Strategies to include for a holistic approach.
Today’s customers expect quick and meaningful interactions when they need help. Their expectations are also impacted by their backgrounds: age, income, location and type of technology play a role in how they communicate their needs. Whether a customer reaches out by phone, web chat, email, mobile app or social media, contact centers must be equipped to satisfy the customer by implementing the best processes, data, agents and technology.
Responding well within a customer’s preferred method of communication is where companies can demonstrate strength. While customers try to gather information or resolve problems on their own, they still prefer to use voice methods for more complex issues. At the same time, the growth of messaging channels has prompted new expectations that companies will resolve issues quickly and easily, and on the customer’s timetable. Then there are generational differences that influence customers’ preferences to consider. Baby boomers, for instance, will seek to resolve an issue with a customer service agent, while a millennial may prefer to resolve a situation on their own as quickly as possible with minimal interaction. The scenarios vary widely, so the contact center must be prepared to understand customer needs and desires on their way to finding the solutions that result in a positive impression of the experience.
I’ve been in the contact center industry for more than 20 years and I’ve engaged with thousands of customers in various verticals. I asked agents and supervisors what customer service means to them. Here are some of the responses I received:
- Answering calls within 30 seconds to meet the service level agreement (SLA).
- Providing the customer with first-call resolution (FCR).
- Using a customer relationship management (CRM) solution to personalize the interaction by calling the customer by their name and having accurate data presented to the customer at the time of call.
- Possessing a complete history of the customer journey during the interaction, allowing the agent to better understand the customer temperament and preferences, which ultimately increase Net Promoter Score (NPS) and FCR percentages.
These are only a sample of the comments I’ve heard. I believe they’re correct as separate factors, but the totality of the customer experience must be addressed. Including technology, agent training, accurate data, customer expectations, process review and execution provides a deeper scope of the customer experience. As you consider how to manage your customer experience, the following five strategies should be central to your approach:
1. Dedicate Resources to Improving Customer Experience
Management of the customer experience process is critical to the success of the business. Companies that do not understand the importance of the customer experience will be playing catch up, while risking the loss of customers to competitors. Your company must first dedicate itself “culturally” to customer experience from the top down. Focus a crossfunctional team that works continuously to improve it—from ensuring that you’re measuring the appropriate key performance indicators (KPIs) and using the right technology solutions to constantly refine and evaluate processes. Bring in internal experts or consultants from a variety of roles, including IT, sales, marketing, technical support, product development and others, who can apply their unique expertise to create better experiences for customers across the organization at every step in their journey.
2. Use the Data to Its Full Potential
Understanding and harnessing data analytics plays an important role in the organization, because examining data allows measurable and actionable change in the business. Applying analytics can result in higher levels of customer satisfaction and NPS, increased revenue, and a better understanding of the trends impacting customers. Companies that don’t truly invest in understanding their analytics are in jeopardy of losing market share, not delivering a personalized customer experience, and missing out on the changes they should be making to stay competitive.
3. Set Your Agents Up for Success
Your agents are the eyes of the organization and face of customer interactions. Giving them clear goals and KPIs that are in alignment with how your organization measures customer satisfaction is essential. If you’re evaluating them on call time when what your customers really care about is a thorough and accurate resolution, then you have an alignment problem that will lead to low satisfaction scores and a broken customer experience strategy. Instead, measure agents on what counts the most to your customers, while investing in training and technology to help them manage each interaction across every channel quickly, seamlessly and knowledgeably.
4. Personalize It
Whether your company is effectively providing a personalized customer experience influences your overall satisfaction scores, thereby influencing your customers’ loyalty to your company. Personalization efforts should be applied across all interaction types—both via traditional human-powered methods as well as digital self-service options like mobile apps or chatbots. Know your customers. Remember their history and understand their preferences for how, when, and why they want to engage with you. It’s not a simple feat and requires meaningful, well-researched touches along their journey with you. And it’s unachievable without investing in the right technology that allows you to provide a true omnichannel customer experience. Getting this right though will go a long way in ensuring the longevity of your business.
5. Invest in the Right Technology
In a world where customer satisfaction can literally make or break your business, you can’t afford to skimp on the technology that powers and measures your customer interactions. All the other strategies above cannot be accomplished without having the right technology solution in place. Choosing the right technology to manage your customer experience should:
- Deliver omnichannel capabilities to enter, keep up with and expertly navigate today’s fast-moving digital space.
- Allow your business to continually evolve the customer experience as consumer preferences and technology changes, while being able to scale.
- Enable your business to connect the entire customer journey by empowering your agents with the context and full history needed no matter the channel.
Ongoing Focus and Commitment Required
Ensuring the effectiveness of your customer experience will require ongoing focus and commitment. It’s not a one-time endeavor. Expect your customers and the technologies they use to communicate with you to continually change exponentially. Your strategy and technology needs to be nimble enough to keep up. Rely on a deep understanding of your customer, empower your agents, leverage your interaction data and employ intelligent and flexible technology. These are the keys to establishing yourself as a leader and disruptor in your market.