Category Archives: Customer Insight
On a trip to Orlando two years ago, I arrived quite late to a Hilton hotel and visited the restaurant a few minutes before closing. The server took my order, disappeared, and didn’t come back for a few minutes. It was just a touch too long, and I was beginning to wonder if my order was forgotten.
Then the server came back, apologized for the delay and gave me a free drink on the spot. I still remember that experience because it wasn’t expected. I had not complained and the delay really wasn’t a big deal. So far as I know, I didn’t send any signals via my body language that I was unhappy.
It impressed me that my server was empathetic enough to realize that their service was not quite up to par, without a complaint. And furthermore, he didn’t have to go ask permission to give me the drink.
That’s a simple but powerful example of an empowered employee. My server obviously had some latitude to make a decision on the spot in the interest of creating a memorable experience. The fact that I’ve told this story many times in speeches the past two years, and now write about it here, speaks volumes for the real impact of that simple gesture. Read more and comment…
I had the pleasure of attending a Forbes CMO Network event last month that highlighted the challenges and opportunities associated with a social business strategy. The presentation by Charlene Li of the Altimeter Group was directly in line with the key challenge many top marketers face today: how can marketing teams adapt to – and exceed – the needs of increasingly active (and vocal) online customers? Read more and comment…
Amid the excitement and athleticism of the Olympics, we have uncovered another interesting display of global competition. And although it may not be as entertaining, the ramifications are more far-reaching. Specifically, the Global Innovation Index evaluates each country’s level of innovation over the past year, as judged by each country’s knowledge, technology and creative outputs. It was reported by the CEO of Eli Lily in a Forbes post about America’s declining ranking last month. Read more and comment…
Customer Experience management is all the buzz now a days. The good news is that companies seem to be more and more genuine about paying attention to their clients’ needs. But are they taking the right approach of measuring their experiences through surveys?
In the late 90’s, the internet started to change the way people serviced their customers via self service portals and websites. Companies began to realize that their customers want to service themselves – on their time – they didn’t want to wait in phone queues to talk to people who sometimes didn’t have the answer. While online self-service sites gave clients the ability to service themselves quickly and on their schedule, the one thing that went missing was the feedback mechanism.
When people were talking to you on the phone you could very quickly tell whether they were happy or not. With online customer self-service, companies have less of a personal relationship with their customers. Thus the dawn of the whole market for customer surveys. Yes surveys have been around a long time, but their importance was certainly heightened by the internet revolution.
Customer surveys haven’t really changed much in the past dozen or so years. They might have improved in the psychology of how questions are asked and answered, but the 1-5 scale, 1-9 scale, top box, high, low, medium and so on, are all still there. Today, companies have now expanded the use of the survey to try and capture more and more information about that customer who is interacting with them from various channels and likely has an opinion about their experience.
My big question is, are surveys still the right way to collect information about a client’s interactions with your company? My concern is that surveys might no longer be objective – in fact I think if we study them closely they are worded and structured to favor a positive outcome for the vendor (that’s why they get compensated on these results). When I ran a global support organization we used a 7 point scale – 4 & 5 were neutral because we only measured top box scores which was 6 & 7. I imagine there are thousands of these survey’s out there structured the same way doing the same thing: 6 & 7 are good, 1 & 2 are bad.
What if the new style of customer survey was a text box with an explanation to tell us about their overall experience? Maybe they liked part of the experience but not another part. With this information captured, and using text analytics tools, we could understand the theme of the customer comments as well as the sentiment and take that even a step further and correlated it with certain product releases customer locations, and more.
For example, a survey from your favorite rental car company consists of 20 questions:
1) On a 1-5 scale rank the following:
a. How was your reservation experience?
b. Was the agent professional?
c. Were you greeted by an agent?
d. Was your car clean?
e. Etc, Etc
2) Or, you could say in a text box:
a. When I arrived last night at 12:30am because my flight was delayed your agent had everything ready for me when I came to the counter, thanks
b. When I arrived last night at 12:30am because my flight was delayed, I had to bang on the counter to get an agent to come to the front, I was tired and it took another 10 minutes to get my car.
