Microsoft Dynamics CRM - Self Service Whitepaper


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Microsoft Dynamics CRM - Self Service Whitepaper

  1. 1. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner Sponsored by
  2. 2. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner Senior executives, call center leaders and IT and operations managers are now paying a great deal of attention to self-service applications because of their ability to drive enterprise and call center effectiveness. Investments in self-service technologies have skyrocketed during the past two years, as companies large and small have built or enhanced their Web and Interactive Voice Response (IVR) self-service applications. More than one company has recently contacted me to ask for assistance in building a zero-footprint call center. This is an interesting concept where an organization uses self-service automation to replace live agents. While the overall value of zero-footprint service centers is debatable, the need to reduce operating expenses is clear. Enterprises are looking for ways to cut costs. Self-service applications are a proven method for achieving this essential corporate goal. A well executed self- service strategy that prioritizes customer needs can enhance the customer experience and speed problem resolution and order placement while reducing costs. Web and IVR self-service applications are essential for most call centers. Leading call centers use self-service applications to handle anywhere from 20% to 90% of customer service interactions. (The percentage varies by call center purpose and geography.) As the demand for customer service continues to grow, self-service is not an option but a necessity. Business and Call Center Trends Driving Automation Four business trends are driving companies to invest in self-service automation to eliminate or minimize the need to employ live agents to assist customers. These trends are: 1. The need to reduce call center operating expenses in order to improve the company’s margins and bottom line 2. The desire to automate as many servicing tasks as possible prior to moving call center activities offshore 3. Existing self-service applications are reaching their end-of-life and are in need of replacement; in some situations it is less expensive to replace a solution than to continue to maintain an old platform 4. The current generation of self-service Web and voice portal technologies and solutions can deliver high-value applications not previously available © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -1- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  3. 3. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner Five additional call center departmental trends are pushing even the most quality-conscious managers to consider using self-service to eliminate or dramatically reduce their need for live agents. These call center trends include: 1. Pressure to improve departmental productivity 2. The ongoing agent attrition problem 3. The challenge of finding qualified agents 4. Increasing cost of agents 5. Poor service quality and bad public relations associated with offshore outsourcers While all of these enterprise and call center-centric issues need to be addressed, there are offsetting factors and situations that require executives and call center managers to maintain some live agent support. At the highest level, a customer- centric organization must use service as a strategic differentiator throughout the customer life cycle. Live agents with appropriate skills are uniquely capable of leveraging a service call to sell more products, retain customers and build loyalty. Enterprises must find the right balance between live service and automated self- service. It is absolutely more costly to have a live agent handle a call than to automate the interaction via the Web or on an IVR, easily 300% to 500% more expensive. A typical Web self-service transaction costs less than $0.25 and an inbound IVR transaction less than $0.40, versus $5 to $7 for a call. However, in most situations, it is much more costly for a company to lose a customer than to use a live agent to respond to inquiries that require the human touch. Unfortunately, many companies are repeating an industry-wide mistake from back in the early 1980s, when IVR systems were first introduced. At that time, many managers believed that if customers were forced into an IVR they would readily use it. These companies neglected to ask their customers what they would like to do in the IVR and, even worse, didn’t allow them to choose how they wanted to be served. Instead, they channeled all customers into the IVR and all too frequently did not give them a way out. This led to a lot of very unhappy customers and, consequently, lost business. The industry should have learned its lesson about forcing customers to use self- service applications, but current financial pressures to reduce call center and overall customer service expenses are leading too many companies to make this © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -2- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  4. 4. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner same mistake again. Fortunately, customers now have recourse. Unless they are captive to the provider (which happens when there is a monopoly, such as a utility), customers can defect to another company. But now they can also inform other customers of the poor service the company is providing. Using a variety of community forums, such as bulletin boards, blogs, complaint sites (e.g.,,,, MSN’s Consumer Action Forum, and many other social networking tools (e.g., Yahoo! Answers, Facebook, MySpace, Ning, Epinions), they can share their experiences with other consumers. Companies like Dell, Sprint, Comcast and AOL, by not taking notice and failing to listen to their customers, have ended up in an industry “hall of shame,” where their poor service is widely publicized on the Web and in news reports. Finding the Right Balance between Self-Service and Live Agent Support The new generation of self-service applications for the Web and IVR is excellent. Many of these tools are easy to use and enable enterprises to build systems to address a wide variety of customer issues. (These solutions are available on a licensed, hosted or managed service basis.) Web self-service environments can automate most activities that previously required agent assistance, from basic informational questions, to transactional matters, such as opening a trouble ticket and scheduling a service visit, or configuring and placing an order for a sophisticated system. In most cases, the only issue remaining for customer self- service on the Web is security, and even that can be addressed today. See Figure 1. © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -3- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  5. 5. