See Customers Clearly Now
Feb 4, 2013 5:00 AM PT
Customers expect call centers to know everything about them -- their order history, what they've posted about the brand on Facebook, and how long they've bought from the company. Increasingly, companies are beginning to keep up with that expectation, and the more they do, the better customer service they can provide.
"A real-time 360-degree view of the client is incredibly important," Sid Probstein, CTO and co-founder of Attivio told CRM Buyer. "It's the difference between good service and bad service."
The Agent's View
With a system allowing a true 360-degree view of customers, call center agents have access to a wealth of information when a call comes in. Ideally, this information helps them to understand callers and provide a tailored customer service experience.
"Any time you're talking to a client, whether it's inbound or outbound, you can look not only at their transactions, but all of their comments they've made that reps can capture in notes," explained Probstein. "All of that data becomes available and is instantly accessible. It can include what they've been asking about, what their mood might be. It can also include product recommendations. We make this information actionable."
Systems that provide the ability to search information give agents even more access to a customer's history and data.
Developing a 360-degree view of customers depends, in part, on defining what that view should include and how it should be organized.
"[A 360-degree view is an] integrated dataset of all customer-related information maintained by the company, enhanced with external data sets that enable segmentation, made accessible to the entire organization, with data security and privacy restrictions, via the appropriate dissemination channel," Rick Abbott, president of 360DegreeViewtold CRM Buyer.
The benefits of developing this view to call centers and the businesses behind them can be tremendous.
"For the business overall it can drive increased revenue due to enhanced customer satisfaction and identification of cross selling opportunities, and lower costs by facilitating automation and self-service, which lead to increased efficiency."
Achieving a 360-degree view involves both gathering data and disseminating it.
"The engine for a 360-degree customer view is data collection, integration, cleansing and augmentation software," said Abbott. "The dissemination and distribution of information includes web-based applications, spreadsheets, fixed reports, and to a lesser degree proprietary desktop applications."
Some 360-degree view systems also provide access to social media posts to give agents an even more comprehensive view of how customers have interacted with the company.
"Just having the internal view is not enough," said Probstein. "The external view of social media is just as important."
If it's so beneficial, why has a 360-degree customer view remained so elusive for call centers?
"The common perception is that it's a technical issue that prevents most companies from building and maintaining a 360-degree customer view," said Abbott. The technical aspects are often the least of the problems. "The main impediments are political battles where departments or business units \u2018hoard' customer data and refuse to share with other groups in the company," Abbott explained. Apathy -- usually at the executive level -- about how customers would like to interact with the company, and ignorance regarding technical feasibility and perceived difficulty of implementing a 360-degree customer view can also be obstacles.
Many companies continue to silo customer information, separating data about orders, for instance, from other facts and details. This kind of silo effect continues to hinder progress toward a truly 360-degree view.
"Companies are organized around orders, not customers," Kathleen Peterson, founder of PowerHouse Consultingtold CRM Buyer. "The consequence is when I bring up your order, I don't get any other information about you, because the industry has not yet made it a priority to merge service and distribution."
In this era of big data, more information than ever is available about customers. The ongoing task, however, is organizing and interpreting that data to make it useful for call center agents on the front lines of customer service.
"That's what this big data era is all about," said Probstein. "You really need to understand everything about your customers."