As you can see, I can very well predict what the answers would be to the 20 questions from the two statements in section 2.
Your customers have so many touch points with your company today – so how do you decide which ones to survey? Giving every customer who interacts with your company the opportunity to leave their comments about their experience will give you a very rounded view of your business. And with that information captured, you can really drive your business forward.
Something to think about perhaps?
As those with significant others can attest, and those in the customer service business know, relationships are never mastered – they’re constantly changing, growing and evolving over time. This week, we are thrilled to announce a CODiE Award win for Best Relationship Management Solution – our third CODiE in four years – by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA). The peer-reviewed recognition is very meaningful for Coveo. We’re always thinking about how knowledge and information can be used to improve our client’s customer relationships – identifying customer needs, evaluating areas for improvement and responding in real-time with all of the contextually-relevant information necessary to best meet that customer’s needs at that moment in time.
Want a bit of free relationship advice? Key to many relationships is, first, the ability to listen. Next is to respond to the other party’s needs. The final is to act to improve the relationship. And then the cycle begins, all over again, in a never-ending dance. Translated to our B2B context, this is your customer engagement strategy.
But you can’t even start if you’re not getting a complete picture. How can you listen if you don’t understand the context? Many businesses struggle with trying to gather all the relevant information from various sources, places and data types, whether in their core enterprise systems, via social channels or in the cloud. If this is a challenge with your organization, you’re not alone. In a recent Argyle Forum survey, 42 percent of respondents estimated that their companies have visibility into less than a quarter of information across all interaction channels, including social streams.
So what do you do? The first step is to break down information silos and enable your organization to access knowledge across all relevant customer channels. Invest in technologies that allow you to access information regardless of format by instantly assembling and enriching data to make it consumable.
We’re proud to be named an innovator in relationship management solutions today. But, like anyone, we view relationships as long-term processes. If you’re looking at improving your customer engagement through actionable insight, don’t wait. Your current and future customers depend on it.
If there’s one company that could serve as a showcase for how better Insight into vast amounts of data can drive improvements throughout an organization, it’s CA Technologies. Coveo has been working with CA Technologies for several years to help them make sense of the massive amounts of information about its expanding and today, quickly changing products and services portfolio, customers (including those from newly acquired companies), projects, people, and more–contained in more than 70 different systems as well as across social channels. Through Coveo’s Insight Consoles, all 13,000 of CA Technologies’ employees have a consolidated, correlated view of information across systems – at their fingertips, in real-time.
A good example of CA Technologies’ use of insight solutions was chronicled recently on Forbes.com. The article, written by columnist Dan Woods and posted on Forbes’s “Data Driven” blog, focuses on “How CA Technologies Uses Data to Drive Product Development.”
The article talks about how CA Technologies represents a new breed of companies that no longer run their product development operations on instinct. Instead, they use data to track various aspects of product development to facilitate the production of the best possible software solution.
CTO Don Ferguson discusses the pressures of leading a large, global R&D team and having to justify the R&D spend to the C-suite. He describes how better insight into vast amounts of information has enabled CA Technologies to benefit from customer feedback in the early phases of each development cycle, allowing the organization to work in a more agile manner.
This approach is centered on what you’ve heard us talk about before – the concept of a customer-centric strategy – placing customers in the center of the business. Companies need to involve customers in every aspect of their decision making, starting with product development. If they don’t gather feedback early in the development process, every time they enter a new cycle they’re putting all of their work at risk. No company can afford to put out a product that doesn’t meet customer needs after 12 months of testing.
The Forbes piece also touches on the use of social media to facilitate that customer interaction. It discusses the ways CA Technologies keeps a close eye on how customers use its self-service website and online communities to learn about products, solve problems on their own, request assistance and volunteer new ideas for features. By consolidating and correlating this data with other information, CA Technologies can inject that insight into its product development processes, detect where any issues may be occurring in the products, and understand which content is helping customers the most.
