How to deliver the three elements of great customer experience: Knowledge, time savings and consideration for the customer’s style of interaction.
We talk a lot about delivering an exceptional customer experience (CX), but the talk focuses on how to deliver it. “Improve first-call resolution,” or “Capture customer feedback.” In the confusion of how words such as omnichannel and digital transformation, we may overlook the end goal—the what we’re trying to achieve.
If you’re over 40, you already know what great customer experience looks like. And knowing its profile is the first step to making it happen.
Start with the Mom-and-Pop Shop
An older friend tells the story of his first job, fitting shoes in a family shoe store in a small town. The owner had a sign on the sidewalk saying, “You Receive Outstanding Customer Service Here.”
The owner told his employees, “I want you to wish every customer a great day—and mean it!”
This old shoeman understood the importance of the customer experience before big management consultants were telling us CX could raise revenues by up to 15% and cut costs as much as 20%.
But a great customer experience has always come from more than friendly smiles. And you know what those additional elements are.
The First Element of Great CX: Knowledge
In the past, great customer experience came by way of doing business in person with knowledgeable people:
- The owner
- The manager
- Long-time employees
The key here is knowledgeable. They knew how to fit a shoe, recommend a tool, find a matching tie, or any of the other bits of knowledge needed to make informed purchases. They knew where to find needed account information in files that they themselves maintained.
So the first thing your CX program needs is ready access to knowledge in a format that keeps the rhythm of work humming along.
The Second Element of Great CX: Time Savings
Where did people do business in the really old days? At the closest store or office, because that was the most convenient. It took the least time.
Catalog shopping was even better. Shopping became as close to you as your mailbox.
So that’s the next thing your CX program needs to deliver: time savings.
The Third Element of Great CX: Consideration for the Individual Personality
In olden times—like, the 1980s—when you went to a nearby establishment and did business with a knowledgeable person, how did they serve you? If the person serving you was smart, they adapted their style to what you wanted.
If you were chatty, they chatted.
If you were all business, they were all business.
If you were shy, they respected your shyness. If you were gregarious, chances are good they adapted their behavior to make you feel at home.
So that’s the final consideration in delivering exceptional CX: consideration for the customer’s style of interaction.
You knew all this already, but in talking to people, I find it’s worth reviewing. Now let’s translate these three markers of great CX into today’s marketing channels.
How to Provide Knowledge
Owners could only be a knowledge source if the business was tiny. Today, the challenge of every enterprise is to harness the knowledge of not just all the employees, but the most active, knowledgeable customers as well.
Digital technology provides the answer in knowledge bases—databases of tips, tricks, guidelines, rules, instructions and procedures that make for happy customers.
So the first requirement of excellent CX is a great knowledge base.
If it’s impossible or impractical to compile all knowledge in one database, your representatives and customers need to be able to move quickly between different knowledge resources. For example, if yours is a financial institution, you may keep customer contact information separately from financial data. You need a way to see information from both sources in one window, or to move quickly back and forth between two windows.
That element of moving quickly leads us to our next CX requirement…
How to Save Time
In the old days, we saved time by reducing the distance to products and information. Driving to stores gave way to shopping in a catalog, then the catalogs found a new home—the internet.
It will always be important to save time by reducing the distance to information. Great CX results from having immediate or near-immediate access to the knowledge discussed above.
Need to know what the customer purchased last time, and when? Need to access a repayment agreement? Need a history of customer transactions with the organization? Whatever it is, representatives must be able to get their eyes on it without making the customer wait more than a few seconds.
And sometimes, the customers themselves need to find that information on their own, which leads us to our third CX requirement.
How to Match the Interaction to the Customer’s Personality
Customers don’t always want a personal interaction. We hear a lot about millennials’ dislike of talking on the phone, but I know plenty of baby boomers who don’t like it either. So if we’re going to generalize, let’s do it by stating the larger truth: There are shy people in this world.
Gartner predicts that by 2020 a customer will manage 85% of their relationship with an enterprise without interacting with a human!
They may avoid the phone because they’re do-it-yourselfers, but it’s just as likely that they’re shy. So that’s one way to match the interaction to the customer’s personality: Enable shy people to get in touch the way they wish.
On the Other Hand...
Am I saying everyone prefers non-human contact? Absolutely not! Over half of customers prefer speaking with human customer service agents via phone.
To deliver an exceptional customer experience necessary to the widest market, we need to accommodate both types of people—the shy and the outgoing; the do-it-yourselfers and the do-it-for-me types.
This is where the omnichannel comes in.
The Omnichannel Appeals to Everyone
The omnichannel refers to the universe of ways customers and prospects can reach us: chatbots, interactive voice response systems (IVRs), emails, telephones, and even brick-and-mortar stores!
Success with the omnichannel demands we think of it as more than just adapting to new ways to win and keep customers. The omnichannel is how we show we really care about the ways each individual interacts with the world.
In other words, your use of the omnichannel is how you match the interaction to the customer’s personality.
The Challenge in a Nutshell
A great customer experience results from combining (1) knowledge with (2) time savings in a way that (3) fits the customer’s personality. Easy, right?
In large organizations with complicated products and services, massive personnel turnover, and customer populations greater than a large city, it may seem impossible to deliver knowledgeable service quickly, tailored to the customer.
Add the complications of the omnichannel to that mix and you have a challenge, to put it mildly.
Fortunately, that’s the challenge my organization tackles.
How to Pull It All Together
I direct United States operations for Panviva, a developer of guidance software for complex processes. The Panviva platform integrates your people, your knowledge base, and the omnichannel to deliver the customer experience described above: knowledgeable, fast and tailored to customer preferences.
How does it work? For call center agents, picture a little guidance screen in the corner of the monitor that not only knows where agents are in their workflow, but also guides them to the next steps. It even links to the information needed to perform recommended actions.
The same technology can be applied to streamline other omnichannel processes, from IVRs to chatbots.
Panviva customers use the software to improve first-call resolution scores and maintain high performance in the face of personnel turnover and staff reductions. For example, one Panviva customer lost 20% of the personnel in its contact center due to attrition, but had zero decline in performance scores!
Such improvements resonate throughout your operations. A study by 3CLogic found that even a 1% improvement in first-call resolution raises customer satisfaction rates by 1% and employee satisfaction by as much as 5%!
From Small Towns to Digital Marketplaces
We’ve come a long way from small-town mom-and-pop businesses, but the end goal is to make commerce as simple and rewarding in a digital environment as it was in that Disneyland-like world. Agreeing on what we aspire to can guide us how we reach those goals.