Getting to 360 – How Customers Can Help You Drive a More Efficient and Profitable Service Center

The Holy Grail of customer service is to ensure that all relevant client information is in the hands of any employee at any time making it simple and easy to provide an optimal customer experience. Vendors and industry analysts refer to this as having a “360 degree” view of the customer. But what does that mean, is it viable today and what are some of the best methods to get there?

For years there has been a mantra across organizations to try and deliver a 360 degree view of the customer. Vendors have used this metaphor to sell products and solutions that promise tremendous capabilities. But in today’s world of multiple systems, sources of data and information overload, is it possible to achieve a seamless view of the customer across all departments and platforms? And if so, what should organizations be striving to implement to get there? To understand what 360 degree view really means, we begin with a definition, turning to contact center magazine “Call Center Helper” who provides the following explanation:

“Whenever a customer interacts with an organization, it is vital that the richness of information available on that customer informs and guides the processes that will help to maximize their experience, while simultaneously making the interaction as effective and efficient as possible. This includes everything from avoiding repetition or rekeying of information, to viewing customer history, establishing context and initiating desired actions. A true 360-degree view needs to include views of the past, present and future … Delivering on the 360-degree view is not simply about having a unified database of all activity, but rather being able to pull together the pieces of information that are relevant for a specific customer and specific interaction into an intuitive workspace for the agent or the customer.”

The critical elements in this explanation highlight “pulling together the pieces of information that are relevant”. In other words, for most companies, it is unlikely that there will be a single system that will house everything, rather a collection of source systems that can work together intuitively to deliver accurate information at each moment of interaction. And because a positive customer experience impacts loyalty and retention, which in turn has a big impact on profits, understanding how best to achieve as close to a “360 degree view” as possible is what is driving customer and information technology strategies today.

How a Partial View Can Spell Disaster

In the following case study, when a consumer recently discovered she had been double-billed for internet services over the course of several months, she called her provider’s accounting department to discuss the irregularity. An agent put a note on her electronic file and began the task of investigating the client’s billing/payment history, while the customer ceased making further payments until the matter could be rectified. Because the installation department did not have access to the same account records and were therefore unaware of a pending investigation, they went ahead with a work order to disconnect service, leaving the client with no internet and no satisfaction, along with a barrage of phone calls from the collections department. After weeks of frustration, the formerly loyal customer severed a 20-year business relationship and moved on to a new provider.

Customer Service = Customer Retention = Profit

While this scenario may appear extreme, according to research conducted by b2b International, retailers and service providers risk losing 45-50% of their clients every five years, incentive enough to take a closer look at the critical relationship between company and consumer. Their research further states that because winning a new customer can cost up to 20 times[i] more than retaining an existing one, clearly customer service is of paramount importance in growing the bottom line, whether the client base numbers in the dozens or the millions, and whether it’s a niche market retailer or a multi-national conglomerate.

Involving Every Line of Business

Linking the islands of data of multiple departments and system siloes into a single online interface, such as a portal, allows all departments throughout an organization access to the same tools and resources, resulting in efficiencies not only in management and administration, but all the way to the end user – the customer. Ensuring that the portal is easy to use, manage, navigate and update, enables lines of business to take ownership in ensuring the information siloes that they are responsible for are always accurate. Measuring usage, accuracy and customer feedback, and, providing this to the line of business increases their interest and participation and results in greater success.

Letting the Client Lead

Because today’s customers demand action and expect the companies they deal with to know them and know their history, one of the smart strategies is to enable the customer to do a lot of the work themselves, including updating their own account information, submitting tickets on-line, ensuring their cell phone is enabled to receive text updates or allowing product or service add-ons. Customers will confirm that their personal information and data is accurate and kept updated if it means that they are receiving the level of service they need. Examples include:

  • Loyalty card information for points redemption
  • Correct address / phone number for updates or shipping
  • Accurate email address for offers, specials or e-Tickets
  • Product purchase history including warranty and product registration information
  • Able to access or download special privileges or bonuses

Today’s Portal

Implementing a portal platform that makes it easy for your tech-savvy customers to get involved in maintaining their own profile, communication preferences, case management and support, cleans up your data, eases back-office workflow processes, and ultimately contributes to that utopia of a seamless, positive customer service experience.