer’s specific business needs at the correct time. By offering a service that is relevant to the customer and his situation, the provider stands to benefit from a higher offer conversion rate in the immediate term, as well as improved customer loyalty over the long term. The same concept can be carried forward, using the information captured on inbound contacts to identify propositions for targeted market segments and to develop highly effective custom campaigns.
The key is to approach all customer data within the bounds of all relevant international legislative rulings; most importantly to implement that data in the service of the customer, and to support their business needs. Knowledge of the customer, its drivers and objectives, is more important now than ever before.
FST. Many organisations are dissuaded from installing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions because they believe they will be too difficult to maintain. Is this belief justified?
JM. At Talisma, we believe it is necessary to go beyond traditional CRM and embrace Customer Interaction Management (CIM) to make exceptional customer service a reality. CIM embodies a more flexible and intuitive approach to customer service, enabling a 360-degree view of the customer and their history in real time, whilst offering multiple communication channels for agents to assist customers.
Adopting new CIM tools and alternative communication channels doesn’t have to be a headache. We offer a hosted model to customers, ensuring the integration of the CIM tools with existing banking systems can be carried out quickly and easily, with minimal disruption to the business, and ongoing maintenance and support carried out by Talisma.
RR. People were quick to write off CRM when it became over-hyped, the reality is that the business imperatives that drove initial CRM growth are still very much in place. With today’s increased focus on customer intimacy and positive customer experiences, it’s easy to argue that CRM has never gone away.
Running a CRM programme effectively is never just about the software. There is real value in treating customers better, by spending more time with them, actually listening to what they say, taking on board their feedback, gathering more information about them, and understanding their needs and problems more effectively. That’s the core of any effective CRM programme – software helps, but you also need the right people and processes to make it work.
RM. The concern itself may be justified because CRM implementations can indeed be complex; but choosing to forego the benefits of CRM in order to avoid those complexities can have disastrous results. CRM must be viewed not as the implementation of an IT system, but as the implementation of a business strategy. CRM systems expertise falls outside the core competency of many financial institutions. Many have successfully developed a comprehensive customer relationship strategy then brought in outside resources with the expertise to design, implement, and maintain a CRM system that supports that strategy.
JP. Developing the right mix of processes, people, operations and strategy for the CRM is key. Installing CRM is only a means to reach a company objective, which should be driven by the company culture. This culture is the most important factor in the success of CRM. When starting the CRM journey, organizations have to address a lot of different points. With all this in place, it becomes more comfortable to deploy the right mix of technologies that can be a large CRM package but can also be a more modest software solution that enables the business processes.
PW. If you approach CRM from a process perspective, you begin to recognise that customer service efforts can only deliver optimum results if they are customer-centric and aligned with an organisation's business processes. With that alignment, you create a framework to pursue promising new CRM initiatives, as well as the means to quickly implement those initiatives, measure their effectiveness and, if necessary, further refine them.
Integration with legacy systems and across multiple databases gives process driven CRM customers the ability to deploy customer-centric processes that bridge organisational stovepipes. That helps eliminate the ‘hand-off chasm’ and resulting customer frustration that can occur when a customer request gets routed from one department to another with no oversight.
This agility means prospective CRM buyers no longer need to choose between convenience or quality, or fear the cost of maintenance. Rather, companies using process-based CRM get fast implementation and depth of functionality, with the additional benefit of ongoing improvement to meet changing business and customer needs.
FST. Can more intelligent customer interactions increase profit? What kind of ROI can financial institutions expect on investment in CRM systems?
RM. The more you know about your customers and the more intelligent the interaction, whether automated or agent assisted, the better you can serve them. Systems that can predict the success rate of specific offers to a single customer offer a very clear ROI. In many cases, payback on such implementations can occur within a year. If you provide 50 percent of the callers with a personalised offer based on their profile and the context of the call, conversion rates of over 20 percent are realistic.
A CRM system is only as good as the underlying processes and the people that use them. The old phrase ‘garbage in, garbage out’ applies; automating a dysfunctional process still leaves you with a dysfunctional process. Providing well-trained agents with the information that will truly assist the caller is critical. It is the caller’s interaction with the agent that determines the service perception and ultimate sales success.
