Saturday, 1 March 2014

Front line workers unable to please customers

Much has been said about the decline of customer service, but it is unfortunate when customer-facing employees desperately want to please - yet can't. This appears to be the case for nearly 9 in 10 (89 percent) of customer-facing employees such as bank clerks, call centre operators, nurses, bank managers and shop supervisors.

A global survey commissioned by Ricoh and conducted by Forrester Consulting, revealed there's a gap between the experience customer-facing employees can deliver and the experience the customer expects.

The findings of the research were revealed at a business leaders event in Dublin today hosted by Irish document management specialists, Digicom, which included presentations from leading technology experts at Ricoh and Polycom.

Ricoh's research found that customer-facing employees, who constitute more than half of the workforce, are critical for companies fighting to emerge from the recession. Unfortunately, gaps in supporting document processes waste time that could be spent personalising the customer experience - a failure that imposes a significant opportunity cost on business.

In fact, nearly 1 in 4 managers (23 percent) said poor document services support was a major limitation slowing the effectiveness of customer-facing employees in their organisations. More than a quarter of managers (26 percent) cited poor information access as a major limitation.

Companies that invest in collaboration, instant messaging, mobile solutions and flexible workplaces make customer-facing workers more efficient and free up more time for them to provide the missing personalised service, according to the study.

But today, many workers are spending too much time on mundane tasks such as data entry and have trouble with a wide range of activities, including finding facts quickly, creating documents, editing, writing, processing information, solving complex issues and leveraging mobile solutions.

"As a result, employees are not actively engaged with their customer, explained Dominic Keogh, director of managed document services, Ricoh Europe, speaking at the event today. "It is by supporting these employees with better information workflows that will allow them to be more productive and more customer-focused. It will ultimately enable their organisations to be in a stronger competitive and revenue-driving position."

At the heart of the problem is outdated technology that is often inferior to that used by the customers on the other end of the interaction.

More than one-third of managers (36 percent) said their organisations struggle to have the newest technologies, and 27 percent said there's a growing gap between their customers' use of technology and what their customer-facing workers are equipped with. Not surprisingly, information access suffers.

Dominic Keogh continued, "Less than optimal customer service experiences are often traceable to inferior business information workflows. In many cases, customer-facing employees are simply too preoccupied trying to find the right information and hampered by working with outdated systems to deliver a personalised, human-to-human experience. We wanted to investigate the problem, and measure it, to help organisations better define and improve their customer service strategies."

This research, detailed in a study called "The New Workplace Reality: Enterprises Must Capture the Soul and Spirit of the Emerging Worker," is based on an online survey by Forrester of 250 global customer service strategy and operations decision-makers, as well as customer-facing individual contributors.