The Hidden Costs of Customer Service Software PART 2
Posted By: Ronald Segerstrom
In part 1
five of hidden costs in purchasing a new customer service application were unraveled and solutions were suggested:
1. A ‘hub’ approach to managing customer interactions if you have fragmented channels.
2. As you expand your companies borders multilingual service from a single point, which spans multiple points such as interface and content.
3. Leverage with a ‘shared service’ approach with application software such as customer management systems so the best practices can be shared with others and performance comparisons made across groups.
4. Instead of ‘my-way or the highway’, I recommended that each business choose an option that fits its specific needs, goals and preferences
5. Don’t be fooled by a low price tag, or short contact terms; you may be taken by surprise at renewal time!
Now for the next six…
6. User adopts
Typically training is always included in any cost calculation for a new application, what is not are the hidden costs when the agents are resistant to this new application. What value is knowledge base content if agents cannot intuitively and easily find all the required information for their customer interactions? What use are FAQ if they are never accessed? Agents will stop using knowledge base applications if they are not easy to use and this is a hidden cost typically overlooked.
The usability of any software is hands down a major cost and cannot simply be covered up by over-investing in training. Query vendors on their design and their usability tests. Have your own agents run the software and compare their findings across others during the acquisition process.
Customer interaction management systems are generally based on old fashioned structures, neither modular nor integration-ready. They stand in the way of a pro-service approach, can create isolated islands or escalate the costs to integrate.
Insist on one that is modular, multi-tier, and a standard based architecture that also includes support of new approaches i.e. SOA / RAS. Allow you to re-use your existing server infrastructure and mix and match components for a more rapid reconfiguration process. These should deliver an increased ROI, reduce costs and increase your ability change as needed.
To create and extend your competitive advantage, firms require a custom approach to their business process both in design and execution. More than likely this is the rule, rather than the exception!
Make sure your customer interaction applications can be easily configured and that the expensive and time-consuming customization is eliminated. Quite simply users should be able to re-configure any process without calling in the IT troops, as this not only increases the cost but the time required to retrieve any benefit.
Reliability, Availability, and Scalability are critical to any deployment. Not only to customer interaction management systems because of the direct impact on the customer, but also to the firms growth. Yet a solution´s anticipated RAS performance is rarely accounted for in any cost analysis.
Ensure that the solution provider has been implemented in large enterprises and supports RAS capabilities. For deployments, demand uptime guarantees, all leading vendors offer over a 99% uptime and do not accept anything less!
10. Knowledge base maintenance
One huge omission in calculation of the cost of customer service software is the cost to build and maintain the base knowledge of the contact center to ensure sustained usage and generate continued added-value.
When you evaluate your maintenance costs look first to their creation. How have you built and maintained the information? What authorizing interfaces were encountered? Do the solutions have an SOA-style survey capability so that direct customer feedback can be implemented? Does automatically content maintenance take place based on the performing knowledge base? Is there room for community-based knowledge creation from in/outside the contact center? Are translations fast and quickly deployed in multiple languages? Etc..
In an ever changing business environment and with the tightening of regulations, customer service executives face a huge challenge to deliver and maintain high-quality customer service, and at the same time keeping costs at a minimum. There are solutions that help, and most are focused on the more experienced agent to conduct interactions that are compliant. The result, contact centers need to hire expensive subject matter experts, and this cost is seldom captured in any cost calculation.
Take the ‘best-practice’ interactions from your top agents. Advanced extrapolation engines guide agents through a broad range of interactions, plus a ‘step-by-step’ process, as they avoid any landmines of compliance. ‘One-size-fits-all’ solutions are seldom the answer to open content or to access knowledge. In addition complete-spectrum knowledge management solutions will improve performance to answer questions that cover the stages of your client’s life cycle as well as types. All in all these answers reduce costs that are linked with training and salaries.
If your firm seeks to purchase new software for customer interaction management or re-assess or optimize their existing systems; keep the above solutions in mind. This approach will minimize hidden costs, maximize ROI, and increase your time to benefit, improve competitiveness, upgrade the customer experience, improve customer service and contact center performance. It’s a win-win for all!
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