Enterprise Search Empowers Customer Service Representatives - CSRs - to Contribute to Growth
Think about your day-to-day experiences with customer service and support. What comes to mind? If you’re like many, you probably think about frustrating searches through knowledge bases, navigating interactive voice response (IVR) sequences that seem to get longer every day, and holding for minutes on end to speak to a customer service representative (CSR). These challenges have certainly grown during the pandemic, when so many of us have needed to ask questions or make changes to our services. A study conducted during the early days pandemic found that the percentage of calls that CSRs rated “difficult” more than doubled from 10% to over 20% due the many issues that they were asked to resolve on customers’ behalf.
Read our blog, Managing B2B Relationships with Expert Customer Support.
Now, what happens when B2B customers are involved? B2B customers also have high expectations of customer support. However, they oversee far more complex services than ordinary consumers. B2B customers run global or regional businesses in such industries as aerospace and defense, electronics, technology, telecommunications, and transportation. They often operate in a digital ecosystem or supply chain where service interruptions can cascade, harming other partners and sacrificing revenues for everyone. For example, during the pandemic, materials shortages and logistics challenges hurt manufacturers, partners, and customers. And in many cases, those missed revenues were gone for good.
B2B customers select partners who provide exceptional customer support
B2B customers carefully vet prospective partners not just for the services they provide, but also for the support they offer throughout the customer relationship lifecycle. Delivering exceptional customer support across all touchpoints is essential for a B2B partner because the customer they serve may represent annual revenues that range from tens of thousands to hundreds of millions of dollars. To put it bluntly, no vendor or partner wants to lose a profitable, ongoing relationship because of a two-minute customer support interaction that went awry. Consider this extreme example from the world of consumer entertainment. ABC parent Disney lost veteran producer Shonda Rhimes, whose shows made them more than $2 billion dollars, because an executive refused to give her another all-access Disneyland pass. Did a pass that may have cost a thousand dollars cost Disney a billion in future TV show revenues? Only time will tell, but Rhimes’ new hit with Netflix must surely sting.
Like B2C customers, B2B customers have online account services at their disposal and access to knowledge bases, chatbots, and virtual agents. If customers are VIPs, they’ll have access to a skilled support team who can provide white-glove treatment and make independent decisions when issues arise. B2B customers also likely have access to reporting and analytics, which gives them insight into how they’re consuming services, what their costs are, and the value they provide. Despite this rich information, problems will and do arise.
Customer Service Representatives often search through many databases to get support information
By the time a B2B customer contacts a service or support team member, he or she has likely navigated self-serve tools and come up short. The customer will want fast access to an informed CSR with the right information to achieve first-time resolution. The contact may come via phone, email, voice search, messaging, or digital chat, but the clock is ticking. B2B customers cite speed of service as twice as important to them as price, meaning that they want and need a fast, seamless service and support experience to keep their business with you.
Increasingly, customers are choosing automated channels over voice, meaning that CSRs often start a support session empowered with some basic information, such as customer name, account information, and the issue at hand. That enables CSRs to focus faster on critical issue resolution, which should ideally, drive customer satisfaction.
Unfortunately, just as with B2C services, B2B CSRs often must search through multiple customer databases or support tools to find the right information, which may or may not be available. And stressed CSRs are more likely to make mistakes, such as not accessing the right information source, navigating incident response unsuccessfully, or accidentally disconnecting customer sessions.
If the CSR can’t resolve the issue in the first interaction, the customer is more likely to leave. A study found that 67% of all customer churn could have been avoided with first-time resolution.
Empower Customer Service Representatives with an omnichannel customer view delivered by enterprise search
There’s a simple way to streamline customer interactions and empower CSRs to deliver great support. Deliver on the promise of the omnichannel customer experience by linking all content with enterprise search. Whatever the size, appearance, structure, or format of this content, intelligent search can organize, analyze, and present it. Instead of feverishly navigating platforms as seconds tick by, CSRs can use a single, intuitive interface that offers a unified view of content and also ranks results by their relevance to the query at hand.
Imagine if your CSRs could use an advanced search engine like the Sinequa Intelligent Search Platform to address your B2B customer by name, track and reference all past interactions, and have the tools to resolve issues right then and there. With unified information, CSRs could handle a wider range of products and services, reducing or eliminating the need to transfer calls or redirect customers to other departments. Being transferred and repeating information is a bane of many customers, as it signifies just how little the B2B partner really knows them.
It’s easy to see how customer service costs would decrease, while your CSR effectiveness would dramatically increase. It’s also more likely that your CSR would be able to sell or upsell products at that point, as happy customers who have had their issues resolved are more likely to spend.
Consider this example: A $13B telecommunications company headquartered in France served 20 million B2C and B2B customers, keeping its team of 10,000 CSRs busy. However, CSRs had to search through 20 to 30 databases to provide targeted support, increasing the likelihood of human error and an inability to resolve callers’ issues. After implementing the Sinequa Enterprise Search solution , the company was able to reduce call time twice, ultimately decreasing call time by a full 27%, which drove agent productivity by 33% and achieved an annual savings of $20M.
Reduce CSR stress with good tools like cognitive search
CSRs are continually rated on performance, making support a super-stressful job and leading to high attrition rates. Turnover pre-pandemic was an eyewatering 30% to 45% -- and numbers have surely increased.
Among the key performance indicators (KPIs) that CSRs are evaluated on are total ticket volume, call length, first response time, average handle time, and more. It’s not uncommon for CSRs to deal with angry or unhappy customers, who may provide fragmented information about their account, product, or problem, but still expect fast issue resolution.
When you equip CSRs with a unified view of the relationship using enterprise search, they can provide information and support in real-time that helps reduce stress for customers and CSRs alike. Being able to reference key data makes customers feel heard and understood and reduces their frustration at having to fill in information gaps that they think shouldn’t exist. Customers are also more likely to treat CSRs with respect if they feel like they have a good grasp of the issues at hand and the tools to solve their problem.
Less-stressed CSRs can do a better job, handle more calls, and provide a higher level of quality across the dozens of interactions they handle each day. It’s easy to see how providing them with a business search engine is a win-win for companies, CSRs, and customers alike.
Streamline training with single-point access to customer information
Training is another sore point for many B2B companies. They will invest significant time in training CSRs on customers, products, and support technologies. If CSRs quit in the days or months ahead, these companies will never recoup this initial investment. In addition, frequent CSR turnover can create knowledge and service quality issues, causing ongoing business disruption for both partners and customers.
The telco leader who deployed intelligent search had 10,000 CSRs but struggled with a 50% attrition rate. By reducing time to proficiency from 30 days to a single day, this enterprise saved 145,000 hours per year of training time. The company also undoubtedly kept many CSRs who would have otherwise quit during a too-long, too-frustrating training process.
If you’re experiencing challenges like customer churn, CSR errors and stress, and high training and attrition costs, there is a way out of this trap. Help your CSRs deliver the exceptional service they want to by removing the visual and mental clutter they experience with multiple logins and databases, disconnected and fragmented information, and a lack of a holistic customer view. By so doing, you can achieve outsized business results, just like the French telecommunications company did when it implemented the Sinequa Insight Engine. Learn more about their journey – and how you can use cognitive search to become a customer service and support leader.
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