For many companies, customer service is the bane of modern business. Companies feel obligated to provide it, but doing it right is a Sisyphean task, considering the challenges of finding qualified personnel and managing vast amounts of information. Those challenges have led to the development of an entire industry, called Knowledge Management, dedicated to helping companies do customer service better. Among the leaders in that industry in Israel is KMS Lighthouse, which counts among its customers most of Israel’s largest service providers, hotels, and financial institutions.
Customer service is considered an important selling point. Buyers of a product or service want to know that they are “covered” in case something goes wrong. Providing an outlet, in the form of a phone number or email address, for customers in need of help gives sellers an advantage over the competition, experts point out.
But that advantage can quickly sour if customer service is not up to snuff — and in today’s market, according to Shahar Ben-Ami of KMS Lighthouse, there’s a lot of advantage souring going on. “Industry-wide, the average time on the job for customers service agents is 92 days. After that, they are either promoted to better jobs inside the organization, or leave because they have had enough,” said Ben-Ami.
Companies feel there is little benefit in putting too many resources into training knowledgable customer service workers, and the results speak for themselves. Considering the vast amount of information customer service personnel need to have access to — and the relatively less-qualified or unexperienced employees that flock to customer service jobs — it’s no surprise that customer dissatisfaction rates have skyrocketed in recent years. In 2011, for example 86% of US customers said they quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience, up from 59% four years earlier.
That’s due, Ben-Ami said, to the increasing frustration customers have in getting answers from customer service people — a result of the far greater volumes of information customer service workers have to handle nowadays. “Mobile service providers, for example, support more complicated devices with more complicated features than in the past,” said Ben-Ami. “The more features, the more likely they are to get a wider variety of questions about using those features, and the more difficult a time service personnel are going to have finding the information.”
That’s where knowledge management systems — like those offered by Lighthouse — come in. “The only way to ensure that information is available when customers need it is to make it easy for customer service workers to find,” said Ben-Ami. Using a combination of Google-style text and semantic search, fast indexing, a robust synonym dictionary, and cached data for instant recovery, Ben-Ami said that his company’s solutions ensure that personnel have the answers customers are looking for, right away. “We use smart algorithms to build templates with questions and answers already prepared, so all the customer service worker has to do is search out the keywords and select the appropriate choice, with the answer ready to be presented,” said Ben-Ami.
“Our selling point and motto is ‘five seconds to knowledge,’” said Ben-Ami. “Usually prospective customers of ours don’t believe we can do this, but we’re able to convince them after a demonstration which consists of a customer service session in which staff are put the wringer, having to come up with answers to a wide range of questions.” It’s a fact, he added, that in over a decade of working in this area, Lighthouse has never lost a customer to the competition.
Among Lighthouse’s customers are some of Israel’s largest service companies, like Orange, Cellcom, YES, Bezeq, Mizrahi Tefahot, Leumi Card, Fattal Hotels, and many others. For these, and other clients, Lighthouse promises customers will be able to get answers to 80% of their questions within five seconds. In addition, the company has some major contracts abroad, in Europe and the Far East.
Now, Lighthouse is seeking to expand into the US — where, says Ben-Ami, there is plenty of opportunity. “There is a huge knowledge gap for US companies, where most of the customer service work is outsourced.” Although most Americans believe that India is where most of their service calls are routed, it’s the Philippines that gets the bulk of customer service calls from American companies. “There are 700,000 call agents in the Philippines, and 600,000 in India,” said Ben-Ami. “The problems with customer service are well-known, and American companies we show our solution to are really impressed.”