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Organizing the Flea Market of Customer Interactions

Customer service is everybody’s job. Literally. And that job is more difficult and complex than ever. A new Analyst Perspective by Ventana Research, a business technology research and advisory services firm, highlights next-generation customer engagement and analytics benchmark research which found that many business units within organizations surveyed handle customer interactions. More types of employees require relevant information from multiple systems in ways that conform to departmental business processes. Factor workforce mobility, multichannel customer communication, and regulatory requirements in industries such as healthcare and financial services, and it is apparent that controlling customer engagement quality is more challenging than ever. Read the complete analyst note here.

Customer service is an enterprise-wide activity. Customers engage with companies at many entry points – not just a call center or point of sale – and through a variety of communication channels, including social media and mobile apps. To succeed in this new environment, companies have to break down communication barriers between business units and provide employees with information and direction to manage interactions in real-time, every time.

My day job includes working with business leaders to establish successful customer acquisition and retention strategies. A cross section of the company – marketing, finance, sales, fulfillment, and, of course, customer service – is usually involved in the process. This ubiquity of customer touch points across an enterprise signals a new era in customer engagement; one for which many organizations are unprepared structurally, culturally, procedurally and technologically.

There are several common problems that drag on business performance:

  • Conventional, territorial thinking about who owns the customer relationship
  • Lack of collaboration and communication among departments
  • Silos of information
  • Reliance on rigid enabling technologies due to internal reluctance to embrace new models, such as cloud, or because of external issues such as vendor lock-in

Customer engagement at the enterprise level requires agile people, process and technology. This is especially true of accessing and sharing information to satisfy customer needs. Static knowledge management systems and collaboration platforms used by customer-facing employees do not provide guidance, curation or immediacy. I liken these content repositories to flea markets where you have to sort through a lot of junk to find something of value, assuming you’re successful at all. Evaluate applications that adapt to business requirements, leverage existing IT investments, and are easy to use. Complexity is the largest barrier to adoption. If a vendor does not get usability right, keep looking.

Stephen Pappas

With more than 20 years experience in enterprise software sales and operations, Stephen Pappas manages all aspects of Panviva’s North American operations. He previously served as a Director of International Sales with Harte-Hanks Trillium Software, where he took their enterprise data management offering to 54 countries. Other roles have included Executive Vice President of a SaaS software start-up and Director of Sales and Business Development at PageFlex.

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