Eric Krapf
Eric Krapf is General Manager and Program Co-Chair for Enterprise Connect, the leading conference/exhibition and online events brand in the...
Read Full Bio >>

Eric Krapf | February 28, 2014 |


Improving the Customer Experience

Improving the Customer Experience A key benchmark study showed customer satifaction took a dive last year. What's behind it--and how can technology help?

A key benchmark study showed customer satifaction took a dive last year. What's behind it--and how can technology help?

We talk a lot about how communications in general is evolving in the enterprise, and how the business drivers are changing, at the same time that the expectations of end users are going through equally wrenching transformations. We see these changes in the BYOD reality (which can no longer be dismissed as a phenomenon), and we see it in the ways that communications decision-makers increasingly need to be aware of the specific needs, goals, and practices of the individual business units within the enterprise.

Another place we see it is customer service. This used to be called the contact center, and before that, it was known as the call center. This post is not going to be yet another exhortation to treat the entire enterprise as if it were a contact center, nor is it going to warn you about specific technology trends, be it WebRTC or video or whatever, that are likely to change the contact center's practices.

Those trends are real, and they really will affect the contact center. But like the Bring-Your-Own movement, there's an issue for the contact center that touches on developments that stretch beyond the borders of the enterprise itself--it relates to this idea of customer experience.

Earlier this week we did an Enterprise Connect webinar focused on multichannel customer contact and how best to deliver service in the new world in which customers reach you over a variety of media. As part of the program, Sheila McGee-Smith offered some data on customer satisfaction that really provided a fresh look at what's going on in customer contact, and what might be behind the changes in the environment. Here's the chart, from a research firm called CFI Group, that Sheila presented:

The obvious question is: What happened last year? Why did customer satisfaction plummet after several years of gradual increase?

As explained by Sheila, CFI Group offered two hypotheses. The first was that people's overall frustration with all manner of public dealings reached a tipping point last year. The research called out such possible culprits as:

* Consumer confidence is low
* Dysfunctional government shut-down
* Confusion over the looming Affordable Care Act
* Stagnant employment growth
* People reached the breaking point

If that seems a little nebulous to you, it apparently also seemed that way to CFI Group, which proposed an alternate hypothosis: That "after years of steady growth in performance, consumers have built up an expectation of 'great things' to come/continue in the increasingly connected company service functions," but that "2013 [was] the year that expectations finally overtook the ability to deliver."

Hypotheses are about the best we're going to do; nobody really knows for sure what's going on here, but assuming the data is accurate, what we can say is that customers want something better than what they're getting. And there is at least some hope that enterprise technology can help here.

The promise of Big Data and analytics for better customer contact has been recognized for some time. In addition, new models for customer contact experiences, like Amazon Mayday, are helping people envision a streamlined, truly user-friendly customer contact process.

These are all areas where the enterprise communications technology organizations can contribute much value. They can work with application developers, Web teams, database teams, and business units to provide the glue that holds the whole experience together.

Ultimately, I don't think technologists can raise that CFI Group customer satisfaction number without corresponding changes on the business side of things. Everyone knows that agents are the most expensive cost in the contact center, and everyone wants to control that cost. But obsessively trying to use Web self-service or other technologies to achieve this goal may well have a role in eroding customer satisfaction--at least that's my sense. Once a customer has decided to engage with a contact center agent, I think you've got to commit to giving them a good experience, not try to limit the "damage" that their costly decision to resort to personal contact will cause your bottom line.

An example of what I mean: In our webinar, Brian Spraetz of Interactive Intelligence noted that contact centers are increasingly trying to migrate away from the silo-ed view of contact channels. It used to be that almost no agents were cross-trained among channels--voice agents only did voice, text chat agents only did text chat, etc. Such a division of labor makes sense on one level, by using agents according to their best communications skills. But it may cause you to de-emphasize the agent's knowledge of the product or other factors in assigning their workload.

Brian concluded that, at least in some circumstances, some enterprises are finding they need to assign agents to multiple channels--and if this means hiring people with overall higher skill sets and paying them accordingly, that may be necessary.

The intersection of customer experience and the technology that enables it will be a major focus at Enterprise Connect this year. Sheila has once again led the development of our session track in this area, and we've added a main-stage "Disrupter Session" on the topic, entitled, "Transforming the Customer Experience with Next-Gen Communications". We're going to have some very exciting announcements about that session in the coming weeks, so stay tuned, and please check out the whole Enterprise Connect program.

Follow Eric Krapf and No Jitter on Twitter and Google+!
Eric Krapf on Google+


June 20, 2018

Your enterprise may have adopted SIP Trunks, but are you up to date on how the latest technology is driving evolution in approaches?

In this webinar, youll learn how the new generation of SI

June 6, 2018

The two largest strategic vendors-Cisco and Microsoft-have been busy making changes to their enterprise communications roadmaps, incorporating collaboration applications as fundamental components.

