At some companies, awful customer support has devolved into a standard practice, and if nothing changes, customers will take their business elsewhere.
Today's omnichannel business environment presents enormous challenges for CIOs and other business and IT leaders. Consumers, armed with the Internet and smartphones, demand more from organizations, particularly in the always nettlesome arena of customer service and support. They want what they want how, when and where they want it.
UK research firm Loudhouse, which examined the topic in 2013, found that 64 percent of consumers expect to have real-time assistance, regardless of the channel. Moreover, 78 percent indicated that they consider a company's reputation and customer support when they buy things. And, despite all the hoopla over less costly online support, 57 percent of consumers continue to dial in for support. Moreover, when emails and other inquiries go unanswered, the phone is the next option.
To be sure, managing multiple channels is critical. Unfortunately, few organizations excel at the task. Disconnected databases, fractured CRM tools and poorly designed automated call distribution (ACD) systems often equal a big fat fail.
As a consumer, I'm perpetually amazed at how often companies do not answer email messages and other inquires, blow off callback promises and generally lack a commitment to resolve a problem. I'm guessing that it's around 25 percent of the time. Of course, with some vendors, awful customer support has devolved into a standard business practice.
Apparently, I'm not alone. Only about half of consumers using social media say they have received a reply from a company after posting a comment, according to an Oracle study conducted a few years ago.
One has to wonder whether CIOs and others at these firms actually test systems with dummy service calls and requests--or whether they actually dive into real world communications by listening to recordings, monitoring social media and viewing agent hand-offs and overall resolution rates.
Here's the thing: customer experience is everything. It defines relationships, revenues and brand image. The Oracle study also found that the No. 1 factor for getting consumers to spend more money is the overall customer experience. In fact, 81 percent of consumers are willing to pay more for superior customer experience, while 44 percent are willing to pay a premium of more than 5 percent.
The journey to a 360-degree view of the customer means breaking down data silos, merging channels and putting analytics to work to understand behavior and events in broader and deeper ways. This is the baseline for business in the digital age.