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Customer experience innovation isn't as hard as it sounds

Customer experience innovation tries to evolve quickly enough to meet the continuously changing needs of the consumer. So how can back-end systems help improve the customer experience?

A service center and its agents are the backbone of customer support. Consumers continue to have evolving expectations,...

and customer experience innovation needs to change to meet them. As their needs evolve, communication channels have proliferated, putting additional pressure on companies to provide a seamless customer experience.

But according to recent survey data, companies may not be taking full advantage of the technology tools available to create a seamless customer experience, particularly as customers traverse multiple communication channels -- from company websites to social media to email to phone.

In the Bluewolf Customer Service Quiz, more than half of survey respondents said they do not use Service Cloud for customer service management -- and the majority that use Service Cloud don't use it to its full capabilities. Whether your company currently uses Service Cloud or another platform, here are some suggestions on how to be a customer service innovator, and how to get the most out of Service Cloud.

1. A single interface is key to successful customer service

One key obstacle for customer service reps in handling customer information is having to toggle between multiple applications to get a full view of a customer's problem. A single-user interface makes agents more efficient and prevents wasted time logging into and toggling between different systems. Most of the Bluewolf survey respondents are moving toward single-system case management and more than 65% of survey respondents already use one to three systems to manage a customer service database.

A tip for Service Cloud customers is to use the Lightning Service Console, which allows agents to manage all customer interactions -- that are generated from chat, social media, email and more -- in a single-user interface.

2. Embrace an omnichannel case management philosophy

Companies that use omnichannel case management create a consistent experience for customers regardless of their communication device or channel. So any member of the company can record and see customer interactions on a unified contact record, regardless of the customer's original contact channel. Despite these benefits, only 25% of survey respondents classified their case management process as omnichannel, and 75% store customer service information in multiple, disconnected systems.

As a tip for Service Cloud customers, they should rely on tools such as Salesforce Case Feed or Omni-Channel to help the company manage multiple channels in a single location. Case Feed allows agents to view all interactions related to an individual case in a single view. Omni-Channel enables managers to automatically assign cases to agents based on an agent's listed expertise, priority of cases, or agent's presence, reducing the amount of time cases are sitting idle in a queue.

3. Have an escalation process that can be improved

With improved clarity and an automated system, the time it takes to answer questions or research escalation could be spent elsewhere.

A defined and automated system will improve case management accuracy. To get this off the ground, organizations must first define how cases should be routed to agents, how often agents interact with cases and how agents know when to escalate a case. By setting up service-level agreements and escalations, the cases can then be auto-assigned or escalated based on designated timelines. The best customer service organizations use automation to program cases to pop back into queues when open and route escalated cases based on agent experience and availability.

More than 40% of respondents don't understand the full escalation process at their organization and need to ask a team member or manager before moving forward. Similarly, over 70% of survey respondents employ some sort of manual process to determine when and how to escalate a case, rather than having an automated process. With improved clarity and an automated system, the time it takes to answer questions or research escalation could be spent elsewhere.

As a tip for Service Cloud customers, use Entitlements and Case Milestones in Service Cloud. With Entitlements, you can easily verify whether customers are eligible for support, create and maintain service contracts for customers, and enforce service levels with automated processes that instruct agents on how to resolve cases. Case Milestones allow you to define critical steps in the service process and create alerts for deadlines throughout -- ultimately giving agents insight into what your organization expects of their resolution process.

4. Define knowledge and make it accessible in one place

Customer service team representatives are inundated with requests every day and need to be able to quickly answer any questions that arise. Relevant and easily accessible knowledge -- via a repository of articles, sometimes known as a knowledge base -- makes their job easier. More than 55% of survey respondents said that their agents currently have to sift through several sources when looking for information about products. Less than 20% have agent knowledge consolidated in one source.

With a single knowledge database, as agents use knowledge, edit it and improve it, the idea is to track success and bring the best knowledge to the top. Ensure agents can attach articles to each case, rate the articles and see which articles are being used the most.

As a tip for Service Cloud customers, Salesforce Knowledge now allows users to access knowledge through a single interface without bringing every content repository into the platform. Structure this matrix to include the location of all knowledge articles, who owns each article, whether it is internal or external, and the knowledge type, all of which becomes the basis for future enhancements.

5. Ensure data quality and control

The best companies invest in an automated process that continuously checks data quality and alerts customer service managers to potential problems. This allows teams to customize rules for data quality management that suit their needs as well as run reports and be notified of errors themselves instead of relying on IT.

Data quality continues to be one of the biggest obstacles across the board. While 76% of companies struggle with integration and data quality, only 25% of our respondents are using an automated process to ensure data quality.

As a tip for Service Cloud Customers, you do not have to start your data quality monitoring system from scratch. Depending on the complexity of your needs, there are services, from free data quality analysis dashboards on the Salesforce AppExchange to full-featured master data management solutions from consultancies like Informatica, that integrate with Service Cloud.

At the heart of customer experience is frictionless, seamless interaction. While customer experience can be fragmented or cohesive, that experience is often based on how well integrated back-end systems are with one another and how well this integration yields a comprehensive picture of customers. Tools like Service Cloud, if used deftly, can bring this consolidated view to service agents.

Next Steps

Omnichannel customer service is harder to achieve than you think

Salesforce Service Cloud spruces up UI

A single UI is a must for a successful omnichannel customer experience

This was last published in July 2016

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How has customer experience innovation impacted your business?
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Our business lives on almost instant customer feedback. We make and market our products to an audience that controls our future products. If they like it, they buy it. And if they don't, we take a huge write-off. We hopefully learn enough from customer feedback to alter the next iteration of our product. With customer feedback guiding us, we'd (quite literally) be shooting in the dark.
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