Customer Service Evaluation Framework

How to Evaluate Customer Service Products and Services

May 26, 2010

In this report, we present the latest version of our framework for evaluating customer service products and services, the offerings that help your customers answer questions and solve problems. The framework has four top-level evaluation criteria: showstoppers, key technologies, analytic functionality, and viability. New in the framework are its application to all customer service products and services, support for social media, and support for knowledge management, search, and UI content management as the key customer service technologies. Use the framework to reduce the time, cost, and risk for evaluating and selecting the customer service product or service that is best for your organization.

NETTING IT OUT

In this report, we present the latest version of our framework for evaluating customer service products and services, the offerings that help your customers answer questions and solve problems. The framework has these four top-level evaluation criteria:

  • Showstoppers
  • Key technologies
  • Analytic functionality
  • Viability

New criteria in the framework are application to all customer service products and services including case management offerings, showstoppers, support for social media, and support for knowledge management, search, and UI content management as the key customer service technologies. Overall, we’ve tried to make the framework easier to use and to make our framework-based product reviews easier to understand and more actionable.

Use the framework to reduce the time, cost, and risk for evaluating and selecting the customer service product or service that is best for your organization.

CUSTOMER SERVICE TO ANSWER QUESTIONS AND RESOLVE PROBLEMS

This report presents our evaluation framework for customer service products and services that help customers:

  • Perform the tasks that they need to or want to perform in order to do business with you
  • Get answers to their questions about your organization, your policies for doing business, and your products and services
  • Diagnose and resolve their problems in installing and using your products and services
  • Manage their accounts, orders,, bills, and entitlements with you

Knowledge Management and Case Management

These customer service products are known as knowledge management systems and/or case management systems. Knowledge management combines content management and search technologies. Content contains the answers to customers’ questions and the solutions to their problems, representing organizations’ knowledge of about their products, services, and business. Search helps customers find the knowledge that they need.

Case management systems manage organizations’ internal processes for answering questions and solving problems when customers and customer service agents cannot find answers and solutions using knowledge management. Case management systems use workflow and/or process management technologies to manage these processes. Cases (incidents or tickets) represent customers’ questions or the problems. They’re the objects of the workflows.

The framework specifies and describes the criteria that we use and that we recommend you use for evaluating, comparing, and selecting these customer service products and services.

CUSTOMERS WANT CROSS-CHANNEL, CROSS-LIFECYCLE HELP

Before we get into the details of the evaluation framework, let’s take a step back and put customer service in the context of the cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer experience. We’ve been writing for a while about it. Here’s what we mean:

  • Customers want your help on every channel through which they interact with you—self-service channels like the Web and email and assisted-service channels like your contact center, physical locations (e.g., stores or walk-in centers), and your field service force.
  • Customers also want independent, objective, third-party help about you and about your products and services on social media channels. They want to visit forums and communities to learn what other customers think of your products, to understand how your products and services are typically used, and to help answers questions and solve problems when you can’t or won’t help.
  • Customers want and need your help for every activity at every phase of the lifecycles of their relationships with you as they make plans to acquire products and services, find and learn about your products and services that meet their plans, select them, purchase them, and install and use them as well as managing the accounts, orders, bills, and entitlements resulting from their purchases.

Customer Service Products and Services

Customer service products are typically designed to support some subset of your customers’ lifecycle phases and activities and some subset of the channels across they wish to perform them. Your delivery of cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer service will involve a collection of organizations, roles and responsibilities, and customer service systems. For example, you might organize customer service by channel, by lifecycle phase, or by product line. For your products that require complex installation steps, you might have customer service roles for levels of support—the stickier the problem, the higher the level of support. And you might purchase, or already have purchased, customer service products that support Web-self-service for the purchase and use of your consumables.

Frameworks for Practical Customer Service

Rather than evaluating customer service product and service offerings against a broad, idealized framework that they’re only partially designed to address, and rather than portraying the way that you deliver customer service in a way that’s incompatible with your organization and budget, we’ve designed our cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer service evaluation framework to reflect both the way that you deliver customer service and the way that products and technologies support customer service. This design addresses critical segments of the cross-channel, cross-lifecycle customer experience one at a time in an incremental manner. For example, the first criterion of this evaluation framework identifies the lifecycle activities and the channels that a customer service offering is designed to support, the sizes, geographies, and industries of the organizations that the offering is positioned to support, and the technology environments in which the offering can be deployed.

A FRAMEWORK FOR EVALUATING CUSTOMER SERVICE SOFTWARE

This report presents the latest version of our customer service software evaluation framework. We’ve updated it for ...

 


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2 comments


  • kburns
    Kerstin Burns on June 5, 2014 at 8:33 p.m.
    Hi there - have any of the criteria changed since 2010?
  • Mitch
    Mitchell Kramer on June 9, 2014 at 10:08 a.m.

    Hello, Kerstin,

    For customer service from a high-level, this old framework still applies. For specific types of customer service apps, social customer service, for example, I've refined the criteria to be more useful. Take a look at my recent report on Clarabridge.

    Thanks for asking.

    Mitch

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