What is Your Quest?

Kevin Payne | October 29, 2013

In one of my favorite movies, a group of Knights of the Round Table are on a mission…they have a goal that they want to accomplish. But, a bridge keeper prevents them from accomplishing their task by asking them the same questions over and over again: What is your name? What is your quest?

Sound familiar?

Too often customer service agents are like this bridge keeper, asking the same questions over and over again to the point where the caller wants to jump off a bridge. A good friend of mine recently posted this rant on Facebook.

Have to vent. *Travel Services Company* has the most HORRIBLE customer service. I've spent over an hour on the phone rebooking and have repeated my information so many times I am ready to SCREAM! They do not even read everything they are sending to me, then she finally reads to me the dates...that I gave over 5 times...then I ask what are the flight times you are looking at. Her response "what are the flight times you are looking for?" This was after I gave her the flight times 5 times! RIDIC beyond words. I am reading everything to her and she is not following me AT ALL. Still on the phone and still my flights and car are not booked.

Beyond the “great” publicity on Facebook, the larger issue here is that the company’s contact center wasn’t able to maintain context or intelligently respond to their customer. Maybe the agent was trying to keep track of too many things at the same time. Maybe he or she lacked the proper tools. Surely, no service provider strives to provide this poor quality of service. It’s expensive both in terms of branding and in terms of operational cost. (“I’ve spent over an hour on the phone….”) But, if the agent is unable to anticipate what the customer is trying to do or concurrently keep track of multiple customers, they’ll most likely fail.

What makes this even more frightening is that my friend’s experience took place within a single phone call. Even though the agent was interacting with the customer in the same channel and same interaction, the agent still couldn’t figure out what the customer wanted. That would have been bad news ten years ago, but we now live in an omnichannel world and, according to Ovum Research, 74% of customers utilize three or more channels for customer service related issues. Imagine if this agent had to try to maintain context across phone, chat, and online channels?

Providing excellent customer service requires providing agents with the information they need and delivering them with that information in a usable and easily manageable format. Companies can provide superior customer service by predicting each customer’s intent by analyzing data from their journey, behavior, history, and by applying past trends from similar customers. Using prediction and real-time decisioning, we can enable call and chat center agents to anticipate and more successfully address customers’ needs and drive better sales and service outcomes. It’s ultimately the Holy Grail of customer service but, unlike the mythical chalice, these products and capabilities exist today—it doesn’t require some epic quest.