Data silos are even worse for Customer Support than for Sales

I’ve always been fascinated by the American focus on Sales, sometimes at the cost of Customer Service (as this terrible example demonstrates). Salespeople make the most money, salespeople wear upmarket suits, they drive fancy cars and they’re pretty much the only people that’re qualified to be called “rainmakers” in any organization. In other economies, though – notably India today, for example – consumer-focused companies don’t seem to worry as much about Sales as about Support. Sales, to most of them, is an operational process: the market exists, so getting paying customers is mostly a matter of throwing more money (equity!) at it. Customer Support, on the other hand, is critical: after all, there are a number of well-funded companies chasing the same consumers for the same services. Reading this article by Ashley Smith in the customer-service context, the problem is MUCH bigger for companies that have a fast-growing marketplace. Data from sales, returns, past support calls, past emails, even past chat requests – all of that goes to making sure the consumer remains your customer no matter what competitors throw at him or her. Consider just three examples.

  • Our customers insist that, when a call comes in, the agent must know the name of the caller before s/he picks up the phone. Referring to the caller by his/her name in the initial greeting causes a very strong emotional connection and that’s terrific. The challenge, though, is that some of the consumer records in Impel may have come from an inbound email-to-ticket. Or from an online order that has a different phone number or only the email ID. In these cases, we don’t know the consumer’s phone number: how do we pop up a window that shows his/her name?
  • Once an agent “connects” with the consumer, either because s/he called in or requested a chat or even just sent an email to the company, the agent needs to be aware of a set of key metrics about the consumer in order to be effective. Maybe the date of the last order placed, maybe the total value of orders in the past year, possibly even an inferred “loyalty level” based on recent purchases. these help the agent frame the conversation in a personalized manner. But they’re all summaries of information from external systems – order management, loyalty management, etc. How can the agent see all this, in summarized and simple form, in the few initial seconds of the call?
  • Consumers call or connect with a company because they have very specific challenges to deal with. The groceries they ordered yesterday were squashed, the food delivered was cold, whatever. The agent now needs to get to that specific transaction and read off details that give the consumer the confidence that the data is available, so help is at hand. But those details are typically locked away in secure, siloed transactional systems that are designed to take on new orders, not to cough up details of existing ones. How can the agent find the details quickly enough to keep consumer-hold-time at a minimum? This is an issue not just in calls and chats but in responding to emails, too: the more hoops the agent has to jump through, the less s/he is inclined to do so – agents are human, too!

To make all this work well, the silver bullet pitched most is this thing called “integration” – something Ashley talks about, too, in her article. IMHO, integration will itself not cut it: being able to “integrate” systems only means that they can trade data with each other. What’s most important here is that all the integrated data be available at the point of most needed: to the agent. And it be available in a simple, accessible model that does not involve multiple tabs / screens / logins. The good thing is, if you can make that data available to your agent, then you can build reporting that makes details and summaries available to his/her manager, to business analysts, even rolled up to everyone including your CEO. So while integration among systems is important, an integrated system usually works better.

[Time to toot our horn] Consider the image below – an actual screen-shot that an agent sees, for one of our customers. On this one screen is quite a bit of info. And it all gets there because of integration (from the customer’s transactions), configuration (of Impel screens and back-end) and some last-mile design thinking. With all this data available, everyone from the agent to the CEO an see what s/he wants, detailed/summarized as needed. That leads to everything from better customer interactions to better top line and better bottom line. That’s what breaking down silos does!

Configured Call Pop-up

Agree? Disagree? Tell us!


4 out of 5 for eCommerce

I just read Jodi Beuder’s very interesting commentary on their research into customer service issues for 2015 entitled “Five customer service imperatives for Internet retailers“. As I read this article, it brought to mind several ways in which Impel customers could leverage our features to address these service imperatives. Based on the study, the the key issues that e-retailers needed to take care of in 2015 were: Go Mobile, Responsiveness is key, Unite your channels, Self-service is in demand and Be Transparent. As I read through the article, I could immediately see how Impel could help address 4 of the 5 imperatives.

Go mobile: Today, mobile apps are a huge part of e-retailer offerings. In a recent interview, Ola Cabs revealed that over 68% of their business came from their mobile app. But when

In-app support - Impel
In-app support with Chat, tickets, self-service

an app customer requires customer service, do you force them to go online to your website or to your call center? Mobile app customers prefer staying within your app and getting support right there. With Impel, your app customers help themselves with FAQs, raise tickets or chat with your service agents, all from within your app. Don’t force your app customers to leave your app. Earn 5-star ratings with Impel’s in-app customer service, embedded into YOUR app.