In this day and age, companies that don’t utilize information across digital channels put themselves at a severe disadvantage. They don’t know what the outside world is saying about them and they’re not putting the feedback into context with other information locked in their own enterprise systems. CA Technologies is one company that does it right. Leo Annab, Business Technology Officer at CA Technologies recently sat down with Coveo to discuss this in more detail.
Using Insight Solutions, CA Technologies engages the customer at all interaction points. CA Technologies incorporates customer information and feedback into its processes, making it a more agile business and driving improved business performance.
CA Technologies has proven itself to be a global leader in its field. Companies in every industry can learn from its use of technology to drive customer centricity and leverage data to its advantage.
I was recently asked this question during an interview with Jason Redlus, managing member and founder of the Argyle Executive Forum. We had a nice discussion about customer service organizations and the way they manage their information, knowledge, and people.
Our conversation around the future of customer service touched on so many different, salient points that I was prompted to open up the discussion to a broader audience. I am hoping you will contribute your thoughts.
At a high level and from a pure company perspective, what appears to be the driving trend across the industry is a requirement we are all very familiar with: lowering costs. The margin pressures on customer service are ever increasing and customer service executives are being asked to do more with less—however they also must either hold steady or preferably increase customer satisfaction.
At the other end of the spectrum, the customer operates in an increasingly proliferate and democratic world. Customers have access to more information, which creates a more competent customer with higher expectations around the availability of relevant information to solve issues on their own, and a much greater willingness – and ability – to turn to other providers that have better differentiation on service.
Those competing factors alone drive requirements for self-service; and although self-service has been around for a long time, contextually relevant self-service will become a major trend. The question companies need to address externally is how to make the self-service experience one that is relevant to your customer’s current situation, so that customers can gain the knowledge they need, aligned with their own situation, to solve an issue more efficiently. That is what we refer to as contextually relevant insight. Not only it drives call deflection, but it also helps increase customer satisfaction.
Internally, these factors drive a requirement for more and better accessibility to knowledge on the part of customer service agents, especially facing these increasingly competent customers. Again, the ability for agents to efficiently pull knowledge that is contextually relevant to the customer’s specific situation will drive first call resolutions up, will shrink average case resolution time, and will enable entry level agents to handle more complex issues.
I am often surprised by the disproportionate amount of investment that customer service organizations put into the call center infrastructure to route calls, transcript calls, manage workflows, standardize account pop-ups, manage traffic, etc.; relative to how little investment is made to enable customers or agents to access the knowledge needed to actually solve customer issues. Isn’t that the primary goal of customer service?
I am also surprised to see so many organizations confuse knowledge and information, and hence looking as knowledge management as an IT problem and a system of record challenge. Please open up the dictionary and you will see knowledge defined as the human capacity to take action facing an uncertain situation. Exactly what customer service agents face all day every day. Knowledge resides with people, not systems. People acquire knowledge – they gain insight – by gathering information from all sources but also by identifying and learning from other people who are experts and have prior experience about the situation at hand. Not just by logging in the knowledge base.
So for a customer service agent, knowledge resides in the collection of content sources that mine the cumulative know-how and learnings about customer and product issues history, but it also resides with the people who have worked on similar issues or products. This is why the ability to quickly identify contextually relevant experts is also critical in customer service. Failure to do so results in a suboptimal ability to solve the case, or equally bad a process where an agent wastes time recreating knowledge that already exists and often times a worse version of it.
In turn, that drives the confluence between sales, service and engineering. Enabling that triangle is critical because establishing context about a customer reaches in all three areas. Typically those departments operate in a silo. For example, engineering builds a new product and hands it over to sales. Then, the sales department hands it over to service. And there is little interaction among and between groups. Now, these three are really coming together with the consolidation of knowledge across the organization between engineering, sales and marketing, and customer service. It’s critical to solving customer issues faster and ensuring product issues get resolved faster.