JP. Building a CRM system that perfectly matches the business processes will absolutely help organizations reach a significant ROI. It is important that business processes are well defined, and implemented with tools that can truly ‘import’ them and make them available. This is how the organization obtains not only 100 percent fit with the business processes across the channels, but also a more flexible solution to adapt to the market conditions.
With a more agile solution that is in full alignment across the channels for customer interactions, the company demonstrates a deeper knowledge of its customers and can react faster to changing market conditions and have a single view of the customer across the different interaction channels. This allows financial institutions in particular to differentiate from the competition, with targeted services thereby increasing customer value while maintaining customer loyalty.
PW. By delivering consistent, personalised customer service and identifying relevant cross selling and up-selling opportunities at point of interaction, it has been proven that organisations can maximise the value of their customer interactions.
One critical factor is the recognition that inbound, customer-initiated interactions must be managed with extreme care and precision. If financial organisations are to provide an exceptional service experience and strengthen customer loyalty and ultimately business profit, they must be able to rapidly identify and act on customer issues. If they are to capitalise on customer-initiated interactions to drive growth, they must be able to address their customers in a personalised fashion and present offers that are highly relevant.
Depending on the business drivers for the CRM programme, benefits from the investment made can be both quantitative and qualitative across a number of different themes: from operational efficiencies and improved customer experience to product and service innovation, for example.
In our experience, the clients we have worked with have seen first contact resolution increase by 30 percent, process handoffs reduced by 25 percent, 23 percent growth in products per customer, training time reduced by an average of eight days per agent and a reduction in the average handling time by an average of 23 percent within as little as three months.
RR. Before investing significantly to enable more complex customer interactions it makes a lot of sense to unlock the significant business intelligence that is currently locked in thousands of customer interactions in your contact centres. A key development is conversation analytics, which combines proven psychological processes with the latest speech analytics technologies to analyse and interpret contact centre conversations.
We’ve found that identifying and categorising common points of failure across interactions, and then developing the programmes that help to make our clients’ contact centres more efficient and more effective, the results can be significant. For example, one Fortune 500 insurance company succeeded in reducing incoming calls by 30 percent – avoiding a projected €760,000 hiring spend.
JM. New technologies such as proactive chat and co-browsing enable a new level of real-time support for customers, whether they are completing forms, conducting transactions or simply looking for information online. In addition, intuitive, self-learning knowledge management systems empower both the customer and agent to rapidly search and find relevant information, ensuring agent responses are consistent and accurate, while taking pressure off the contact centre.
Using Talisma’s Customer Interaction Management tools, banks across the world are realising significant benefits, such as reductions in inbound phone calls by 50 percent reductions in incoming emails by as much as 80 percent and increasing agent productivity by enabling them to handle more than 5000 chat sessions per month.
About the contributors:
Jean-Marc Pajot is the Managing Director of Customer Interactive Solutions Europe for Dimension Data. Pajot joined Dimension Data in 2001 with the acquisition of Planet CTI and was appointed as Director of Customer Interactive Solutions Business Unit for Europe. In his role, he has been leading strategic development in the contact centre industry with a focus on the integration and deployment of best of breed solutions for customers across the region.
Richard Ray is the Director of Operational Consultancy for Verint Consulting. As Director of Operational Consultancy, Ray advises on all aspects of customer management strategy, focusing on key areas such as conversation analytics, improving the customer experience and workforce optimisation. He previously worked as Head of Business Consulting for Witness Systems, and before that spent 13 years in the healthcare sector in the US and UK.
Jon McNerney is Vice President and General Manager of International Operations. McNerney leads the Talisma European management team and oversees operations, sales, support, professional services and marketing across the European regions. Prior to joining Talisma, he was the European General Manager at Boston-based Interwise Corporation and has directed the sales and company growth initiatives for leading edge, global companies including Systems Corporation and NewsEdge Corporation.
Roberta Mackintosh is Executive Director of Global Voice, Unified Communications and Collaboration for Verizon Business. Mackintosh has been with the Verizon Business for 18 years. She is responsible for the development and product marketing of advanced technologies that enable enterprises to communicate and collaborate globally
Paul White is a Director at Graham Technology (GT). He is responsible for international market strategy, product positioning and communications. Prior to joining GT, White served as Enterprise Architect for Capital One where he helped construct and deliver a European IT strategy. Before Capital One, he held various senior consultancy positions working with Thomas Cook, Abbey and Travelex.