Although most executives think they’re doing a good job in delivering the best service to their customers, there is plenty of room for improvement.

A new Forbes Insight study reveals many executives are missing the mark on just how valuable customer service can be for strategic initiatives such as brand differentiation, competitive positioning, new customer acquisition, improving their product offerings and even employee satisfaction.

In fact, only 38 percent of those surveyed named customer service as an organization-wide strategic goal.

Sponsored by Oracle, the report, Modern Customer Service: Are You Outpacing Your Executive Peers? (registration required), includes 38 pages of insight from 415 executives about the focus of their customer service organizations, their use of knowledge management tools and channels, and their customer service challenges.

Room for Improvement


And, although the findings show that 88 percent of executives surveyed said they’re making good or excellent progress in providing modern customer service, David Vap, group vice president of Oracle Applications, believes they’re not making progress in the right areas.

"A lot of executives are doing a better job, but they’re often doing a better job at the wrong thing,” said Vap. “They’re not driving every interaction across the customer journey to be a service.”

According to the report, modern customer service is defined as “going beyond standardizing service across channels to achieving personalized customer engagement at every touchpoint.” 

Vap explained, "The macro challenge is the idea that customer service isn’t just a function in an organization, but it’s a domain that needs to cut through all functions. That’s where you get to a modern view of customer service – when you think about customer service at every single point along the customer journey, rather than just looking at typical customer service metrics.”

Ditch Old School Metrics

The report shows that 67 percent of executives who said they are making excellent progress toward providing modern customer service are still using traditional KPI’s such as first call resolution and average talk time to measure customer service success.


“First call resolution is an old-school metric for contact centers, in which customer service is viewed as a cost,” said Vap. “Organizations need to think about customer service as a tool for not just solving the problem, but for driving customer satisfaction, retention and advocacy. You need to change those metrics.”

He added that metrics such as net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction really “get to the heart” of customer service, and are part of the modern mind frame.

“Don’t squeeze every second to get the best first call resolution,” he recommended. “Think about what your employees are doing to improve the end experience.”

Empower Customers with KM

Another facet of modern customer service focuses on empowering customers through self-service on whichever channel or device they choose.

Survey respondents seemed to realize the important role that effective knowledge management plays in self-service, as 59 percent of those surveyed stated they use a knowledge base to ensure information consistency across channels, and 51 percent named knowledge management as their top investment area for the coming year.


“The root of every bad experience that occurs is a gap in knowledge in helping the customer,” said Vap. “The more an organization can create a core knowledge base with information and answers to questions – both pre-sales and post-sales – the more that knowledge can be easily exposed across the full customer experience, and the more likely the customer will get the right answer and be satisfied.”

He added that having strong knowledge management capabilities is an easy win for organizations in terms of ROI.

“Knowledge management is the core strategic domain for great customer experience,” said Vap. “The easiest ROI is with knowledge management. If you can create a knowledgebase that can be accessed across desktop and mobile apps, it’s the cheapest form of customer service you can do – cheaper than a thousand phone calls.”

No Instant Fix

Although the report shows signs that organizations are beginning to think strategically when it comes to customer service, such as making the shift to more customer-facing metrics, Vap reiterated the importance of getting everyone in the company on board with customer service, noting:

Almost every organization has started to make attempts. We’re starting to see companies enlightened, making metrics shifts, and moves to a strategic frame of mind, but it’s not easy. As the bar increases with customer service, you have to keep up because the consumer has all the power. It’s a mindset shift that doesn’t happen quickly within most companies.”

Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License Title image by Chris Makarsky.