Creating Personalized Customer Experiences
I just published a research report resulting from a number of member inquiries and thought I would share a truncated version here for the larger community. For SSPA members, here is a link to the full article online: Creating Personalized Customer Experiences. Ten years after the advent of CRM most technology companies are drowning in customer data, but identifying which information is relevant for a specific interaction and tailoring the conversation and processes to fit remains a stretch goal for most support organizations.
Companies wanting to improve the customer experience by personalizing support interactions need to make investments in three areas: support engineer training, support engineer desktop applications, and a real-time personalization engine.
Making changes to technical support engineer and customer service agent training to emphasize personalization and customer relationship skills is the first place to start. Keep these suggestions in mind:
- Be clear about the change of focus. Agents have to understand you are not just paying lip service to improving the service experience. The importance of personalization and increased customer intimacy should be a top-down initiative with visible executive support.
- Acknowledge the impact to metrics. When agents spend more time talking and listening to customers, average talk time may trend slightly up. In environments in which high productivity is stressed and rewarded, be realistic about the impacts of new programs on metrics and be certain agents know they will not be penalized if average talk time extends as a result of the new approach.
- Mentor long time agents through the change. Long time agents who were recruited for technical skills, and have been recognized over the years for technical proficiency, will need additional training and coaching to help them through this transition.
The 2nd key to personalizing customer experience is consolidating agent desktop applications so every piece of relevant customer info is easily accessible during an interaction. With Web services integration, a portal-like view of the customer can be constructed using data from wherever it is stored: information from external systems is retrieved as needed and displayed for the agent in a single screen. In this way, no data is denormalized, and agents always see the most current, accurate information. When considering what data to consolidate for techs, prioritize the inclusion of:
- All account related data. What information do techs routinely need to service a customer? Creating a portal-like screen so the agent can see every piece of related information from a single screen is incredibly important, and agents can be trained to look for certain pieces of information and react accordingly.
- Multi-channel interactions. Many companies continue to use a CRM system for all phone interactions, but email, Web and chat interactions are stored in one or more eService systems. All agents, regardless of channel, should have a view of all cross-channel interactions.
- Account milestones and critical processes. With marketing, sales and service often implementing siloed CRM systems, a major benefit of CRM is lost: cross enterprise customer awareness. Sales reps always complain when they make an account visit and are blindsided by a severe technical outage and irate customers. But the reverse is also true: sales needs to be sure support is aware of all sales events: negotiating for a new contract, quoting new or additional products, onsite visits, maintenance renewals, etc.
For companies that have invested in agent training and have consolidated agent access to customer data, there is advanced technology for delivering personalized customer experiences used in the consumer world that can also be applied to enterprise support. These systems scan the historical information for a customer or an account and make real-time recommendations to support engineers on next steps, offers to extend, or critical account details they should be aware of. While most of the pure-play vendors offering this have been acquired (Epiphany, SigmaDynamics), enterprise CRM suites and even some eService suites now include an offer extension module (of varying complexity and accuracy).
What are you seeing? Are customers demanding more personalized interactions? How is your company approaching this? Please shoot me an email or add a comment with your thoughts. And as always, thanks for reading!