Getting Customer Service Right in the Digital Age -

Getting Customer Service Right in the Digital Age

While it might be hard to believe after sitting on hold with your local cable company, there are few areas in modern business that have transformed more than customer service.

But even with all sorts of online horsepower and loads of harvestable data, it is the management of this information that seems to be the biggest barrier to providing quality customer service.

Forrester Consulting, in a survey commissioned by Ricoh, sponsor of, talked to 250 global customer service and operations decision-makers as well as more than 30 customer-facing professionals to see where these workers are getting bogged down.

What they found was striking – 89 percent of workers who deal directly with customers said they’re not able to meet their customers’ expectations. And that can mean big trouble for the c-suite, who may not even know there’s a problem to begin with.

 89 percent Ricoh

The survey showed that document capture and exception handling are the biggest challenges facing these customer service workers. Some of that is the result of the legacy systems that still exist in a lot of bigger companies. The linkages to enterprise systems haven’t been productized enough for front-line workers to modify and create data-driven documents on the fly. The integration and flexibility is improving, just slowly.

The Cloud Is Helping

Firms that want to shorten their time-frames are looking to the cloud and choosing mix-and-match options.

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For things like field service, it’s often easier for an organization to look to a packaged solution that has the right hooks into enterprise systems. Exception handling, for instance, might be easier to accomplish because the vendor built in those capabilities from day one.

Of course, the flip-side is the data integration piece. Just because there’s API access to more rigid legacy systems doesn’t mean you won’t encounter any heavy lifting on the development side. Just make sure to always play to the strengths of your apps and tools. If you’re always changing the business to back into what the technology provides, you’ll never get out of that loop.

The other cloud effect is all of the online networks where documents now live. You can see some of that represented in the research. Customer service personnel are often capturing and uploading relevant information to internal networks and partner communities, but without flexible processes and the ability to modify data, those docs lose their value fast, which costs your organization time and money.

Forrester characterized it this way:

“Collaboration, instant messaging, tablet-based mobile solutions, and flexible workplaces will form these “lighter “solutions to reduce the time spent on activities that add no value and free up client-facing workers..”

Those “lighter solutions” are important because they provide complementary benefits to a company’s core document processes. It could be a collaboration platform that provided “context” to document workflows or even a marketing automation tool that provides communications on top of case management.

Quick Assessment, Long-Term ROI

To get everything working together and see the real ROI, take some time to understand where the real bottlenecks are. A glitch or two around the way a document is collected or modified can add up to big dollars over the course of a project or customer’s lifecycle.

As we’ve talked about, a bottleneck is likely something process-oriented that needs to be addressed by the right set of business requirements. Then you have something solid to anchor to as you define how documents need to move through the organization.

For more on how this study can help you make your customers happier, check out’s follow-up storyor this case study on Ricoh’s solution for enhancing customer satisfaction.