Presented at Activate Customer Service 2021. Customer service agents are facing more challenges than ever before. With the workforce scattered due to the pandemic, and customer inquires ballooning, agents need the support of their companies in order to stay on track and avoid burnout. By deploying technology that truly allows agents to surface the information they need fast, you’re prioritizing their needs. If your agents are happy, your customer is happy and your bottom line grows. Easy, right?
Jenny Gomez, Lucidworks Director of Product Marketing
Jenny Gomez: Hi there, my name is Jenny Gomez, and I’m the product marketing director here at Lucidworks. Thanks so much for joining us today for Activate Customer Service. I hope you’re gaining some new insights on what to do next in your support journey, and I hope that we’re inspiring some new ideas about how to solve some of your most pressing challenges.
We’re incredibly passionate about customer service here at Lucidworks. We recently put a much more pronounced stake in the ground for our customer service customers, and we’re excited about what the future holds for the whole industry. Things are changing fast, and COVID has accelerated an industry that was already in a pretty massive state of transformation. We understand that at this moment, there’s more pressure than ever on our support teams to deliver on their KPIs. And the way our customers are asking for help is also changing at a rapid clip. You read stats like this, “In the US, users who will spend 20% more of their time on messaging apps in 2020.” Or things like, “70% of customers now expect a website to include a self-service application.”
These are big technology infrastructures to think about, and weaving new self-service and messaging applications into existing workflows is not easy, but they are critical. Customers are now firmly in the driver’s seat. When a customer is not satisfied with their experiences, it’s easier than ever for them to just click out of your site and into a competitors’. This isn’t new news, but the numbers are clear, and it shows us our path. These stats showcase just a snapshot of what’s out there today, but it’s safe to say that these are trends that are holding true throughout. In fact, once a customer has a bad experience it becomes nearly impossible for us to up-sell, cross-sell, or renew them. Once a customer churns, you generally have to offset products in order to regain a new customer, or regain that customer.
This chart shows a clear line into how things become increasingly more challenging over time as poor customer service experiences compound. Now, let’s talk about the tech. We know what our customer service challenges are, and nowadays there’s no lack of technology that’s being built to help us solve for these pain points. There’s a myriad of different solutions out there for every single little piece of the customer journey, and they’re supposed to be helping us and our customers, whether the customers want to help themselves, or whether our customers want to talk to an agent. I want to showcase several of the buckets that currently exist. Your tech stack might look very different, it probably does.
Let’s talk through some of these sorts of options in your technology stack really quickly. Things like the CRM, Salesforce, HubSpot, Monday, Oracle Help desk, can be Zendesk, ServiceNow, Freshdesk. Contact center/ call center can be Genesys, RingCentral. Team collaborations can be Slack, Teams, Zoom. Feedback and voice of the customer solutions are Medallia, NICE, ResponseTek. Examples of digital adoption solutions are Pendo, WalkMe. Chat software is Drift, Acquire, LivePerson. Self-service portals can be us at Lucidworks, Coveo, Freshdesk, Intercom. Examples of experience orchestration can be Usermind, Linc, Bri – you get the idea. There’s a ton of companies out there, and in theory all of these tech partners should be working harmoniously together to help you and your support team.
One of the most pressing challenges currently facing the industry is that in fact, today, they’re not. And that’s where a lot of the future state optimism lies. In a commissioned study by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Intercom – they were at one of those self-service portals we talked about. This was undertaken in April of 2021. Intercom learned that only 30% of support leaders and decision makers are satisfied with their organization’s current digital channels and technology solutions. And although 69% of respondents say that personalized support experiences are the key to building strong customer relationships, less than half of those support managers believe that they can deliver those personalized support experiences at scale, with their current stack. That tells us that there’s a lot of work to do, and it’s up to vendors like us at Lucidworks to create those holistic partnerships that will drive this kind of harmony within the ecosystem. But we are hopeful for what the future holds.
Now, we’ve talked about some of the overarching challenges facing the industry, but let’s drill down into what that means for the people at the center of all of this, our amazing support agents. In the past, the industry has been driven by static KPIs, and some pretty unforgiving CSAT scores and surveys. Oftentimes these KPIs are measured against the outputs of the agents themselves. But with more data at our fingertips, things are shifting. We’re starting to recognize that with the changing tides of data, also comes the need to rethink our priorities and our numbers a bit. As an example, 71% of service professionals says they’ve changed or reprioritized their metrics due to the pandemic. I heard an example recently where, obviously time to resolution is one of our biggest KPIs in the customer service industry, but even though we were seeing increased time to resolution with the pandemic, some support organizations noticed that their agents were spending more time with customers because they were actually not only spending time helping them solve their problems but maybe even upselling, cross-selling, or getting them to buy more of the product. So the agents are kind of becoming like defacto salespeople when they have these opportunities and the time to really talk to customers. So that changes what we think about time to resolution.
