White Paper: Key Steps to a Seamless Customer Experience


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This document looks at some of the key issues that are preventing so many organisations from delivering the kind of seamless experience that they know their customers are demanding. We outline a roadmap for customer service providers which doesn't involve large scale replacement of their current contact centre operations.

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White Paper: Key Steps to a Seamless Customer Experience

  1. 1.                                                 For most organisations, customer engagement has become – and will continue to be - much more complex. Although many of the factors driving this are external, such as increased customer empowerment and technological innovation, we also have to recognise that service providers often add to this complexity through their own legacy processes.   Today’s customer service environment contrasts strongly with an earlier, more controlled, period of engagement when agents could focus solely on calls and customers, relying on resilient telephony solutions, many of which are still in place today. Because the customer journey was far more linear, businesses were able to implement processes that worked well at the time. However, today’s requirement for greater flexibility and agility is now testing them to the limits.   Online growth is transforming customer expectations, with customers quite rightly wanting much more of the businesses they buy from and work with. Information is available almost instantly on any device and in a range of formats and customers are increasingly making their purchasing decisions without ever engaging with your business in person.   This level of expectation also translates to their phone interactions, so when a customer talks directly with a business there is a requirement for the engagement to be with an expert as callers will already have done much of their research online. So, from an agent perspective, we’re asking our contact centre staff to be expert across a range of fields and we’re also placing them at the heart of increasingly complex business processes that they have to be on top of just to deliver a business-as-usual service.   Add to this the immediacy and connectivity of social networks, as well as massive growth in smartphone usage (now 51% among over 16s according to Mobile Marketing News) and mobile internet access, and it’s clear that customers are now setting the pace when it comes to technology innovation. Indeed CCA research estimates that by 2016, 40% of customer service contact will be through a combination of social sites and mobile apps.   All of these changes are changing the way customers expect to do business with organisations. Experience with best practice providers mean that customers now expect similar levels of service from the other organisations they deal with. A growing requirement is for effective cross-touchpoint service, with customers beginning an interaction on one channel and potentially engaging with many others before completing the process.
  2. 2. Whether the channel is voice, e-mail, webchat or via a social network such as Facebook or Twitter, these customers will expect to be recognised, their previous interactions remembered and for the process to be seamless regardless of the channels or devices being used. Conditioned by the near immediacy of social responses, customers are increasingly turning to those organisations that can deliver faster resolution speeds. Yet fast response also has to be matched by expert service and seamless delivery and the sad reality is that although over 90% of UK Contact Centre’s offer email today only a tiny fraction have managed to integrate this channel.   What seems like a simple customer requirement – recognition and consistency – often proves a major challenge for many customer service organisations. If customers find themselves having to make too much effort when dealing with a business, the chances are they will quickly take steps to look for an alternative supplier. Indeed research conducted by Harris Interactive last year suggested that 89% of customers stop doing business with an organisation after a single bad experience.     None of this should be a surprise to contact centre operators in fact, over the years, most have invested significantly in a range of new technologies to address these challenges. Look at the typical contact centre operation and you’ll find ACD platforms, expensive CRM databases and IVR systems, as well as a range of applications including call recording, sales order processing, trouble ticketing, credit card security and workflow management. Add to that new applications and processes to track customer interactions on e-mail, SMS, IM, web chat, online forums, Twitter and Facebook, and the reality of delivering consistent customer service across multiple channels looks even more complex.   While providing a seamless customer experience through the customer’s channel of choice is hard enough, most organisations fail to consider the impact of what happens when customer processes extend beyond traditional service channels. Given that customer calls or other interactions typically trigger some form of service request that must then be provisioned, it’s easy to see how the service disconnects that cause so much customer frustration can occur.   These service requests potentially involve several back office departments and systems and, if not actioned immediately during the customer interaction, will require follow-up during the post-interaction wrap up. If the agent has to access multiple applications and log into each one, this wrap up process can be lengthy and error-prone. Recent research suggests that, on average, 13.5% of an agent’s time is spent on these post- call activities, representing 8 minutes of every working hour. For a 50 seat contact centre that equates to around £200,000 worth of time spent juggling databases and progressing customer actions.   This problem is compounded when follow up service actions require some element of field service support, whether that’s initiating or upgrading a media service, booking a service call, changing a utility connection or arranging the delivery or replacement of items. In around 80% of service organisations, neither the call centre nor the customer services operation have real-time visibility of their field staff or of the current status of service requests. So when you call up the contact centre to ask when the engineer will arrive, the chances are that the simple answer will be that they just don’t know.     One of the reasons why organisations find it hard to draw together the different elements they need to deliver truly joined up customer service has been their over-reliance on enterprise CRM solutions. While CRM databases are a powerful resource, it has become increasingly clear that their complexity, depth of data and speed of access makes them inherently unsuitable for the immediate day-to-day needs of contact centre operations.   The reality is that agents often find it hard to make CRM work for them on the high-pressure, target-led contact centre floor. The last thing agents want is to spend time opening screen after screen and searching through multiple pages to find the information they need to take an interaction forward. We know this is a growing problem for organisations, as a recent poll commissioned by mplsystems queried over 200 UK call centres and found that over half required their agents to use five or more different applications to serve customers, while 23% actively used more than 10 different applications.  
