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Much is written about omnichannel customer experience, and various software vendors now claim to focus on the customer experience. With various degrees of credibility they range from providers of communication channel management to workforce optimization, voice of the customer, self-service, analytics and even CRM. This bandwagon raisesvr_NGCE_Research_12_all_current_channels_for_customer_engagement the question of what  omnichannel customer experience really is and how companies can achieve it. Our benchmark research into next-generation customer engagement shows that consumers now engage with companies through as many as 17 channels of engagement though companies on average support six. The research also shows that every business group, with the exception of IT, engages with prospects and customers at different times during the customer life cycle. Customers today, we know, are more demanding than ever. They want to choose the channel and time of engagement. They want the process to be easy, and they want to be recognized so responses can be personal to them. They expect consistent responses regardless of channel and not to have to repeat actions if they change channels. They want agents empowered to resolve an issue at the first try. Finally, at the end of the interaction they want to feel good about how it went and the outcome.

All this goes into the customer experience and providing all aspects of it in a multichannel and multitouch-point environment is no easy task. vr_NGCE_15_supporting_multiple_channelsAnalysis in our research reveals three related issues for companies:

  • They have multiple systems containing customer data, and it is not easy to integrate them or to share data between systems so that, for example, if a customer’s address changes it is reflected in every system containing the
  • They have implemented multiple channels of engagement, but typically they are stand-alone systems managed by different business groups. This fragmentation impedes sharing data collected through one channel with any subsequent channel the customer uses and even makes it hard to see that the same customer is using different channels.
  • Because business groups tend to have their own processes and systems, it is difficult to ensure that customers always receive consistent information. This causes downstream issues; for example, customers may receive marketing information that doesn’t match what they receive at the point of purchase, which can cost the company sales.

Faced with these challenges, I recommend that companies begin their journey toward providing omnichannel customer experience by adopting three types of systems: analytics, an advanced desktop and collaboration.

Analytics – First, most companies need better understanding of how their current interaction-handling processes are working. They need to know which processes deliver the desired outcomes, which employees are performing best, which channels prospects and customers use for particular actions, and what actions they take during and after interactions. From this they can gauge the overall business success of interaction handling. To manage the volume and types of data required to produce such a comprehensive view and then gain insights from it all, companies should deploy advanced analytics systems for data, speech and text that can ingest data from all sources and produce analysis specific to particular users and uses. Such analysis can be used to identify areas in need of improvement and to create action plans.

Advanced Desktop – To meet all of the customer expectations outlined above, employees need access to all the systems that contain data about the customer. The most practical way of achieving this is to deploy an advanced agent desktop system. In general such a system brings everything together in one place to make it easier to handle interactions and mitigate the need to integrate systems. It should make it easy to sign into and use any system, see what interactions need handling in the different channels, and to access current and historical information about the customer. The system should enable changing channels to deliver responses if need be and automate updating of multiple systems with the same latest data. It also should help automate the process of creating responses, for example, by using templated email responses. The most advanced systems include rules-based processing that can guide the employee’s response, indicating other information to collect and which is most relevant to resolving the interaction.

Collaboration – Even when using an advanced desktop system, it is rare that every employee will have the knowledge, skills and authority to resolve all customer interactions. To meet customer expectations of resolving issues at the first attempt, it is vital that employees be able to collaborate with others who can help them. The latest collaboration systems enable this in a seamless way and ensure that all parties are using the same information.

These three tools are not all it takes to deliver experiences that fully meet customer expectations. As for that, I recently wrote about all that is required to provide EPIC customer experiences. However, for companies not in a position to replace several systems or having limited budgets to invest in new systems, these three types of software present a practical way of achieving that goal.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

The digital economy has changed the way many companies provide products. Some no longer deliver packaged products but provide them as services over a network, typically the Internet. Telecommunications providers in particular are familiar with this business model and have developed processes and systems that use innovations such as product bundles that include elements of fixed charges (such as cost of installation) and variable charges based on usage (such as the number of calls made) and means of registering customers on the network, collecting usage data, invoicing and collections. This Subscriber Experiencemodel has been adopted increasingly by the software industry, replacing a single license fee and maintenance charges for on-premises products with software as a service in which users access products over the Internet and pay per user and/or for usage. Adoption of this model by other types of business has led them to think of customers as subscribers.

These models disrupt established end-to-end customer relationships, billing processes and customer experience management. The customer relationship changes from a linear to a cyclic model. The linear model essentially consisted of finding customers, closing sales and providing support as and when it was needed. The new model is circular, based on finding customers, agreeing on an initial contract, enabling the service, collecting usage data, billing and providing support on a continuous basis; the overall aim is not just to keep the customer satisfied but to increase usage by selling additional services, extending the lifetime of the initial contract and thus driving up customer lifetime value. In this scheme each interaction involves marketing, sales and support, and quality of service (how well the service meets expected performance criteria); each aspect is likely to have an impact on customer loyalty and thus lifetime value.

The challenges inherent in this model are revealed in our recent benchmark research into recurring revenue. vr_Recurring_Revenue_03_recurring_revenue_challengesIt finds that customer engagement throughout the customer life cycle is the most common challenge (for 56 percent of participating organization), followed by cross- and up-selling (46%) and customer retention (39%). Of relevance in this context is my perspective on providing excellent customer experience, which requires attention to four customer journeys: across engagement channels, throughout the customer life cycle, across internal business groups and frequently across multiple product lines. A subscription or recurring revenue business model faces all these challenges, especially in coordinating activities across business groups. Most companies are organized into separate business groups, which typically have their own processes, systems, information and target metrics, which are not set to drive up customer value throughout the life cycles of subscribers. For example, a simple invoice inquiry can arrive through any channel and could involve the contact center and the finance and customer service functions. Once an issue is resolved to the customer’s satisfaction, there is an opening to provide information about new options and perhaps get the customer to expand the services used or extend the current contract. Each engagement should thus be treated as an opportunity to increase the lifetime value of customers and to deliver outcomes that both meet customer expectations and business goals.

It is not unusual that a significant percentage of a company’s customers are dormant – that is, they buy a product and, if there are no issues, are unlikely to engage further. One of the advantages of a recurring revenue model based on usage is VentanaResearch_RR_BenchmarkResearchthat companies can track which subscribers are active and which are dormant, which are making most use of the service and which are not using their full allowance, and which have high costs of service. The method for which to accomplish this is through analytics that are Recurring Revenue Benchmark found was the most important technology to use in 82 percent of organizations. Using advanced analytics systems companies can use such data to determine actions that can increase customer value or point out potential closing of the contract. The connected world of digital devices known as the Internet of Things is likely to motivate more companies to adopt a recurring revenue model for their products. In such cases companies should pay particular attention to the impact such models have on the long-term subscriber relationship and make sure they have appropriate processes, systems and metrics in place to maximize customer lifetime value.

Regards,

Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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