For customer service to succeed in the current multi-channel environment, companies need to better align the direction of the customer experience decisions by top executives with those made by marketing and customer service professionals.

That’s a key takeaway from a new report conducted by the Customer Contact Association (CCA), sponsored by customer service vendor Kana Software. The report, entitled Smart Service, surveyed CCA members and customer service professionals from a variety of industries.

Departmental Collaboration

CCA chief executive Anne Marie Forsyth said in a statement that increasingly complex customer needs require “greater cross-department collaboration and better representation for customer service at the board level in order to deliver a truly customer-centric service strategy.”

The complexity of today’s environment, the report said, is reflected in the challenges faced by organizations. For instance, it noted, companies are using multiple channels to support customer engagement but are often doing so without a full understanding of how or why customers use those channels.

Steven Thurlow, worldwide head of Product Strategy at KANA Software, told news media that companies are “struggling to get their arms around the full picture of how and why customers are leveraging particular channels.”

Learning Opportunities

The study also found that customer service departments, including contact centers, do not have adequate representation on most companies’ boards, because they are not seen as having strategic importance. For instance, 74 percent of respondents view contact centers as cost centers, while only 26 percent see them as adding value and generating revenues.

Agents as Advocates

Forsyth said that a “customer first” approach means that contact center agents need to become customer advocates, and that will require strong support at the executive level. She noted that contact centers need to have greater visibility and cognizance within an organization, which is only made possible by top-level decisions to allocate sufficient resources.

The report also found that there is a “disconnect” in many organizations between marketing and customer service. Consistent customer experience has to move beyond a function-by-function viewpoint, the study said, and toward a complete coordination of activities across all touchpoints with customers.

CCA and KANA offered several recommendations. These include embedding a rotation in customer service into senior executive training, understanding how to more accurately gauge customer satisfaction, and evaluating how technology investments will improve customer experience.