  3. 3. While an ideal solution might be to replace everything in the contact centre with a single, integrated solution, that’s likely to be an expensive, time consuming and potentially risky strategy. For most organisations, each existing application or system already performs a necessary function, with many delivering value elsewhere in the business and only supporting the contact centre as a secondary function. Replacing all these applications with a single system simply isn’t realistic.   Instead, the appropriate solution is to bring all this functionality together in a way that makes it much easier for agents to carry out their tasks. Effectively, this requires the combination of email, call, social and m o bile handling, workflow, case management and reporting with critical data from multiple applications. To achieve efficiency in the contact centre, this then has to be delivered so that contact centre agents and other service staff can access the desktop intuitively, thus adding value to their customer engagements rather than struggling with additional complexity.     Organisations know that the use of multiple applications can have a detrimental impact on customer experience, particularly through prolonged call handling and response times. The reality for customers is that they are kept on hold while agents log into, refer to and cut and paste data from a range of different applications.   Instead of replacing everything, the answer lies in making the most of what you’ve already got, effectively providing agents with a desktop interface that helps them to talk to customers within their context rather than being constricted by a framework of legacy applications.   That’s why at mplsystems we’ve been focused on helping organisations to design and build Intelligent Agent Desktops that fully reflect the role that the contact centre plays within the business. Critical to this is the integration of call and email handling into the process, with the desktop solution recognising incoming customer calls using CLI and immediately providing agents with relevant customer data gathered from multiple applications via simple, accessible screen pops.   In designing the iDesktop intelligent desktop solution, the company has focused on enabling the creation of ideal agent desktops, ones that serve as the gateway to the whole organisation, and which sit across all available customer information, whether that’s accounts data, warehouse information, maintenance activity, applicable sales offers and customer service history. Effectively, the agent desktop becomes a ‘mash-up’ of existing systems that sit across the business, but one that’s built around the functionality needed by the agent to deliver a high quality, personalised service to the customer.   In the contact centre, the desktop becomes the web interface that blends all the relevant data and processes from an organisation’s existing underlying applications and processes. The intelligent desktop concept takes this one stage further by ensuring that this mash-up functionality supports agents by guiding them through each interaction, and helping them to carry out all the steps necessary to complete customer interactions in a more personalised way.       In developing its iDesktop solution, mplsystems focused on creating an approach that could be delivered as a simple web interface to guide contact centre agents through the steps necessary to complete any interaction with a customer.   Dynamic applications sit behind this agent interface that adapt to the conversation and requirements to always fulfill the customer’s needs. Data is aggregated in real-time from relevant front and back office systems and databases and presented to the agent at the most logical points in the customer service process, for example, order history, payment history, stock checks, special offers, ‘nearest to’ details etc. Similarly, agents can trigger processes and feed information through to relevant back office functions without needing to access them directly.  