Responsiveness is key: Customers want support NOW. They are not willing to wait for days to get a response. When they have a question, they want it answered immediately. A 2013 Survey by Steve Van Bellegham, found that customers expected answers to their queries in 4 hours. With Impel, you can provide responses via  an integrated call center, Web Chat, in-app help desk support, automated email-to-case support – multiple ways in which customers can reach out to you and expect to get a quick response.  At Impel, we say: “Live everywhere that your customer does“. We give you easy, fast ways to respond to customer queries.

Unite your channels: Today, a lot of retailers do provide  support in a variety of channels. In fact, they may provide support in all the channels that we do with Impel. But the critical issue is that these channels are each in an individual silo, with no integration between them. So let’s say a customer raises an issue via chat, then tries to follow up on the same issue via an email and then calls your call center, because they still haven’t had their issue sorted out. Without an omnichannel solution like Impel, your customer is forced to repeat their issue to each of the agents that they talk to and none of the agents have any idea whether someone else is working on it. So not only are you aggravating your customer, multiple resources within your company, may be working on exactly the same issue, which is a total waste of time and effort. With Impel’s Omnichannel service model, all issues and activities with a customer, whichever channel they may have come in from, appear in a single 360-degree view of the customer, reducing customer frustration and empowering agents to deal with customers much more efficiently.

Self service in demand: According to a recent Forrester report, self-service usage

Add an FAQ to multiple categories
Adding FAQs in Impel

increased from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. Destination CRM, says that 45% of companies offering web or mobile self-service have reported an increase in site traffic and a decrease in phone calls. These are phenomenal trends for internet retailers. With an easy to use interface to set up Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), Impel can help you move most routine queries from the much more expensive call center to a self-help channel, that customers today want to use.

And as for the 5th imperative of Be transparent, we figure that generally our customers are transparent with their processes and methods, just as we are with ours ;-)

So make it easy for your customers to reach out to you with Impel. And make it simpler and more cost-effective for your customer service team to deal with customer service issues.

I am truly excited about how Impel can handle the omnichannel service issue for Internet retailers.

Who decides how customer-centric their companies are?

Yesterday, I was struck by a very interesting line in a recent Forrester report titled “Trends 2015: The Future of Customer Service”. In the very first line of the report, Kate Leggett says “In the age of the customer, executives don’t decide how customer-centric their companies are — customers do.”

The explosion of social media, the easy availability of apps for everything and the always-connected consumer have caused a tremendous change in consumer behavior and

Multi channel customer support
Omnichannel customer service with Impel

expectations. These are profound changes that no company can afford to ignore. The good thing is that consumers are now more than willing to help themselves. While this reduces the cost of customer service for companies, the challenge is to provide simple, easy-to-use support systems that consumers can use on their own.

Per the Forrester report, for the first time ever, in 2014, Web self-service edged out phone support as the preferred channel for customer support. In a survey of 4,509 US adults, 76% used Web self-service, while 73% used phone support. The interesting thing here, is that Web self-service has grown steadily from 67% in 2012 to 76% in 2014. During that same time period, phone support has stayed stagnant at 73%. So while phone support shows no sign of fading out in the near future, other channels of customer service are showing serious growth. This means that it becomes more imperative for companies to offer customer service options such as a customer knowledge base, chat, perhaps even community support forums.

Multi-channel is a term that’s being bandied around a lot these days, but one of the key takeaways from the research is that customers don’t want just multi-channel support; they really want all those channels to be unified – so that each request is recorded and easily answered in ONE, single system. This is beneficial to all the stakeholders in the situation – consumers, agents and companies.

  • Consumers no longer have to repeat themselves when they use a new channel or talk to a new agent
  • Agents know the complete history of a consumer’s interactions in a particular situation and can talk to the consumer intelligently and with more empathy
  • Companies save time, money and effort by reducing consumer handling time and increasing first-contact resolution.

While most companies do offer service in multiple channels, the frustrating consumer experience has been that each channel is in a separate silo. Thus forcing the consumer to repeat their story in every channel that they use. 75% of US online consumers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good service.

Most companies have not implemented omnichannel support and most haven’t trained agents in cross-channel service. If all channels feed into the same customer service software, then all companies need to do is to train their agents on that software. This makes immense sense for companies, because agents can then pick up the slack when there is heavier demand on a specific channel. Companies then clearly present to their consumers, that they value their time by obviating the need to repeat or explain their issue multiple times.

With cross-channel trained, empowered agents and the right omnichannel customer support software in place, this is exactly what you can provide to your consumers. Ensure that your agents can view transaction data from your operational systems within your customer service system, and you WILL be the customer service star! And while you are at it, make sure that you can provide exactly the same kind of service to your mobile app customers as well.


Chat – now more than just the cool way to hangout with friends!