So while of course we need to be thinking about the customer, I offer up a controversial frame of mind. That great customer success begins when we think about the support staff first. So how can we help our agents achieve success? Especially by arming them with the right technology. So let’s talk a little bit about this current state that’s changing the way that we do business. It’s no surprise that with the coronavirus, since so many people were trying to solve their support challenges at home, our agents were inundated with cases, and customers were looking for new ways to self serve.
There’s also a good chance that these changes are probably here to stay. Only 42% of service professionals believe that they’ll able to work outside the home in 2021, according to a recent ZDNet survey. As for the caseload, that same survey surfaced the fact that 75% of service professionals that managing the case volume has become more challenging during the pandemic.
Austin Guanzon, who’s the Overseas Manager and Product Specialist at Dialpad, says that the most immediate changes that took place due to the pandemic was the increased volume of customer or sales queries. “As the influx of customer queries came in through our support channels, we needed a balanced amount of agents who could support it. Some of our all-star agents were working overtime to manage our email queue, to ensure that it never got out of control.” So that tells us that we really need to be creating tools that make sure that all of our agents are all-stars, that everyone is being armed with the right amount of information. Those all-star agents were probably agents that had been there a long time, or had worked a lot of challenging cases and might’ve had more tribal knowledge than others. We need to share that tribal knowledge throughout an organization.
Now, I touched on self-service. Let’s think about self-service. Now in order to make the lives of those agents easier, and more efficient, we need to make sure that we’re offering up tools to customers that let them find answers on their own. Currently, self-service experiences are pretty bad, and it’s causing a 20% decrease in customer satisfaction, according to the TSIA when the customers try to self-serve first. The good news is that this is where the huge portion of our opportunity lies. That Intercom survey I mentioned earlier also mentioned that 49% of support leaders say that their teams spend time answering repetitive questions. That’s right, 49%. That’s half of our support leaders who are saying their team is spending more and more time just answering the same questions over, and over, and over. That means that if we implement the right technology, especially when it’s powered by AI and machine learning, we can train self-service and knowledge portal systems to learn these repetitive questions automatically, so that these portals and virtual assistants can surface these well-trod questions, and offer up easy, conversational responses.
That way, customers never need a human to help them triage a query. Right away, we could be cutting caseload almost in half. So this next stat is a fun one. It goes into the idea of being a proactive support company rather than a reactive support company. Generally, we’ve been reactive to a customer’s pain points, as it requires some pretty sophisticated tech to be truly reactive. To surface a real work example, the TrueCommerce customer company said that proactive support has reduced their inbound conversation volume by 20%. They’ve also seen an 80% reduction in contacts when temporary issues arise, because they’ve already been able to identify and inform effective customers proactivly. So proactive support just means that a company is able to anticipate a customer’s needs before a problem arises. Again, a lot of this can happen when we implement that AI and machine learning, and closely track and unify a customer’s data.
Things like sending tracking emails when a package ships automatically, or personalizing that self-service portal so that it surfaces information based on past orders or questions. All of this creates a robust call deflection system which takes a lot of pressure off of an agent, because those queries and challenges never even reach their inbox. So here’s a big one. Our internal customer service experts, the folks you’ve heard from today, or will hear from on different presentations, have identified that support agents are accessing 6 to 15 separate applications at one time. We call this the swivel chair challenge, and it’s nothing to joke about. We believe when you create one unified experience for an agent by helping them embed all of the information they need into one place, is one of the next big steps that can help you solve your tech stack pain points. So we’ve talked about some actionable ways that you can help your support staff and make their lives easier. We need to be unifying our customer data.
Remember that tech stack I showed you earlier? We can ask all of our tools to talk to one another through data connectors and APIs. The CRM should be feeding the help desk and the self-service portal, and all of our internal tools like Slack and our ticketing systems should be crawled, cleaned, and indexed in a repository that allows us to surface it all into one, easy-to-use service portal. That way our agents can be proactive. And by arming them with all the information they need, as well as augmenting their workflows with that AI and machine learning to personalize and train their systems, they’ll have the bandwidth to be more empathetic to the customer. The KPIs will solve for themselves, essentially. Let’s hit all these points one more time.
Now, here’s the kind of tech you should be prioritizing today. Tools that connect your data. AI and machine learning that can personalize the experiences for both the customer and the agent that is fed by that data. Recommendations that align to this personalization, whether it be similar cases in the self-service portal, or in a virtual assistant, or subject matter experts nestled within a help desk. All of this organized into one place.
What does that look like? Well, it might look something like this: an actionable dashboard with analytics, recommendations, search results embedded right into one tool. No more swivel chair, and no more unanswered questions. No matter where your agent is working from, they’ll be able to access the information they need quickly and easily. And the customer will always get the best experience because of it. Thanks so much. Again, my name is Jenny Gomez, and I appreciate you taking the time to learn a little bit more about the right tech needed to empower your agents. Creating better employee experiences creates better customer experiences. The change starts today. Feel free to reach out with any questions and I hope to hear from you soon. Thanks again.