Call Center CRM Adoption Is Just the Beginning

By Robert Killory

A disconnect currently exists between the customer service experience businesses think they deliver and their customers’ perception. While 80 percent of companies believe they deliver superior service, only 8 percent of consumers agree. Yet the disparity is by no means due to any lack of intent on the part of most organizations, with 80 percent wanting to use customer service as means of competitive differentiation. It’s actually the result of poor execution.

As it becomes increasingly difficult to sustain a competitive advantage based on product alone, call centers have quickly become the swing vote as it relates to ongoing consumer loyalty. As customer demands and expectations continue to drive consumer relationships, many businesses have turned to CRM systems and platforms to assist in managing those relationships and connecting with potential prospects. However, despite the customer management benefits CRM provides, the main challenge in today’s call centers has more to do with the ability to convert those customer details into actionable data.

In short, how can businesses facilitate the connection between agent and customer when it matters most – at the point of interaction? There are several things to consider.

Consolidation of Customer Data: Today’s call centers continue to represent the front lines of customer service despite 67 percent of consumers stating a preference for self-service as opposed to speaking to a live representative. Why? Quite simply, customer experiences are still heavily measured by the quality of service provided during those instances where self-service tools fall short and live interactions excel.

However, a call center’s ability to deliver superior customer service is contingent on the ability to gain a 360-degree view of each consumer. To that end, CRM plays a crucial role in providing a data platform through which client information can be consolidated – as long as businesses make the effort to do so.

The simple act of using a CRM system is just the first step toward combining all the consumer data-points – billing, support tickets, sales, and so forth – needed to offer a superior customer experience. In short, if CRM is to live up to its full name – customer relationship management – organizations must extend their role to become the central nervous system for all other relevant consumer details, including support tickets, billing, workforce management, and sales: one platform to source the many.

Agent Access: With 69 percent of consumers equating a good customer experience to how quickly an inquiry is resolved, it’s surprising that call center first-call resolution rates still hover around 60 percent. While many businesses have turned to technology to help address the service gap (subscribing to an average of 9.6 SaaS solutions by the end of the year), the disparity continues. Why?

Among the primary complaints by call center agents is the lack of access to timely consumer data. So while CRM does help, the fact remains that without access to those data points at the time of the interaction, the value of such platforms diminishes. However, should CRM be granted the ability to act as a central repository for all consumer-related information (including details sourced from other solutions), call center agents would be far more effective and efficient.

Actionable Data: Today’s call centers are overrun with consumer information, and businesses are scrambling to convert valuable insights into actionable data. Unfortunately the disparity between the multiple solutions businesses use across departments has complicated the ability to consolidate, interpret, and convert the information into actionable items for call center agents to respond to or act on.

However, with the widespread adoption of CRM platforms and the cloud, the opportunity to unify and present customer information in a manner facilitating an agent’s ability to meet and exceed client expectation is within reach. With CRM potentially acting as the primary platform from which all actionable data is presented to an agent, the ability to enhance cross-selling opportunities improve first-call resolutions.

Having a CRM solution within a call center will, in itself, not automatically provide superior customer service, but it is a start. Call centers and their agents still face a lack of insight into consumers, despite customers expecting them to have access to all the necessary details to meet their needs and demands. But CRM does provide the basic platform from which call centers can consolidate and source the information needed to deliver a superior customer experience. It’s not so much a matter of not having the information but rather how to effectively organize, interpret, and present it to the agent in need of it.

Robert Killory is the chief customer officer at 3CLogic, a provider of cloud contact center solutions. Robert has over twenty-five years of experience developing and implementing contact center solutions, having held multiple leadership positions including CTO at TouchStar Software and VP of Enterprise Architecture at JP Morgan Chase.

[From Connection Magazine Mar/Apr 2015]