At many companies, customer service is no longer viewed as a cost centre; it's now considered good for the bottom line. Forrester data shows that a 10% improvement in a company's customer-experience score can translate into millions of dollars in increased revenue.

On the flip side, poor customer-service experiences hurt revenue. Forrester survey data shows that about 30% of a company's customers have poor experiences and may defect.

Why is it so difficult to deliver good, cost-effective customer service?

Today's customer service technology ecosystem is complex. There's been an explosion of communication channels, touch points, deployment methods and vendor consolidations. With all these changes, customer service organisations struggle to get their agents to use consolidated tools that access relevant data, follow consistent processes and, most importantly, provide customer service in a way that customers want to receive it.

So how do you get better? Here are four strategies CIOs should follow to support customer-service operations:

  • Given the wide array of communication channels and consumer devices, companies must understand their customers' communication preferences. For example, a well-known airline found that customers preferred timely text messages over other types of communication. IT should use this data to anticipate the technology they'll need to support in the future.
  • Design your IT infrastructure to support cross-channel communication. Customers want to start conversations on one channel (such as voice) and continue it on another (such as online) without having to restart the conversation.
  • Make sure customer-service agents are empowered with the data they need to quickly answer questions.
  • Measure customer satisfaction and agent productivity metrics, and tune technology and business processes to optimise outcomes.

Kate Leggett is a principal analyst at Forrester