  4. 4. iDesktop capabilities include:   I. II. The ability to resolve all customer requests within a single user interface Provision of a single access point for all of a customer’s data, regardless of where it sits III. Customer data updated in real-time within the organisation IV. Initial customer recognition and routing for automatic customer ID V. Continuous agent support wit context-sensitive help and diagnostic support VI. Single location for all action requests – no requirement for additional system logins VII. Grouping of multiple contact details for single customer and efficient method of answering last contact and clearing queue   mplsystems has also created its iDesktop solution so that it’s easy for non-technical end users to quickly build process-centric ‘mash-ups’ that can be delivered as a single agent desktop. Initially built for contact centre environments needing to create client-specific views of data and processes for the front office, iDesktop now also serves as a complete application delivery platform.   From a cost perspective, the intelligent desktop approach unlocks a number of significant business benefits, particularly through its re-use of existing applications and systems rather than through the addition of further, expensive software investments. By helping to reduce call handling time and customer queuing, intelligent desktops effectively raise call centre staff productivity as well as improving the experience offered to customers. This increased efficiency also has the benefit of enabling contact centre operators to staff their centres more efficiently, with agents focused on resolving customer queries rather than kept busy with behind-the-scenes administration. For service organisations, key advantages include increased SLA adherence, the option of integrating multiple service desks, as well as full end-to-end accountability.     Multi-channel sales communication platform for Ford Retail Online   When Ford Retail set up its FordRetailOnline sales operation it knew it needed to support its online operation with a powerful sales management and communications platform. FordRetailOnline has worked with mplsystems to create an integrated user interface to provide its sales staff with a single view of customer activities, link sales activity with lead data, and handle all its email and social media activity alongside calls. Ford Retail also wanted to track campaign performance to provide both management and agents with a real time view of performance.   To support the online sales function mplsystems developed a customised agent desktop to integrate key sales and customer data and provide agents with relevant information by screen pops during customer calls. Where some calls previously might have taken a minute to answer, they’re now handled within 20 seconds. Indeed the Ford Retail team talk proudly of customers who are taken aback by how quickly agents can respond to their queries.   “We needed a really good system that would enable us to recognise the conversations we had already had with customers, enable agents to pick up on previous interactions and make sure that we captured information properly,” said Lee Basham, Head of Sales at Ford Retail Online. “The introduction of our new solution has increased the efficiency of our agents by 25 percent. It has also had a massive impact on our response times – we can now deal with our calls, web enquiries and emails within seconds, and this can make all the difference when it comes to making a sale.”   Effortless communication for Balfour Beatty Workplace   When Balfour Beatty Workplace, a leading total facilities management and business services outsourcing company, wanted to optimise its performance across multiple customer projects it established a major Network Operations Centre to support a number of key accounts.   Central to the success of this project has been the deployment of a highly flexible helpdesk solution that leverages intelligent desktop solution from mplsystems to draw together a range of different client data to provide agents with a simple and easy-to-use solution for all interaction handling that enables a true, single view of client activities.        
  5. 5. Implementing mplsystems’ highly flexible intelligent agent desktop has helped transform Balfour Beatty Workplace’s pool of agents into a network of client experts, transforming service levels and ensuring that the company can support its clients with end-to-end accountability across both its contact and field service operations.   “Working with a single agent desktop has helped to improve all aspects of our operational performance, and is proving a key factor in not only enabling effortless conversations with our customers, but also ensuring that we can keep on increasing our service agility,” comments Lee Dobbins, General Manager at Balfour Beatty Workplace. “Key benefits already achieved include an 18 percent improvement in our response rates, over half a million pounds secured in just nine months through efficiency savings and penalty reductions, as well as a 28 percent improvement in planned maintenance performance SLAs. Adopting an intelligent desktop solution is already paying dividends for Balfour Beatty Workplace.”     Targeting sales for Babcock International Group   Babcock International Group’s Education & Training business provides Government-funded apprenticeships and technical training to a range of sectors across the UK. The company’s contact centre operates in a complex sales environment with constantly changing targets and eligibility criteria. Until recently, generating new leads was a largely manual process and took up too much agent time.   To address this Babcock worked with mplsystems to create a single agent desktop that manages both campaign data and lead generation activities – freeing agents to concentrate on sector requirements and interacting with employers instead of simply managing data. Implementing an intelligent desktop from mplsystems has helped Babcock to optimise its call scheduling, delivering relevant lead data and also providing real time performance data and MI to the business.   According to Simon Barber, Contact Centre Operations Manager at Babcock: “We wanted a system that could adapt to what we needed as a business, rather than forcing us to adapt to what the system provides. Implementing an mplsystems intelligent desktop has clearly been a success. As a result of our new desktop solution, our success rate has increased by 30-40 percent as it enables our agents to spend more time with clients.” Intelligent desktop empowers Fitness First agents to resolve customer queries first time The iDesktop intelligent desktop solution allows Fitness First to aggregate relevant customer and transactional data from the company’s CRM and member databases with incoming contact details to present agents with a single view of all customer activities across the business – regardless of the channel. Combining the agent desktop with multi-channel contact centre technology ensures that Fitness First’s agents always have access to all the information needed to complete customer interactions positively. This removes the need to offload enquiries to the back-office, and lets agents focus on customer conversations while completing transactions as quickly and effectively as possible. “With the iContact and Fitness First database integration, repeat calls were eliminated and agents were empowered to answer customer queries and action them during the call. For the first time we have a single, integrated desktop application, managing calls and also providing access to all the information we need to resolve customer enquiries - dramatically improving first call resolution targets, our overall contact centre efficiency and the customer experience offered.” Ryan Cronk, Performance Analyst at Fitness First mplsystems provides multi-channel contact centre technology, customer experience software and mobile field service technology for sales, service and mobile workforce operations. With over 15 years of contact centre practitioner experience, mplsystems now works with more than a thousand clients globally in the financial services, facilities management, retail, healthcare and leisure sectors, enabling them to gain a competitive edge by extending customer contact throughout the organisation and automating business processes around a single client view.