Excellent interactions—consistently and across all touchpoints–are the foundation of a good customer experience that will build long lasting customer relationships. However, without the availability of adequate channels that customers expect and processes to enable engagement that is fast and convenient, customer satisfaction and long term loyalty across the customer journey could be unwittingly diminished.
Focusing on the appropriate technology is a priority to win and retain customers in the contact centre. Today’s customers demand the best from products and services as well as the best from people and technology. Regardless of how, where or when the interaction is taking place, customers expect an excellent experience, and falling short in this arena can be costly. 79% of consumers will stop doing business with a brand after just one bad customer experience.
Customer habits are also changing, and businesses need to be aware and ready to meet the changing expectations. Think about 15 years ago when the average consumer typically used two touch-points when buying an item. Today, consumers use an average of six touch-points. Providing an excellent customer experience across all available channels is not just a good thing to do; it’s also essential to staying one step ahead of the competition and maintaining success, especially as UK businesses continue to over estimate their NPS scores, with gaps of sometimes 52 points on IVR and 35 on emails. Delivering this winning experience is easier said than done.
Businesses seem to underestimate customer satisfaction with interaction channels, specifically phone (with staisfaction rated at 47% by consumers and measured at only 37% by businesses). However, customers are much more satisfied than they really are with automated phone systems .
Knowing what the customer needs
Businesses need to monitor and understand what customers want and need continuously. With that information, companies will be better positioned to deliver the appropriate service experience as 72% of consumers expect companies to know their purchase history regardless of the method of communication. This isn’t just a matter of checking boxes and doing the bare minimum, companies need to be in tune with the Voice of the Customer.
The disconnect mentioned above about customer satisfaction is a good place to start. UK consumers state they prefer website, email and chat interactions, where businesses prefer video chat, social media and text. Perceptions are not in synch and the same applies to measurment as different methodology can give different outcomes. Overall customer loyalty is generally measured though an NPS score. It holds companies to high standards, as to get scores consistently in the promoter range, a company must really commit itself at every step of engagement.
Try seeing it from the consumer’s point of view. A contact centre can be the best in the business at providing technical support over email, but if customers consistently rate the experience of interacting with your company over email as low, how good you are won’t matter. They will eventually describe the experience as “bad” and seek a new provider. Omnichannel customer service can be a tricky process if the experience delivered in all channels is inconsistent. Through tools such as surveys, journey mapping or analytics, cloud technology can help a business gain a deep understanding of what the Voice of the Customer is saying about interactions on each channel.
Artificial Intelligence is now available to help companies get more information about customer sentiment. AI-driven interaction analytics for example can help identify sources of customer frustration and unresolved issues. Businesses can then take that information and focus on the corrective action in the contact centre. Being able to analyze sentiment can help pinpoint the right interactions for quality evaluation and agent coaching, leading to an improvement in the customer experience.
No matter the channel, customers expect agents to be knowledgeable, friendly, and able to resolve their issues quickly. 9 out of 10 consumers want omnichannel service, if a customer has interacted online via chatbot and has then been redirected to another agent on the phone, they expect the agent to have access to the previous conversations and be able to continue the interaction without any hesitation. Businesses seem to be more optimistic about the journey provided to consumers during a purchase, for instance, rating their satisfaction levels during the customer journey to 94% satisfaction.
Consumers will reward excellent customer service
Today’s consumers are vocal about the brands they love and aren’t afraid to share negative experiences through their network. Customers who have excellent experiences are more willing to: recommend that company on social media (83%), buy more products and services from that company (89%), and go out of their way to purchase from that brand (82%). Unfortunately, one-time excellent service is not enough to cement loyalty and in fact customers are 25% likely to walk out on abrand after just one bad customer experience and 59% if it reapats itself. If the customer experience is cumbersome, businesses will risk losing these loyal consumers.
Already, 62% of companies view the customer experience provided by the contact centre as a competitive differentiator. And just a 1-point improvement in a CX index score can lead up to an incremental $244 million in revenue.
While there is a compelling business case to invest in CX, companies still struggle to start and succeed. Ensuring the correct path to success includes benchmarking overall CX maturity across organizational, people, process and technology functions; and identifying next steps to accelerate results, based on proven CX principles. You need organizational alignment, an instilled culture of customer care, sound feedback management, clear goals, and the right technology.
Obtaining this CX maturity is a journey in itself, along five stages:
Stage 1 – Customer-negligent – Customers are essential assets to the contact centre business, and failing to see this and not valuing the Voice of the Customer can put a contact centre in stage one “Customer-negligent”.
Stage 2 – Customer-chaotic – meaning a contact centre is aware of the customer experience and may have put some processes in place to keep track of the Voice of the customer, but there hasn’t been a lot of action to maintain or improve results.
Stage 3 – Customer-aware – usually a multichannel contact centre that is working on designing a centralized and coordinated effort to maintaing and improve the customer experience.
Stage 4 – Customer-centric – Contact centres that have adopted omnichannel, are integrating their technology and tools are considered in the “Customer-centric” stage four. The CX initiative is centralized and established and with a clear strategy.
Stage 5 – Customer-champion – where the contact centre technology and tools are on a unified platform that is open, adaptive as well as proactive and predictive. Customers are valued as the supreme asset to these contact centres and are receiving an outstanding CX.
All these principles can help assess the customer experience and provide a path to CX maturity, five stages ending in the contact centre becoming a customer champion. And the best way to move ahead in this CX maturity model is with cloud.
Moving ahead with the cloud
A few years ago, omnichannel was a disruptive new idea. In 2019, it’s a basic requirement. In order to provide the modern service experiences the customers expect. Today’s excellent customer experience might not be tomorrow’s. It’s important to leverage new technologies and attend to customer needs as they expect them. The easiest and most cost-effective way to stay ahead of the curve is by adopting cloud technologies that allow for scalability and the flexibility for a contact centre to adapt to rapidly changing customer needs and preferences.
Investing in customer experience technologies has become more critical than ever because it directly impacts top line and bottom line. For contact centres, the cloud enables real-time agility in operations, empowers IT to drive innovation, and can deliver better financial results with improved ROI. For example, a contact centre operation of 1,100 seats experienced a 5% improvement in first call resolution (FCR), 10% reduction in average handle time (AHT), and a gradual 5% improvement per year in agent utilization, which resulted in 20% to 30% agents deferred while the company scaled in revenue and annual interactions.
This type of realization means happier contact centres, happier agents, and in turn a better customer experience.
No one knows how or how fast the consumer landscape will change in the coming years. But by investing in the appropriate technology and processes, businesses can put themselves in a healthy position to meet demands of consumers today and tomorrow, by having the insights and agility to stay ahead.
Paul Jarman, CEO, NICE inContact