Richard Snow's Analyst Perspectives

Customer Engagement Day Highlights Issues for Companies

Posted by Richard Snow on Mar 9, 2012 10:45:03 AM

My namesake Jon Snow is chairman of the Directors Club (GB & NI), an association for professionals who focus on dealing with customers.Recently he organized the first of a series of customer engagement days designed to bring together senior representatives of U.K. companies to listen to a few presentations about hot issues in engaging with customers and more importantly to share experiences and concerns about key customer engagement issues in roundtable discussions, such as “the rise of the social enterprise,” “listening to the voice of the customer” and “mobile customers require a mobile strategy.” In addition to presenting a keynote on the state of social media in customer service, I chaired a discussion on “perfecting multichannel customer engagement in the contact center.”

To get the discussion going, I drew on insights from my research into contact center technologies and customer experience management. These projects demonstrated that providing multiple channels of communications for customers is no longer a choice but a requirement. Furthermore, it is not just a contact center issue. In more and more organizations, a variety of business units are handling both inbound and outbound customer interactions, including finance (bill inquiries), HR (complaints about contact center agents) and manufacturing (product queries). This situation has created three major issues for organizations: creating a single, up-to-date, high-quality source of customer data that can be used to support interactions at any touch point or business unit, creating a single “voice of the customer” report containing all customer information; and providing consistency of experience.

Participants responded to all these insights, although having a single data source and consistency were higher on attendees’ agendas than customer reports. There was universal agreement that supporting multiple channels is a requirement, and it was encouraging to hear a number of attendees describe how meeting this requirement has become a strategic initiative for their organizations; most said that their main concern is supporting the channel of customer choice, not managing costs. This led to considerable debate on how to make sure organizations meet customer expectations. Some attendees described technologies they deployed that recognize  customers and their preferred channel, down to which channel to use at what time and for what type of interaction. This came as a surprise to many attendees, and they took notes on how to do it. 

I had planned to avoid discussion of social media, but it was impossible to do. Social media is high on the agenda for many organizations, and we debated  which function should be responsible for responding to social media, how to put in place processes to ensure only “approved” responses are posted, and the need, driven by social media, to provide nonstop coverage and the impact of this on staffing. There was no real consensus on any of these issues, but everyone expressed pleasure to hear what other organizations were doing so they could go home and try things out. It appeared that many organizations recognize the need to expand the number of channels they support, including social media, but they are still experimenting to find the best ways to do it.

This outlook provided the backdrop to my talk on the use of social media for customer service. Again I drew on my research into contact center technologies and my latest research into customer relationship maturity. Using these I showed just how quickly things are evolving. Twelve months ago few companies had invested much in social media; today the numbers have gone up considerably. The main thrust has been the use of the most popular sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn) for “free” marketing. Only a minority have begun experimenting with how to use social media to provide customer service. Even for these innovators, the questions are what is customer service when the boundaries between marketing, sales and service are blurring, and how do we use social media indicators such as influencer scores to differentiate services.

All in all, the day may have raised more questions than answers, but it was good to see the high level of awareness and join the debate. Won’t you come and collaborate with me.


Richard Snow – VP & Research Director

Topics: Predictive Analytics, Social Media, Customer Analytics, Customer Data Management, Customer Experience, Customer Feedback Management, Operational Performance Management (OPM), Social CRM, Speech Analytics, Voice of the Customer, Analytics, Business Mobility, Cloud Computing, Customer Service, Call Center, Contact Center, Contact Center Analytics, CRM, Customer Performance Management (CPM), Desktop Analytics, Text Analytics, Unified Communications, Workforce Management, Workforce Performance Management (WPM)

Richard Snow

Written by Richard Snow

Richard leads Ventana Research’s Customer and Contact Center Performance Management research practice, which is dedicated to helping organizations improve the efficiency and effectiveness of managing their customers, throughout their lifetime and across all touch points, including the contact center. He conducts research exploring the people, process, information and technology issues behind customer operations management, contact center management, and customer experience management. He also works with senior business operations and IT managers to ensure that companies get the best performance from today’s highly complex application products. Richard has worked in management and consulting leadership positions in the technology industry including with Price Waterhouse, Sema Group and Valors. In his work, he has been involved with all aspects of delivering highly complex IT solutions to a variety of clients in the telecommunications, financial services and public sectors. Richard has specialized in delivering customer care and billing solutions for telecommunications operators, and several multi-channel contact centers for organizations in both the public and private sectors.