May 23, 2018

If Cisco is a critical strategic supplier for you, then its vital for you to understand the most recent announcements around Webex Teams, and how to build your migration path for the next generatio

March 12, 2018
An effective E-911 implementation doesn't just happen; it takes a solid strategy. Tune in for tips from IT expert Irwin Lazar, of Nemertes Research.
March 9, 2018
IT consultant Steve Leaden lays out the whys and how-tos of getting the green light for your convergence strategy.
March 7, 2018
In advance of his speech tech tutorial at EC18, communications analyst Jon Arnold explores what voice means in a post-PBX world.
February 28, 2018
Voice engagement isn't about a simple phone call any longer, but rather a conversational experience that crosses from one channel to the next, as Daniel Hong, a VP and research director with Forrester....
February 16, 2018
What trends and technologies should you be up on for your contact center? Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center & Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2018, gives us the lowdown.
February 9, 2018
Melanie Turek, VP of connected work research at Frost & Sullivan, walks us through key components -- and sticking points -- of customer-oriented digital transformation projects.
February 2, 2018
UC consultant Marty Parker has crunched lots of numbers evaluating UC options; tune in for what he's learned and tips for your own analysis.
January 26, 2018
Don't miss out on the fun! Organizer Alan Quayle shares details of his pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon, TADHack-mini '18, showcasing programmable communications.
December 20, 2017
Kevin Kieller, partner with enableUC, provides advice on how to move forward with your Skype for Business and Teams deployments.
December 20, 2017
Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, shares his perspective on artificial intelligence and the future of team collaboration.
December 20, 2017
Delanda Coleman, Microsoft senior marketing manager, explains the Teams vision and shares use case examples.
November 30, 2017
With a ruling on the FCC's proposed order to dismantle the Open Internet Order expected this month, communications technology attorney Martha Buyer walks us through what's at stake.
October 23, 2017
Wondering which Office 365 collaboration tool to use when? Get quick pointers from CBT Nuggets instructor Simona Millham.
September 22, 2017
In this podcast, we explore the future of work with Robert Brown, AVP of the Cognizant Center for the Future of Work, who helps us answer the question, "What do we do when machines do everything?"
September 8, 2017
Greg Collins, a technology analyst and strategist with Exact Ventures, delivers a status report on 5G implementation plans and tells enterprises why they shouldn't wait to move ahead on potential use ....
August 25, 2017
Find out what business considerations are driving the SIP trunking market today, and learn a bit about how satisfied enterprises are with their providers. We talk with John Malone, president of The Ea....
August 16, 2017
World Vision U.S. is finding lots of goodness in RingCentral's cloud communications service, but as Randy Boyd, infrastructure architect at the global humanitarian nonprofit, tells us, he and his team....
August 11, 2017
Alicia Gee, director of unified communications at Sutter Physician Services, oversees the technical team supporting a 1,000-agent contact center running on Genesys PureConnect. She catches us up on th....
August 4, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, has lately been working on integrating enterprise communications into Internet of Things ecosystems. He shares examples and off....
July 27, 2017
Industry watcher Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares her perspective on this acquisition, discussing Mitel's market positioning, why the move makes sense, and more.
July 14, 2017
Lantre Barr, founder and CEO of Blacc Spot Media, urges any enterprise that's been on the fence about integrating real-time communications into business workflows to jump off and get started. Tune and....
June 28, 2017
Communications expert Tsahi Levent-Levi, author of the popular blog, keeps a running tally and comprehensive overview of communications platform-as-a-service offerings in his "Choosing a W....
June 9, 2017
If you think telecom expense management applies to nothing more than business phone lines, think again. Hyoun Park, founder and principal investigator with technology advisory Amalgam Insights, tells ....
June 2, 2017
Enterprises strategizing on mobility today, including for internal collaboration, don't have the luxury of learning as they go. Tony Rizzo, enterprise mobility specialist with Blue Hill Research, expl....
May 24, 2017
Mark Winther, head of IDC's global telecom consulting practice, gives us his take on how CPaaS providers evolve beyond the basic building blocks and address maturing enterprise needs.
May 18, 2017
Diane Myers, senior research director at IHS Markit, walks us through her 2017 UC-as-a-service report... and shares what might be to come in 2018.
April 28, 2017
Change isn't easy, but it is necessary. Tune in for advice and perspective from Zeus Kerravala, co-author of a "Digital Transformation for Dummies" special edition.
April 20, 2017
Robin Gareiss, president of Nemertes Research, shares insight gleaned from the firm's 12th annual UCC Total Cost of Operations study.
March 23, 2017
Tim Banting, of Current Analysis, gives us a peek into what the next three years will bring in advance of his Enterprise Connect session exploring the question: Will there be a new model for enterpris....
March 15, 2017
Andrew Prokop, communications evangelist with Arrow Systems Integration, discusses the evolving role of the all-important session border controller.
March 9, 2017
Organizer Alan Quayle gives us the lowdown on programmable communications and all you need to know about participating in this pre-Enterprise Connect hackathon.
March 3, 2017
From protecting against new vulnerabilities to keeping security assessments up to date, security consultant Mark Collier shares tips on how best to protect your UC systems.
February 24, 2017
UC analyst Blair Pleasant sorts through the myriad cloud architectural models underlying UCaaS and CCaaS offerings, and explains why knowing the differences matter.
February 17, 2017
From the most basics of basics to the hidden gotchas, UC consultant Melissa Swartz helps demystify the complex world of SIP trunking.
February 7, 2017
UC&C consultant Kevin Kieller, a partner at enableUC, shares pointers for making the right architectural choices for your Skype for Business deployment.
February 1, 2017
Elka Popova, a Frost & Sullivan program director, shares a status report on the UCaaS market today and offers her perspective on what large enterprises need before committing to UC in the cloud.
January 26, 2017
Andrew Davis, co-founder of Wainhouse Research and chair of the Video track at Enterprise Connect 2017, sorts through the myriad cloud video service options and shares how to tell if your choice is en....
January 23, 2017
Sheila McGee-Smith, Contact Center/Customer Experience track chair for Enterprise Connect 2017, tells us what we need to know about the role cloud software is playing in contact centers today.