A totally disconnected chaos. That’s pretty much what the customer service looks like in many major European companies. According to research by BT, conducted in six European countries, customer service fails to deliver in many areas with frustrating customer experiences as a consequence.

A remarkable finding: 95% of the surveyed companies were unable to tell that an email from a support-seeking customer concerned the exact same question that the exact same customer asked via the phone previously. Even worse: in 85% of the cases where customers had asked a question using both phone and email, they received a different reply via both channels.

Even if BT is a provider of solutions to avoid such situations, we have all been there and know the phenomenon. Nevertheless, the numbers are quite impressive and food for thought for companies as these situations negatively impact customer service efficiency and the perception of the customer, along with the reputation of the company.

If different answers are given to two requests coming from two different channels by one customer, needless to say that on top of coming across as very unorganized, there can even be costs because of providing wrong information.

An organizational challenged to solve today for tomorrow’s customer

What’s most of all worrying as far as I’m concerned is that the telephone and email, although they are most used in most customer service requests, are just two customer interaction channels in an age where people start using other means of communication and service. Just think about online chat or IM, for instance, as mentioned in an article on research by AT&T and The Economist. Furthermore, it doesn’t look as if the number of customer service channels will decline, well on the contrary.

The challenge is strictly speaking not one of technology in the first place. The main problem – and the BT research confirms this – is that the different departments that need to respond to customer requests via phone or digital channels (think sales, after-sales, the tech department, the call center or contact center, the credit department, etc.), are not working in an integrated way, let alone are connected at all.

The impact of the direct result (conflicting and confusing information) can be high and it’s more than time that the divisions, processes, channels and technologies get used, deployed, improved and connected, especially as more customers use more and more channels.

Starting with a single view of the customer across interactions via the phone, email and letters as we know it in CRM and other back-office systems, seems like the least thing businesses can look at, before they even start contemplating other channels.

But, here again, technology won’t solve a thing if the processes and ways of looking at the customer don’t evolve as well.