Theory Of Customer Relativity
BY TROY GROSS
Einstein had his E=MC2.
The Theory of Relativity revolutionized our
understanding of how things, space, and time interact --
which is fine if you're considering intergalactic travel
or building a time machine. But how do businesses,
customers and partners interact? Albert's theory isn't
much help there.
We need a new theory...a Theory of Customer
Relativity. Allow me to present S=QCN
where S represents customer interaction success, CN
represents the quantity of communication channels
available to customers and Q represents the quality of
that success depends on both the quality and quantity of
contact channels available to customers and business
partners. Ok, ok, it's not based in scientific or
mathematical fact. But S=QCN
does help demonstrate the power of Internet protocol
technology, through the use of Web-enabled call centers,
to revolutionize how organizations interact with
customers, business partners, and even themselves. So
let's break down the equation.
The Explosion Of C
When IP technology burst onto the communications
landscape in the 90's, it began a revolution the likes
of which hasn't been seen since Bell transmitted those
first crackly words: "Watson, come here. I need you."
Nearly overnight, e-mail and Web chat emerged and are
quickly joining voice as preferred channels of
communication between companies and their customers.
S=QCN indicates that
one of the variables upon which success (S) depends is
the number of channels available for interaction (CN).
Really, this means that today's customers want
communications choices. Organizations offering
one-dimensional access, i.e., voice only, are
effectively cutting themselves off from all those
current and potential customers that prefer other
E-contact Is Essential For A Successful Web Site
Imagine a Web shopper. Looking for a hockey jersey for
her son's birthday, she uses a search engine to find
Kidshockeyjerzeys.com and Sportsjerseyworld.com. She
starts with Kidshockeyjerzeys.com and quickly finds her
son's favorite team but she also wants to know if the
jersey will shrink when washed. The site offers a
customer service phone number but no e-mail or Web chat
links. Like most Internet users, she's using a dial-up
connection and would have to log off to call. So she
simply clicks the "back" button instead and finds
Sportsjerseyworld.com. This site offers the same jersey
and a click-to-chat link. She clicks, starts a chat
session with a service agent, and her question gets
answered. The agent also mentions that pucks with team
logos are on sale. Happy with the service, she buys both
the jersey and a puck from Sportsjerseyworld.com.
This scenario is more common than you think. Lack of
customer service is the number one reason for abandoned
Internet shopping carts. Chat offers a very easy way to
interact with Web customers as they are making purchase
decisions. Their questions can be answered before they
hit the dreaded back button on their browser and find a
Click-to-e-mail links are equally important.
Customers often prefer e-mail to Web chat or voice. When
responses are prompt and accurate, e-mail can meet
customer needs just as effectively. Offering multiple
access options assures that any customer can get service
in the channel they prefer.
What's On The Horizon
IP technology is enabling new options for customer
service channels that build on chat, e-mail, and voice.
As high-speed Internet connections become more
prevalent, PC-to-PC voice calling will emerge as a
popular communications channel. Click-to-talk links on
Web sites will be as common as e-mail links.
High-bandwidth connections are enabling vastly improved
video streaming. Soon, customers will enjoy access to
video as a service tool, such as a demonstration of how
to use, install, or repair a product.
CN - Q 1
No matter how many contact channels (CN)
are available, if they are poorly managed it's right
back to aggravating customers or, worse, driving them to
competitors. What good is it to offer a click-to-chat
button if customers have to wait 20 minutes? What good
is a click-to-e-mail link if the reply takes two days? A
recent International Customer Service Association/e-Service.com
study found that poor handling of e-contacts creates up
to 48 percent lower customer loyalty.
The Theory of Customer Relativity shows that multiple
channels alone can't achieve success. In addition to
customer-oriented personnel and processes, organizations
need tools that enable quality interactions. That tool
is the Web-enabled call center, better known as the
A Satisfying Customer Experience
The immediate benefit of the e-contact center is
assurance that incoming contacts, regardless of type,
are quickly routed to agents best able to handle them.
E-mails are routed based on the "from" address or key
words in the subject line or body text. Chat requests
are routed based on the Web page from which they
accessed the chat link or a brief survey panel to
determine the nature of the inquiry. Like traditional
call centers, e-contact centers can route voice contacts
based on DNIS, ANI, an automated attendant, or
customer-entered information such as a PIN.
If chat and voice contacts have to wait in queue, the
e-contact center delivers automated messages to minimize
abandonment. E-mail contacts receive an instant
automated acknowledgment to assure the customer that an
agent will reply shortly.
The end result from the customer perspective is
vastly improved response times and a positive overall
interaction -- exactly the experience they are looking
Vastly Improved Efficiency
E-contact centers provide easily accessible historical
trending and productivity data. Managers can monitor
agents working in any channel just like traditional call
center managers can listen in on agents. Call
center-wide information is available in real-time to
agents and managers, helping agents know how much time
can be spent with each customer and helping managers
adjust staffing and contact routing on-the-fly.
IP Ushers In The Age Of The Virtual Contact Center
The e-contact center uses a VoIP gateway to convert PSTN
calls to IP packets, allowing them to be carried, along
with e-mail and chat contacts, on a data network.
Because data networks are free from the switch-based
network's spatial limitations, e-contact center agents
and managers can be located anywhere, even hundreds of
miles apart or in their homes, and work together as if
they were in the same room -- creating a virtual contact
Opportunity Is Now
According to the ICSA/e-Service survey, e-customers
across all industries expect acknowledgment of their
e-mail within one hour. However, only 12 percent receive
an acknowledgment within an hour and only 42 percent
receive one within 24 hours. The study also found that
only 36 percent of e-customers are satisfied with their
The industry is full of statistics pointing to a
wide-open opportunity for organizations to differentiate
using e-contact. Organizations that provide
well-managed, multi-channel customer interaction
experiences can be the beneficiaries of the back button
instead of the casualty.
Putting Theory Into Practice: e-Contact
The urgent need for most organizations today is e-mail
management, but chat and other channels will soon be
equally necessary. There are integrated e-contact
systems that allow staged migration toward an e-contact
center. These allow new channels to be added
incrementally to the existing call center. Using an
integrated approach, an organization could add e-mail
capability while continuing to manage
voice calls through the traditional call center. The
organization can then incorporate chat and other
channels down the road without adding new, disparate
to the infrastructure.
Building an e-contact center doesn't necessarily mean
abandoning current PSTN-based technologies. Most
e-contact centers work well with major PBXs and newer IP
switches. In fact, the major hardware required to
Web-enable a call center is usually limited to a server,
a gateway, and minimal upgrades to agent workstations.
Balancing The Equation
S=QCN is a simple
equation to remind us of the most basic customer service
law: The quality of customer interaction is as important
as the interaction itself. IP technology has opened up a
tremendous array of customer interaction opportunities.
Organizations of all sizes can now offer customers
access to information and services that were the stuff
of dreams just a decade ago. The e-contact center can
harness the opportunities and make those dreams reality.
Troy Gross is director of business development at Cintech
Solutions, which creates Internet technology
solutions to manage and analyze interactions with
customers, partners, and associates for improved
relationships and informed decision making.
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