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Chopra is Vice President-Marketing, Cisco Systems
India. His current responsibilities include product
marketing, demand generation, education and relationship-building
with existing customers and partners. Prior to joining
Cisco, Rajeev served as Director, Marketing for Microsoft
successful customer-care solution calls for the integration
of three key elements: People, Process & Technology
to the Internet revolution, successful customer service today
means having a successful customer relationship management
strategy that integrates Web-based self-service with traditional
service capabilities. Web-based tools and services are an
integral part of customer-care programs for virtually every
business, and their role in customer service will continue
to increase. Successful customer-care calls for seamless integration
of three primary aspects: People, Process, and Technology.
Since customer-care has become a differentiating factor for
companies and individuals making decisions about the companies
they work with, it's critical to move quickly. But by adhering
to standards and working in incremental steps, you can more
easily manage the risks involved. The teams responsible for
delivering your customer-care initiatives must acknowledge
the issues surrounding people, process, and technology. More
important, it's imperative that they realize the balance of
these three elements will change as systems evolve, and as
the needs of your company change.
When it comes to transitioning to Web-based customer-care
systems, the people component is the most difficult one to
address, especially during the initial phases. You must address
the concerns of not only your employees, but also that of
customers who will use the system. Implementing online systems
that support or streamline customer-care processes often includes
making changes in the way your staff does its day-to-day jobs.
Change is unsettling to many people, especially those who
don't fully understand the reasons for the change, and negative
input from employees can substantially jeopardize the success
of your customer-care system.
To determine your business requirements, apply a structured
process to identify and prioritize your users' needs. Doing
this requires that you address many people processes, such
as working with potential users to identify their business
requirements and helping them manage their expectations about
the likely impact of these changes.
Communicating information about plans is critical to a project's
success. One major technology company launched a global customer-care
initiative, and as part of its planning process, it formed
a super-user group of representatives from different departments
to provide input. Because senior managers had some doubts
about the company's ability to meet the project deadlines,
they minimized communication about the project. A number of
minor glitches occurred, all of which could have been successfully
resolved, but employee speculation turned these minor glitches
into major problems. When the company invited users for training,
approximately 50 percent said they knew little about the initiative
and were not interested in participating. Four months later,
the company pulled the plug and absorbed a loss in excess
In another example, an international publishing company launched
a customer-care initiative and set up a super-user group.
This group remained active throughout the implementation,
helping select vendors, review the software, and train other
users. The company also used a comprehensive communications
program that included a weekly status memo to all potential
users, an internal website, and regular Q&A sessions.
People actually competed to attend the first training session.
The initiative went on to deliver an average productivity
gain of 22 person-days per user in the first year alone. Lesson
learned: Get users involved early, and help them to develop
and manage change.
The process component is delicate because simply Web-enabling
existing business processes usually speeds up problematic
processes. While most companies have customer-facing business
processes in place for the purchase, payment, and usage of
products and services, these services often need to be reviewed,
updated, or even replaced. Moving to Web-based processes gives
companies the opportunity to enhance existing procedures to
make them more customer-oriented, accessible via multiple
channels, and more consistent across different touch-points,
and to turn customer service into a strategic differentiator.
It's tempting to look for quick solutions, but companies pursuing
a customer-care initiative often make the dangerous mistake
of trying to correct business-process deficiencies by purchasing
software that includes one-size-fits-all applications. For
change to be effective, a company needs to evaluate the current
process, then work with internal stakeholders to redesign
or replace it. While it's not wrong to look at prepackaged
processes, it's vital to make sure the solution is correct
for the specific situation.
Before it implemented a customer-care initiative, one global
life-sciences company decided to revamp its sales lead-management
system. Originally, leads came in from various sources, including
the company's website, trade shows, magazine ads, and word
of mouth. The marketing department screened all leads and
assigned them to field-sales personnel based on geography
or specialization. During busy periods, leads often piled
up for days or even weeks, by which time they became cold.
Field personnel also had difficulty prioritizing them. The
company brought together sales, marketing, and top management
to create an ideal customer-lead process. The new process
was agreed upon and promoted throughout the company. Next,
all marketing and sales personnel were trained. Last, the
process was automated using customer-relationship-management
software workflow. Today, screening is automated, and sales
representatives receive prioritized leads immediately. The
results are a 10 percent to 15 percent improvement in lead-close
rates, equating to millions of dollars of new and ongoing
The Internet and new software provide options for implementing
customer-care solutions. However, the technology component
can often seem overwhelming given the ever-expanding number
of options. When exploring projects or developing ideas for
a customer-care system, you need to take into account architectural
considerations, project prioritization, and future plans.
Some of the latest product developments include Web-based
customer self-service, e-marketing, wireless technologies,
and voice recognition.
Technology plays a critical role in integrating legacy and
other needed systems. The selection and use of applications
and systems will greatly impact the effectiveness and efficiency
of system integration. People might insist that their part
of the system needs to be integrated first, so be sure to
set a process for scheduling integration activities.
Integrating All Three
All three components are critical. People are crucial for
ultimately evaluating how well the system meets their needs.
Process is important for driving workflow development, which
is in turn built by technology. Technology is key for developing
and modifying the actual applications that customers and customer-service
agents will use.