New research reveals major gaps between C-Level executives and customer service professionals

Berlin, Germany, May 29, 2008 — When it comes to aligning the executive suite with the customer service organization, there is a significant gap between what C-level executives promise and what customer service organizations see, according to the results of a recent survey. Titled “The Executive Disconnect: The Strategic Alignment of Customer Service,” the survey takes an in-depth look at businesses across key regions worldwide, with detailed data for major markets in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific.

To provide perspective on the issue, Genesys Telecommunications Laboratories Inc. surveyed a group of C-level executives and compared their responses to the customer-centric professionals who are much closer to the front lines (contact center managers/directors of customer care/sales managers and directors/marketing directors).

The research, which covers 47 countries and 927 participating companies, was commissioned by Genesys to better understand the challenges in aligning customer service with the business goals of the company. The participants were comprised of senior C-level titles and management contributors from a variety of markets, including financial services, telecommunications, healthcare, government, retail, manufacturing, technology, and education. Approximately one-third of the participants were from companies with 500 agents or less, while another third were from very large organizations with 2,500 agents or more. The size of companies’ customer service operations ranged from under 100 to more than 10,000 employees, and respondents included more than 1,500,000 contact center agents, as well as back office, branch, and field level support professionals.

The survey found a significant gap between C-level perceptions and the reality experienced by most of their customers. Here are a few highlights:

* Strategic vs. operational role — Customer care professionals and executives overwhelmingly agree that customer service impacts the company’s brand identity, yet very few think their customer service acts mainly as a strategic function. Only 20 percent of CEO-level executives and 20 percent of customer care professionals say their contact centers are very strategic. Both groups agree that customer service is key to brand identity, with 92 percent of C-level executives and 85 percent of customer-centric employees agreeing. But C-level executives (73 percent) overestimate the effort in their companies to measure customer lifetime value, compared to a smaller number of customer-level employees (60 percent).

* Measuring revenue and customer experience vs. speed and efficiency — Most C-level executives underestimate the emphasis their organization places on efficiency, and overestimate how easy their organization makes it for customers to purchase during interactions. For example, 55 percent of C-level executives believe their operations use average speed to answer as a critical metric, compared to 70 percent of customer service professionals. On a worldwide basis 67 percent of all organizations considered this a key metric. Among C-level executives, 41 percent think they measure the experience in self-service by quality rather than just cost savings, but only 35 percent of customer service professionals think so. At the same time, 36 percent of C-level executives think their customer service is measured on revenue per call, when in reality only 28 percent of customer service professionals validate that notion. Among global respondents 30 percent say they measure revenue per call.

* Capturing customer feedback — There is a major (16 percent) gap between C-level execs who believe they are capturing important customer feedback, and the views of customer service professionals. While 78 percent of C-level execs think their company is doing a good job of collecting information on customer and market needs and passing it on to sales, only 62 percent of customer service professionals agree. Interestingly, on a regional basis, Germany is the leader, as 75 percent of companies have processes for systematically passing on customer feedback, followed by Asia, France and Spain at 74 percent.

* Finding a cure — On a positive note, many companies have already implemented or plan to initiate priority projects over the next 18 months to address misalignment. More than 28 percent of the companies surveyed have or will add “click for a call back” capability, and in Germany a surprising 54 percent of companies say they will or do support it. To support proactive business management, nearly 30 percent of those surveyed plan to enable information consoles to provide real-time views that leverage customer data across the entire enterprise. And 36 percent of companies worldwide plan to improve visibility into customer processes by identifying the root causes behind customer interactions and behaviors through analytics.

* Leveraging the entire organization — There are two significant areas of investment that are helping companies become more dynamic, extending customer service to branch offices and virtualization. Over 28 percent of the companies surveyed are already moving to incorporate branch offices to expand the pool of resources available during high volume periods. Regionally, the UK is the leader, where 39 percent of companies are doing so followed by Spain at 38 percent. Nearly 40 percent of contact centers worldwide are currently virtualizing by operating multiple contact centers as a single entity, or plan to do so. Asia Pacific and the UK are the leaders in this, with 49 percent and 50 percent of companies respectively virtualizing.

Genesys has already released the aggregate results, and regional results will be released separately via individual reports for selected countries. The survey was conducted between April 1 and May 9, 2008 for Genesys by an independent research firm, Equation Research.

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