Whether it’s your mom texting you about where to meet for lunch, or your co-worker sending you a link to a an article about your competitor’s new product release or an

Social Media User ranking global
Global Social Media ranking by users March 2015

old school friend starting a chat on Facebook, messaging has become an innate part of the way that you communicate. The latest statistics from Statista show that messaging apps like Whatsapp, QQ, Wechat and SnapChat are all growing exponentially.

The great thing about messaging is that it is quick, convenient and private. And more importantly, it has the flexibility to get you an instant response or an asynchronous response. That’s the reason why messaging is changing the way that consumers engage with brands whether via social media, live chat or even with call centers.

Change in consumer behavior: Consumers may not want to post on social media where their issue could get lost in a sea of messages, or they may not want to be put on hold in a call center. In fact, they may not want to make a call at all. For a lot of people, calling a call center is the equivalent of visiting a dentist for a root canal  :-)

Messaging has now crossed the divide from personal to professional. Consumer communication channels are changing and evolving, right before us. If messaging is the most common way that people communicate in their personal lives, doesn’t it make sense for brands to leverage the power of the channel to communicate with their consumers?The one-to-one nature of messaging allows the brand and the consumer to connect on an immediate and very personal level.

Here’s why Live Chat with your mobile consumers makes perfect sense for brands:

  1. Live chat offers access to consumers to respond when they are ready: Today’s
    Impel in-app Chat screenshot
    In-app chat with consumer in Impel

    digital consumer isn’t ready to wait. When s/he wants an answer, s/he wants it NOW. And if not s/he’s gone, straight to your competitor. This consumer also requires their own personal space and appreciates that they can reach out to your brand asynchronously. Live chat is the perfect way to support these digitally self-aware consumers, whenever and wherever they require it.

  2. Live Chat nurtures more meaningful relationships:  While consumers are increasingly tech-savvy, they still crave one-to-one human interaction. With Live Chat, the conversation is meaningful, private and unique. It makes the brand engagement feel more like chatting with a friend, rather than a call to an impersonal call center.
  3. Live Chat saves money:  Most consumers need some support in their journey with a brand. And the consumer generally prefers the most direct and quick path for communication. Call centers are more expensive both for the consumer and the brand. Email and social media questions may take too long to get a response. Clearly, Live Chat wins over other communication channels for convenience for the consumer and in terms of cost for the brand.

Consumers are demanding immediate, one-to-one engagement with brands from within their mobile app. How are you engaging with these digital consumers?

Mobile self-service: Why it’s important for SMBs and consumers.

Ok, quickly. Your alarm goes off in the morning? What’s the first thing you do once you turn it off?

The always-on smartphone

Chances are that you pick up your mobile phone and check your social media notifications, text messages, news updates and emails. If you’re like most of this connected generation, you use your phone throughout the day to connect to the world around you, to chat with friends, text with them, find a lunch spot, research that gadget thingie you want to buy…. Bottom line, your phone has become your primary communication channel with the world around you. It’s always on and lets you do what you want, when you want to do it.

Self Service on the smartphone

So don’t you think consumers like you would also want to get customer service on their mobile phones? Consumers have no time to wait on hold in a call center. They don’t want to send an email and wait for days or even hours to get a response. They want answers to questions as soon as they ask them. With the plethora of apps out there, making a consumer wait for a response means you’ve already lost them to a competing app. According to new research from Synthetix, 75% of consumers believe that companies should make answers to common questions available on smart phones. According to Echo Research, 50% of mobile users would prefer to use a mobile customer service app versus calling a call center.

In-app self service.

FAQs within your mobile app
In-app self service for apps

Let’s take a simple example. You are ordering a birthday gift for your best friend using an app on your mobile phone. You’ve chosen the items already. You want to know if they can deliver to your friend’s rather remote location. Would you rather use a simple in-app FAQ to find out, or would you switch out of the app, call the call center, spend 15 minutes on hold and then ask someone the question. Doesn’t it make sense for the company to provide such simple informational queries right inside the app? Having these queries and answers within the app, shows the consumer that you care about their interactions with you, and that you value their time. Thus making it much more likely that they will continue doing business with your company.

Customer Service is a key differentiator.

For an SMB trying to build a loyal and happy consumer base, what can be greater than consumers who are not only willing but are happy to help themselves. You can do so much more with a smaller, leaner team. A self-service portal with most FAQs answered can reduce loads on your support team significantly. And if that same set of FAQs is now available within your mobile app, you free up your team to work on more important value-added tasks.

With so much competition in the mobile app space, customer service is crucial and could give you that winning edge over your competition.

And with self-service on all your channels available at any time, here’s your chance to build a bunch of enthusiastic and loyal consumers.

Now isn’t that a great win for everyone?