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Customer Relationship Management January 2005

Bolstering Customer Service Through Service Resolution Management

By Brian Kelly, KANA

Marketing professionals are expected to grow revenue by acquiring new prospects, quickly converting them into sales, and then expanding and growing the relationship. However, with marketing costs continuing to rise, budgets remaining stagnant or declining, and increasingly low response rates, it is more difficult than ever to meet objectives.

Service resolution accounts for 80
percent of the time and cost of providing customer

As companies look to grow their customer base, they are continually seeking ways to provide greater levels of customer service in order to attract and retain patrons. Although most organizations realize that providing great customer service is an essential part of their everyday operation, many are saddled with corporate mandates to remain responsive but cut costs. In order to meet corporate goals and still provide customers with the answers they need quickly, accurately and efficiently, organizations are turning to service resolution management.

There are three steps of customer service transactions — routing, case tracking and service resolution. The SSPA 2003 Support Industry Benchmark Study reported that routing calls is only five percent of the cost of providing customer service, 15 percent is the case management portion, and service resolution accounts for 80 percent of the time and cost of providing customer service. This is due to a number of factors, including disparate information, agent turnover and a lack of repeatable guiding processes. The numbers are eye-opening and are causing organizations to take a closer look at the process around the overall customer service experience. By optimizing the resolution process, a company can dramatically reduce the overall cost of providing service and create happy and loyal customers as a result.

The mature segments of the customer service market are routing and case management. Routing is a well automated process, as most companies already having a routing system in place to properly and efficiently route service calls to the right department or agent within an organization. Obviously, this is a key component to customer support. It is, however, only the first step.

The next step is case management, which manages customer contacts or correspondence. Case management tools allow companies to build a record of those contacts and customer histories so the enterprise can maintain relevance and begin to build a relationship with the customer. A successful framework of service resolution management is built with a knowledge base of customer data and information. Organizations must build a knowledge base for customer service agents with a holistic view into the customer lifecycle. Information in the knowledge base should consist of how many times a particular customer has called, what type of calls he or she has made in the past and which products and services the customer has purchased. However, while these tools are an essential part of the customer service process and are absolutely necessary to automate and manage a call center, they are only the beginning of the process that makes up the customer experience. The goal of customer service is to provide answers to the customer. Call routing automation and case management are not the tools that actually accomplish that task.

The third and most vital step in a customer service transaction is service resolution. Service resolution focuses on resolving inquiries during the customer support process. SRM applications reduce service costs, improve customer satisfaction and increase revenue opportunities by enabling agents to resolve customer inquiries faster and more consistently across service channels. The ability to provide an enhanced level of customer satisfaction through SRM is due to the open architecture associated with effective service resolution solutions. By enabling the service resolution application to connect to established legacy knowledge bases, call center agents can automatically be presented with customer data that allow them to present the most appropriate solution to the customer.

Once agents are armed with the correct answers, they then need to deliver the solutions to customers. This could involve providing the best solution and offering alternative solutions while also ensuring that opportunities to cross-sell or upsell are not missed. A service resolution application interfaces with existing case management and/or call center applications and optimizes the existing process. An effective service resolution application can solve customer issues by understanding the customer’s request and providing the agent with the right tools, information and guidance.
A complete service resolution process involves several touch points with the customer: phone, e-mail, chat and self-service. The service agent’s job is easier when these communication tools are integrated with tools such as search, collaboration, authoring, response and knowledge bases. Workflow on top of each solution further streamlines the process and reduces time spent on resolving the actual inquiry.

Guessing Is Not A Best Practice
The workflows associated with the service resolution process take the guess work out of finding and delivering the right answers, even to the most complex inquiries. Many best practices are often lost within call centers due to agent turnover or simply because they are not documented. A complete service resolution process is one that captures best practices and ensures they are available to all contact center agents so when common inquires are asked, both new and established agents can guide customers to the proper answers through a resolution workflow that encompasses best practices and also prompts agents when there is an opportunity for cross-selling and upselling.

The ability to cross-sell and upsell customers is a critical component to any service resolution application. Cross-selling and upselling provides companies with opportunities to bolster revenue and increase customer loyalty. However, the most successful companies realize that it is much easier to sell to a happy customer rather than one who is having difficulty getting his or her inquiry addressed. This is where SRM can help. By increasing a contact center’s first-call resolution rate, phone conversation times are decreased, which results in happier customers and individuals who are open to upselling. By automatically being presented with cross-sell and upsell opportunities during the SRM process, agents can work to bring other products or services into the fold, capturing additional revenue.

Imagine that customer Thomas Smith calls his cell phone service provider. He is immediately connected with a call center agent who retrieves his account information. Thomas explains that he believes there is a billing irregularity on his latest statement and he would like to talk with a contact center agent to discuss the charge.
As the agent engages with Thomas, his account information is verified and the agent has been presented with a complete picture of Thomas’ information in a single integrated view pulled from all CRM systems that hold knowledge of Thomas and the products and services that apply to him. This gives the agent a comprehensive picture of Thomas and saves the agent’s time by eliminating the necessity of sifting through multiple systems and screens.

Now that the agent has all of Thomas’ account information, he or she can work on providing Thomas with an answer regarding his inquiry — fast and efficiently. Because Thomas asked a question that often garners customer inquiries, the contact center agent can work through an established resolution workflow. By taking Thomas through an established workflow, the agent is sure he or she is providing Thomas with the best possible information and answers.

While moving through the workflow that will resolve Thomas’ billing inquiry, the contact center agent is alerted, through the service resolution application, to a possible upsell opportunity. Because Thomas currently subscribes to a certain cell phone package, he is eligible to take advantage of unlimited picture messaging for an additional $5.00 per month. By alerting the contact center agent that Thomas is eligible for this program, both the company and Thomas benefit because Thomas was interested in increasing his ability to send picture messages and the company realized a revenue opportunity.

By providing call center agents with the means to both resolve customer inquiries quickly and easily as well as cross-sell and upsell, organizations create longer lasting customer relationships and also increase their ability to capture additional revenue for the company.

Overall Service Resolution Management Benefits
The benefits of implementing a service resolution strategy include increasing first call resolution rates, as agents have quick access to the right information, reduced agent training costs and significantly reduced agent turnover. As much as service resolution impacts cost reduction, it has the biggest influence on customer satisfaction and customer retention. Through proper service resolution management, organizations improve the quality of customer service with quick, consistent and accurate answers enabling inquires to get resolved faster and allowing companies to establish a greater level of customer loyalty.

Brian Kelly is KANA’s executive vice president of marketing and product strategy. He has 15 years’ of experience in CRM at KANA with both current KANA analytics and enterprise CRM tools and in his former role as executive vice president of products at Broadbase Software, prior to its merger with KANA. At Broadbase, Brian was instrumental in product strategy and actively participated in its successful IPO in 1999, and secondary stock offering in 2000. Brian has used his vast experience in marketing, product development and strategy to ensure KANA remains a visionary leader in the eCRM market. He is responsible for KANA’s product vision, marketing and strategy as the company continues to develop its eCRM applications optimized for key vertical markets.

[ Return To The January 2005 Table Of Contents ]

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