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner Figure 1: The Benefits of Self-Service Touch-Tone Speech- Web Self- IVR Enabled IVR Service Productivity Productivity Productivity Improvements Improvements Improvements Revenue Revenue Generation Generation Outstanding Outstanding Customer Customer Experience Experience Branding Branding Complex BENEFITS Activities Source: DMG Consulting LLC, April 2009 IVRs present their own set of challenges. While speech-enabled IVRs are much friendlier than touch-tone-based systems, they do not have the cognitive capabilities of live agents. Activities that do not require decision-making – balance inquiries, order status requests, changes of address, credit requests, initiating trouble tickets, password resets, etc. – can be easily handled on an IVR. (Again, the security issue must be addressed.) However, there are functions and situations that require human assistance, such as when the wrong amount is taken out of a person’s account, or there is a misunderstanding involving a number of departments in a company. Customers may want the reassurance of speaking to an agent, as is often the case when a complicated order or fraud report is involved. At times, enterprises benefit from having a live agent handle a call instead of a self-service application, even if it costs more. These include instances where an agent could convert the call from an expensive customer service transaction into a profitable incremental sale. Or, an agent may be able to convince a customer who is about to close their account to remain with the company. Enterprises should use analytical solutions to critique all calls and identify inquiry types that © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -4- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  6. 6. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner are most likely to be highly profitable sales or retention opportunities. These calls should be made available to live agents, if possible. (Keep in mind that some callers really prefer self-service and would be frustrated and angry if they initiated a self-service transaction and were sent to a live agent instead.) Empowering the Customer with Choice Increases Automation Rates Customer demographics are changing, and enterprises need to give their customers what they want. Generation Y, or ‘Millennials,’ believe that self-service is a right, not an option. These individuals have grown up with PCs, PDAs and WAP-enabled mobile phones. A large percentage of this audience prefers self- service and will place a call only when they can’t achieve the desired results with a self-service application. It’s important to allow customers to select their channel of choice, but keep in mind that the preferred channel will change based on customer whim. It’s also essential to allow customers to move easily from one channel to another. So, if a customer starts off on a website and can’t find the information they need via FAQ, knowledge base or search, make it easy for them to transfer to a live agent. Even better, place them in the call queue based on the time they entered the website. This will show customers that you value their time, and encourages them to return to the website, even if they didn’t find what they needed the first time. Blame the Company for Bad Customer Service We all hear about bad customer service experiences, an increasing number of which involve poorly implemented self-service IVRs. In most cases today, the technology is not at fault. The underlying voice portal solutions that power these environments are excellent and flexible. Unfortunately, however, they are too frequently used for transactions that should never have been put on an IVR in the first place, or the automated systems are poorly scripted and seemingly designed to frustrate customers. Enterprise management is clearly to blame for poor self- service solutions. Customers should do everything they can to make their opinions known, as this is likely to be one of the only ways to get these problems fixed. (Consider the Dell situation – the backlash against their poor service was so strong that it hurt their bottom line, and Michael Dell returned to manage the company.) Companies that lose sight of their customers’ servicing needs are placing too much emphasis on short-term cost reductions, while sacrificing the long-term value of their customer relationships. © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -5- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  7. 7. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner Determining What to Automate via Self-Service When identifying self-service automation opportunities, the guiding principle is to look for interactions that do not require human cognitive and decision-making capabilities to complete. The best way to find these activities is to ask your agents. Even if you already have a website and speech-enabled IVR that are handling a large number of customer inquiries, new activities and transactions can likely be added to your self-service, particularly as innovation keeps improving the capabilities of these applications. But keep in mind that a website offers many more opportunities for self-service than an IVR. Ultimately, no matter how many self-service choices you offer, customers should always have the option to select which channels they want to use and to easily move between them. © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -6- April 2009 All rights reserved.
  8. 8. Self-Service: Putting Customers First Makes You a Winner About Microsoft Dynamics CRM Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a full customer relationship management (CRM) suite with marketing, sales, and service capabilities that are fast, familiar, and flexible, helping businesses of all sizes to find, win, and grow profitable customer relationships. Delivered through a network of channel partners providing specialized services, Microsoft Dynamics CRM works with familiar Microsoft® products to streamline processes across an entire business. For more information about Microsoft Dynamics CRM, visit: Accelerate your Business Accelerate your business with flexible solutions that fit your business today while you plan and grow for tomorrow. The CRM Accelerators provide you with customizations that expand the capabilities of your Microsoft Dynamics CRM implementation without the time and expense of custom development or additional software acquisitions. For example, the eService CRM Accelerator enables web self-service environments to automate many routine business activities, from basic customer inquiries to the scheduling of services that previously required the assistance of agents. To download Microsoft Dynamics CRM Accelerators, visit the CRM Accelerator Web site: About Microsoft Founded in 1975, Microsoft (NASDAQ “MSFT”) is the worldwide leader in software, services and solutions that help people and businesses realize their full potential. About the Author Donna Fluss is the founder and president of DMG Consulting LLC, the leading provider of contact center and analytics research, market analysis and consulting. She is the author of The Real- Time Contact Center, the 2008 Contact Center Executive and Management Briefing, and many other leading industry reports on contact center hosting, speech analytics, performance management, workforce management, surveying and analytics, and quality management/liability recording. Contact Donna at © 2009 DMG Consulting LLC -7- April 2009 All rights reserved.