5 lessons learned from 2020 customer service leaders

By Alexander Golubovich

In a way, customer service took the heat in the lockdown. In many cases, service reps were the major connection between businesses and customers, thus shaping the perception of their brands and their ability to empathize. The ever-growing significance of customer service was boosted even further, making companies view it as the major asset that contributes to business resilience and keeps customers happy.

The foundation for this happiness is the ability to organize, automate, and sync customer interactions across channels, which can be fully enabled in the CRM platform. Following this lead, we took a look at Gartner’s 2020 Magic Quadrant for the CRM Customer Engagement Center to understand what customer service leaders focused on in 2020.

Lesson 1. A centralized operational hub

A screen with dozens of opened apps that you have to toggle between is not a nightmare but a daily routine for many support agents.

Customer support is one of the most siloed systems that lacks not only integrations with vital third-party systems but also with internal departments, such as marketing and sales. It prevents service agents from understanding the context of a customer’s inquiry and providing personalized experience. Instead, they have to buy time asking customers to hold on in order to enter information manually or look through a number of apps to verify the necessary details.

SAP Service Cloud offers a single platform where it’s possible to connect all the dots, be it customers’ personal information, purchase history, pending requests, cross-channel interactions, or sentiment, which allows sales, marketing and service teams to work with the same single version of truth while automating manual tasks. As a result, service agents get access to a timeline where they can navigate all customer-related events without having to switch tabs and apps.

Gartner paid special attention to SAP’s integration potential. The platform has over 200 connectors to third-party sources and keeps partnering with strategic independent software vendors to power customer service management. The platform can also be integrated natively with other SAP products, such as SAP ECC and SAP S/4 HANA, which leads to lower integration costs.

Pro tip: Even if you make use of OOTB features only, a CRM system is still a complex organism that requires balancing. To be on the safe side, a1qa strongly advises to run integration and smoke testing, to make sure that the system corresponds not only to the specifications but also to users’ expectations.

Lesson 2. Unified messaging

Customers are ready to communicate with brands via multiple channels, such as live chats, messengers, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, you name it. And it’s not limited to younger people who learn to use a smartphone faster than saying ‘mama.’

Baby boomers are also on friendly terms with Facebook and WhatsApp. Consequently, when someone needs to communicate with a company, they make use of an immediately available and convenient option and expect efficient help.

Unfortunately, customers have to frequently experience a great deal of frustration if they need to repeat their request when switching channels or service agents or put in the same information over and over again.

While customers build up their frustration, service agents struggle with multiple channels and interfaces trying to put everything together and reach some consistency. What they really need is a single interface that provides a unified view of all available channels.

Pega, acknowledged for its customer engagement and case workflow automation capabilities, offers the Unified Messaging platform that lets service agents effortlessly switch between messaging channels and manage multiple customers at a time. The system also allows bridging chatbots and human agents. Agents are provided with prior conversation threads and are able to pick up a chat from where a chatbot escalated the issue.

Pro tip: Pega allows connecting Facebook Messenger and Apple Business Chat, where it’s possible to perform financial transactions.

Lesson 3. Self-service

According to Salesforce’s 2020 State of Service report, self-service has become a powerful tool for customers during the crisis, particularly in those cases where they need to get quick answers or run simple operations. 78% of service companies confirm that customers have increased their use of self-service during the pandemic. Self-service options, like chatbots and knowledge bases, also relieve service agents from spending time on repetitive questions.

Garnter marks Zendesk for its continuous innovation in the self-service department. Zendesk Guide helps create customized knowledge bases by organizing frequently asked questions, product details, policies, and other customers’ reference points and turning them into a powerful tool for both customers and service agents.

With the Knowledge Capture app, agents can flag content from the knowledge base to be updated and contribute new content right away. The app also provides agents with recommendations they can link to during a conversation with a customer based on the data captured from the ticket.

Additionally, Answer Bot coupled with the knowledge base can deal with repetitive and basic service requests, giving service agents more time to deal with more complex issues.

Oracle is another of Gartner’s leaders, recognized for its offer of the most scalable and functional knowledge management solutions among service product vendors. Its innovations are focused on how knowledge is consumed by both human and robot agents. For instance, Oracle Intelligent Advisor provides personalized recommendations for customers during their self-service journey and helps service agents with making decisions and complex calculations for delivering consistent experiences. The tool also tracks customer journeys and provides service reps with detailed analytics.

Pro tip: Keep an eye on search results in your apps and websites, especially those that don’t return answers. These are the material to add to the knowledge base and feed into a chatbot.

Lesson 4. Phone support

In spite of all-embracing digitization, the phone keeps being one of the most popular customer support channels. According to a Salesforce survey, it’s not only baby boomers who prefer calling companies: Gen X and millennials choose phone calls as their second preferable support option.

During the pandemic, customer service teams experienced a spike in the demand for call center software and support over the phone as customers needed empathy and personal touch. However, many companies lack the infrastructure to provide smooth calling experience. Service reps don’t have tools to efficiently handle a wave of calls, while managers lack insights into agents’ productivity.

Gartner has announced Salesforce as an absolute leader for its CRM customer engagement solutions in the service sector. The vendor has added dozens of new features to its Service Cloud, including WhatsApp, AI-powered case classification, next best actions, and more.

Salesforce also launched Service Cloud Voice that brought together phone, digital channels, and CRM data into a unified platform. Using a set of pre-integrated out-of-the-box telephony services enabled through Amazon Connect, companies can digitize their call centers and provide phone support from any place, be it office or home.

Service Cloud Voice routes calls from different systems to the agent’s workspace, provides real-time call transcription, offers recommendations and next best actions based on the transcription and customer data. Service managers can view calls in real time and step in when coaching is needed.

Pro tip: Salesforce Service Cloud can be integrated with other voice-first solutions for contact centers.

Unification is key

CRM and service leaders don’t ask whether they need to go fully digital — they just do it, digitizing even seemingly doomed domains (think brick-and-mortar and phone support).

Analyzing the innovations of Gartner’s service leaders, we can single out the trend for unification. Single hubs and consoles are seen as a solid foundation for intelligent automation. They make it possible to run almost any operation and access available data efficiently — all for the sake of addressing customers’ high expectations.

About the Author

Alexander Golubovich

Alexander Golubovich is a Unit Coordinator having 11+ years of in-depth experience in QA. Alexander is a professional at providing effective QA solutions and coaching passionate QA specialists. With over 100 successfully completed projects across such industries as eHealth, real estate, eCommerce, media and entertainment, and many more, he manages a 140+ QA team helping the global customers from Fortune 500 list enhance the software quality of delivered solutions, thus, boosting customer experience and accelerating time to market. 

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