At a macro level, the rate of change and the variety of information sources are increasing. Between the years 2000 and 2010, the average number of information sources a company had to deal with was multiplied by roughly two and a half times. In 2000, assume a customer service environment had five to 10 sources of information for answering customer demands and solving issues. With the proliferation of enterprise systems and digital media, they now have 25 or more sources. That’s the reality of today, and cloud based computing fuels the fragmentation even more.
I was with the EVP of Engineering of a large consumer electronics company recently. Internally they use SAP ERP, Oracle Siebel for CRM, fileshares across the company with a recent move to SharePoint (wonders what the real advantage is since users can’t get much out of it), Jira and Parametric PLM in engineering, and databases popping everywhere… Yet when they release a new product into the market, within 24 hours he has already heard about design flaws from social sources like Twitter, completely outside of the company’s domain. That speaks volumes about the importance of distilling insights from a consolidated view of all enterprise information plus social media data, because the knowledge about customers and products is an ecosystem of information and people, and not a single system.
We don’t know what the landscape will look like three years from now, and no one can predict the next paradigm shift. All we can do is focus on the paradigm of today – adapting to change and being able to quickly reassemble the information and reach the people needed. That is opposed to the old paradigm of IT personnel sitting around the table discussing their information needs for the next five years.
What trends do you see impacting the future of customer service?
SunGard, with annual revenues of about $4.5 billion, is the largest privately held software and services company; it serves approximately 25,000 customers in more than 70 countries, SunGard’s K-12 Education segment is a category- leader and serves more than 8 million students. I recently met with our customer Keith Gingrich, who leads customer support operations as vice president, SunGard K-12 Education.
I was struck by the commitment Keith shows to helping his customers – which are, in the end, our leaders of tomorrow: the students of today. While SunGard’s technology solutions help enable school districts to do more with less – and help families to participate in their children’s education – the beneficiary of this technology is ultimately the students themselves. When the school district operates more efficiently, students benefit from additional resources dedicated to them and their education. Ultimately we all benefit. What a great story – what a great calling.
Keith’s team recently implemented Coveo Insight Solutions to support customer service operations—helping to ensure that the K- 12 school districts SunGard serves get the guidance they need, when they need it, and to continue to use SunGard technology to help them operate effectively and efficiently.
During our meeting we chatted about the reasons behind SunGard’s Coveo implementation. I was impressed and I think you will be, too. I asked Keith about the business drivers behind his decision to implement Coveo Insight Solutions. Here is a synopsis of his answer:
“You can imagine the challenges our school districts are facing in light of the economy and the federal-state funding cut-backs. We at SunGard want to help our customers achieve more with less—so they can focus their resources on the students. We will be launching new products intended to help them do that and more. We want to be as efficient as possible to keep our costs down for our customers—and we knew there was technology available that could help us improve our support capability without adding the expense of additional resources.
We evaluated the insight software category and found that Coveo was the most flexible, cost effective and sophisticated solution to help us achieve our goals. Like most support operations, we have potential support resolution information spread out in many different places – our agents were switching context and having to go to several different systems, customer forums, and more, to solve customer issues, taking longer than necessary to resolve many customer support cases.
We found that Coveo would help streamline our customer service operations and provide our agents with a consolidated view of all structured and unstructured customer information—organized around whatever entity we chose—whether that was a customer, or a case, or even a product. Coveo was the most flexible, adaptable solution we saw. Even as our business continues to grow and evolve, Coveo will easily adapt. The technology helps us gain even more value from the tools we already have in place, from our CRM to our case tracking system, file shares and online customer communities.”
SunGard’s customer-centric operations allow the company to be more effective in serving its customers—who are, ultimately, our children. Again – is there a better calling?
How do you help your customers operate more effectively and efficiently, and how does that help the ultimate end user?
If you’re interested on more information on Coveo’s work with SunGard K-12 Education, click here.
