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83% Say Customer Service is Becoming a Strategic Differentiator

That was the results of our informal poll conducted last Monday during our webinar, "What Does Amazon's 'Mayday' Button Mean to Your Customers and Your Contact Center?"

The question was: "Is your company discussing how to transform customer service from a necessary function for resolving customer problems into a value-generating service that is a strategic differentiator in the market?"

Admittedly, this wasn't a formal survey and the audience were those that already expressed an interest in disrupting the status quo in the contact center. Those polled wanted to know more about the potential impact of the Amazon Mayday button. So we already were starting out with respondents that were sensitive to the changing needs of increasingly savvy, hyper-connected customers with rising expectations.

Nonetheless, 83% is a staggering number.

How do you transform customer service into a strategic differentiator? The panel, which consisted of Analyst Jon Arnold, Consultant Dennis Goodhart and me, unanimously agreed that a fundamental change is needed. A key is to leverage all of the customer data and internal systems and closely tie them to the contact center. In other words, the answer is Communications Enabled Business Processes (CEBP). It is communications enabling the underlying CRM and ERP (accounting, shipping, receivable, etc.) so that contact center agents have a 360-degree view of the incoming contact from the very start.

This is very different from the traditional way of looking at problems. One attendee, Barb Grothe, a telecommunications consultant, said, "We traditionally have started with the communications process first, but we need to start with the business processes first and then through communicating with users figure out how we give them the communications capabilities to enhance their existing BP [Business Processes]."

Another interesting finding was the responses to the question, "What is the situation in your company regarding the integration of contact center and business systems (CRM, ERP, etc.)?"

1. Already integrated, no further plans - 16.4%
2. Partly integrated, planning to expand - 53.4%
3. Not integrated, but planning to do so - 27.4%
4. Not integrated and no plans to do so - 2.7%

On first glance, the results of this poll indicated that 70% of those polled already integrated or partially integrated business processes in their contact center. It is likely that the vast majority are interpreting this to mean screen-popping CRM. This capability for improving customer service has been known and understood for some time, however there is so much more to CEBP than screen popping.

The possibility of combining the power of the contact center with ERP and CRM in a highly integrated and optimized fashion, as Amazon appears to have done, is not widely known. Making information instantly available to contact center employees is simply not possible with the vast majority of contact centers today.

Amazon has been running numerous television commercials promoting the Kindle Mayday capabilities on NFL football games. They obviously believe that this capability is a winner and a differentiator. Today, Amazon is just using this type of next generation technology to promote a single product or, more accurately, to promote the kind of service response time you can expect when buying a Kindle Fire.

Focusing on a single product simplifies things by making it easier to eliminate the grossly unpopular IVR menus customers don't like. It also gives them time to work out other kinks. It seems like it is just a question of time before other B2C companies seek to adopt this capability. Given that Amazon competes with almost everyone in the B2C space, other B2C companies should be paying careful attention. It also seems like it is just a question of time before this highly integrated approach finds its way into the B2B market.

Amazon is a disruptor, not a normal competitor. They started changing the book-buying experience, ushered in a wave of e-readers that changed the definition of a "book", changed the face of e-commerce and, no pun intended, wrote the "book" on the cloud. Ignore this initiative at your peril.