While I may be biased (full disclosure: my company, Pegasystems, produced the video you see above) we made this realistic video because we knew how well everyone could relate to the problem of poor customer service.  We could relate.  Who among us hasn’t been put on hold for what felt like forever, or transferred an endless number of times, all for what we believed to be a very routine request?  I truly enjoy working with companies to improve their customer service, because as a customer, I experience how far so many companies still have to go before they get it right, and quite frankly for many of them to live up to their own high standards.

Customer service as we know it, put simply, is not making the grade. Every day as consumers, our expectations increase, and it seems many companies are finding it harder and harder to keep pace with our expectations and needs.  There have been several high-profile instances in which companies have failed their customers in a big way—and increasingly, they’re getting called out for it. One of the many examples comes recently with Walmart’s re-labeling SNAFU.  As we posit in our video, there’s got to be a better way; it’s just a matter of figuring out what that way is and how to make it a reality.

As I mentioned in my last post on Business2Community, one of the best ways to turn your customer relations from your biggest flaw to your biggest asset is to take a new approach. Specifically, you need to take a high-definition approach to each of your customers.  This is something that goes far beyond capturing and presenting a 360-degree view of data.   It is an approach that leverages the data in a useful way to ensure each service interaction ends in the best resolution and follows the most efficient process to get there.

Think about it this way: traditional CRM systems only focus on a 360-degree view of the data, which to me makes them just like a book of static roadmaps.  The maps have most of the data you need: roads, towns, and map keys to get where you are going; but it is your responsibility to plan the best route, account for which roads are going to have traffic, determine how long it will take you to get there.  And in many cases, you have to precariously look at the map while you are also trying to drive.  And that doesn’t factor in construction zones that pop up, either. When you go to a new destination, you need a new map.  The poor agents that are taking phone calls are attempting to read the 10 maps they have open on their desk simultaneously, and typically you are asking about a map they don’t have handy.  The result is far too often: “please hold while I transfer your call to an appropriate individual for further help.”

Customers are demanding a better way. They want a personalized, fully guided turn-by-turn experience, just as a new GPS navigation system delivers.  Once they know their destination and the GPS delivers the most efficient route for reaching the destination, this approach also explains how long it will take to get there, and calls out the turns in advance all along the way.  When you stop for coffee while driving, the GPS dynamically adjusts the arrival time and other appropriate information to ensure accuracy, not to mention that it enables you to have the most efficient and stress-free trip.   In fact they are even becoming more predictive—in some cases, when you get in your car and start driving, your GPS even knows where you are heading, for example if you’re heading home from work.

Companies can continue to take this guided high-definition approach to new levels by intelligently applying more context (data), and by continuously enhancing their guidance (process).  To follow our GPS analogy, companies can be adding new destinations; more dynamically react to changing conditions like traffic and provide new more efficient routes.  For example think of the great deal of context provided when a customer tweets. We can interpret things including their sentiment, their chosen topic, their level of influence and the most appropriate way to respond.  Based on this context we can formulate the best response and deliver it back over the best communication channel.  It is imperative that companies anticipate their customers’ needs and respond quickly and appropriately, delivering a consistent high quality of resolution, whether it is in the contact center, on a mobile device or over social channels.

Companies are starting to make a dramatic transition for the better; they are starting to think more outside-in and are giving more consideration to what they measure and how effectively they deliver on traditional metrics such as first contact resolution.  Sure, the concept has been around for ages, but until now it was really about a first contact answer.  Customer calls, we give an answer; customer hangs up, job done.  Now companies are connecting the dots across channels, across organizations and across products by leveraging tools like dynamic case management to ensure the GPS level of support, regardless of where the customer starts their inquiry.  The result? The first touch is the only touch they need to make.  Behind the scenes dynamic case management automates which systems and people it touches and ensures not only that the customer gets a resolution on their first touch, but there is a better understanding of who needed to be involved to deliver that resolution.  When businesses employ dynamic case management to empower customer service interactions, customers won’t have to suffer through the sort of calls depicted in the video above, because the first touch can be the only touch.  And on the business side, not only are customers more willing to recommend you to their peers, driving up revenue and loyalty, but there are also increased operational visibility and efficiency improvements that can eliminate unnecessary costs or provide the opportunity to repurpose employee effort to drive more value and avoid more unnecessary future contacts.

Think about how much more effective companies can be with their service when they are focused on adding customer value and proactively addressing issues, instead of just trying to stay above water with an overwhelming influx of inquiries.  Just think about the “loyalty credit” a company has earned when they prove to their customer that they respect their time and their business.  And they can apply that credit to grow the relationship with the customer.  Resolving a customer’s issue is really only the beginning.  While the agent has the customer on the phone, she has the opportunity to offer him a product or service that is perfectly relevant to his needs and his situation and she has the opportunity to negotiate with him to ensure he gets the value he needs without sacrificing the benefit to the business.  Modern CRM platforms deliver this intelligence, predicting the customer’s needs and, based on a real-time personalized business case, present the right action for each specific situation.  When done effectively, it becomes much more about adding value to the way a customer uses products and services and less about pushing a potentially irrelevant offer.

There is a better way to deliver customer service. Some organizations are showing what appears to be a higher commitment to do a better job, and there’s so much great technology available.  I really believe that, eventually, nobody will have to suffer through the kind of interaction painstakingly detailed in our video.

For more information about how to transform your customer service capabilities, check out my eBook, Top Five Trends in Customer Service Innovation.