Customers are the lifeblood of every organization. And yet most don’t know enough about their customers, their interactions, their preferences, what they’ve said across social channels, if they are happy, or if they are thinking about defecting to the competition, and why.
It’s not due to lack of trying. Companies are struggling to become nimble enough to first understand and then respond quickly and accurately to customer needs, across all departments, particularly customer service, sales & marketing and engineering, those which are most concerned with customer interaction. This requires placing the customer at the center of the organization.
We recently surveyed 130 executives at the 2012 Customer Care Leadership Forum, to get their thoughts on the importance of customer centricity, the value of this strategy, and specific barriers that stand in the way to achieving customer centricity. Executives report significant benefits to placing the customer in the center of the business, yet the growing number of enterprise systems and social channels, the geometric growth of data, and internal and external silos, all contribute to block the path to customer centricity.
Here’s a closer look at some of the key survey findings:
- 63 percent of respondents believe that the biggest value of a customer-centric strategy is to drive revenue.
- 69 percent of respondents noted that the most prominent barrier to customer centricity is the inability to collaborate and share information across sales/marketing, customer service and product engineering functions. This is in spite of organizations having implemented collaboration platforms and social communities.
- Moreover, 42 percent of respondents estimate that their companies have visibility into less than a quarter of information across all interaction channels, including social streams.
- 65 percent noted that they do not (54 percent) combine social data with enterprise content or are not sure (11 percent) of whether their organizations combine this data in customer service and support operations. Additional survey findings can be found in the news release.
It’s clear that information is the “make or break” ingredient to achieving customer centricity. Understanding what information is available, how to consolidate it across silos, systems, teams, geographies, and how to make sense of it all – are the keys to establishing a culture of customer centricity.
Would you classify your organization as customer centric? If so, what strategies do you have in place to ensure all customer facing groups have insight into customer information across enterprise and social channels? If not, what barriers do you face?
Data, by its very nature, is difficult to find and to analyze because it’s stored in so many places, with no way to search through it or correlate it across systems to derive meaning from it.
As a recent Fast Company interview with Coveo CEO Louis Têtu stated, people who could remember all of this information, and easily correlate it—mentally—were those who succeeded most often. However, the amount of unstructured data makes it impossible for an individual to know everything that’s occurring related to a specific topic, at any point in time. Add in social media channels which contain up to the minute data, and you have an unbelievably complex information mess. How can an individual, much less all employees in a company, gain insight from such widespread, diverse data in disparate systems?
Well if all of these systems could be connected to each other so we could all understand, assimilate and correlate the information to make effective decisions, provide great service, help customers understand more about our products, and even build more innovative products that contained customer input – from all of our interactions with them—well, that might solve our problem. But would it? Do integrations provide the kind of real-time information mashup that would be required? Not really. Even so, it’s not news that the promise of system consolidation has long eluded companies and we’ve all heard the horror stories about dashboards taking a year to implement, and then they are just windows into different systems rather than actual data mashups.
Every organization wants to generate Insight from its data sources, and many probably think they’re doing a solid job in this area. However, most aren’t gleaning the level of insight they could, and it could be simply that this type of technology is new to the corporate world, though it has been used by consumers for years now – just take a look at Yahoo! Finance to see what I mean.
Until companies adopt the central, unified index approach, they may continue to suffer from what we call “Insight Deficit.” Here are some symptoms that may be familiar to you:
- Employees are frustrated that they need to attend additional training sessions because they can’t see data in the right context.
- Customers are dissatisfied with long response times and feel that your company doesn’t really know them.
- Mistakes happen more than you’d care to admit because employees simply can’t find the information needed to make fast, accurate decisions.
- Products are taking longer to get to market than they should.
If you’re interested in finding out how to think about injecting Insight into business processes from customer service to engineering/product development and sales & marketing, you may want to view an eBook we recently published on making 2012 the year of insight for your organization. Please take a look, and share how you are leveraging today’s overload of data to gain better insight into your customers, projects, products and people. Looking forward to the conversation.