The Collaborative Enterprise to Support Customer Interactions

I’ve challenged a lot of the hype about the social enterprise, because I feel “social” gives the wrong impression. For most people, social media is predominately about socializing. While everyone likes to feel that going to work is partly about interacting with friends, when it comes down to it running a business is about winning customers, selling them your products and services, and providing customer service when needed. In today’s competitive markets, none of these are easy tasks. As I look across four of our benchmark research areas: customer information management, customer experience management, customer feedback management and customer relationship maturity, I have come to several conclusions:

  • Organizations have a mass of customer-related data, and an increasing amount of it is unstructured – call recordings, paper-based communications, text messages, IM logs, CRM notes, social media posts. Indeed, my research shows that 26 percent of companies have 20-plus sources of customer-related data.
  • As a result, most companies don’t have a single view of their customers; my research shows that only 31 percent have such a view.
  • Consumers now want – demand – to interact with organizations through an increasing number of channels – everything from face-to-face to phone calls, letters, email, customer portals, text messages, chat, video calls and not forgetting social media posts and forums. My research shows companies support an average of five such channels, and the number is going up. At the same time the overall volume of interactions with each new channel is adding to rather than reducing the volume through existing channels.
  • In a quest to answer more interactions the first time, organizations are getting more experts involved, so interactions are being handled by almost every business unit.
  • Companies collect feedback from customers, but different business units do the collecting. Only 34 percent of organizations respond to every customer.
  • Most companies are on social media, but few have yet to use it to provide customer service, and most don’t systematically analyze what consumers say about them on social media. Those that do lack formalized processes for responding.

Add all these together and they present a major issue for companies as they look to improve the customer experience and make it consistent across all touch points – human and electronic. I believe companies can best address the issue by increasing collaboration – breaking down communication barriers between business units, having processes that flow across business units, synchronizing data, sharing information and having a customer experience strategy driven from the top, across the organization. To help improve the situation, my research into customer experience management shows that organizations are beginning to introduce roles such as chief customer officer or customer experience manager. Having someone with those responsibilities helps, but organizations need to look to technology to support these efforts.

The good news is that several technologies can help:

  • Unified communication allows individuals to quickly find in-house experts who can help them resolve issues, and lets organizations share data and information.
  • Internal Facebook-style applications allow groups to share information and collaborate on issues.
  • Social CRM applications allow organizations to communicate with customers through the social channels of their choice, and to create forums where customers and the organization can share information and resolve issues.
  • Social media analytics can capture data from social media, analyze it and provide organizations with a view into what consumers are saying about their products and services.
  • Smart desktop technology allows organizations to build interfaces that make it more intuitive for any user to access systems and information they need to resolve issues, and to collaborate with other users.
  • Mobile applications offer the opportunity for customers to self-serve and to more easily interact with agents to resolve issues.

Many of these technologies are now available in the cloud, making them more accessible, affordable and easier to implement and use. Even so, not all of them will suit all organizations. I recommend organizations consider how they want to interact with customers and improve those experiences, develop a cross-organization and communication channel strategy, and then implement processes and technology that allow the organization to collaborate internally and with customers.


Richard J. Snow

VP & Research Director

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