Talk about “competing on the customer experience” and “putting the customer at the center of strategy” is not translating into results. Only 10% of customers feel experiences have meaningfully improved over the past year, only 15% feel their typical brand interaction is sufficiently personalized, and the majority still face long wait times and complicated journeys.
The good news is that brands do not have to settle for this sobering reality. Thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and growing support for omnichannel engagement, companies have an unprecedented opportunity to tailor experiences to customer needs in an efficient, scalable manner.
Success will not, however, come by virtue of technology alone. Companies will instead have to follow sound principles for creating an operational environment that supports the impact of new solutions and strategies. They will have to put customer centricity at the root of their service experience strategy.
This briefing details four key principles – unify, enhance, understand, and evolve – that heighten the chance of a successful transformation.
Key #1 | Unify
Today’s customers place a significant premium on seamlessness. They want to be able to start, stop, and continue conversations without missing a step. They also expect to move between channels without having to repeat information, re-authenticate, or deal with other undue sources of effort.
No matter where, when, or why they choose to connect, they want to know they are talking to a single brand – with a consistent commitment to delivering exceptional support.
This demand for frictionless end-to-end experiences is by no means a secret, but few companies are successfully rising to the occasion. Customers continue to identify long wait times, convoluted journeys, repetitive questions, and trouble finding the right contact as the most frequent “pain points” they experience when interacting with brands.
What will it take to finally eliminate these lingering points and deliver the seamless journey customers are expecting? The answer is adopting a commitment to a truly unified service operation.
“The next big obstacle for CX is ensuring the seamless and consistent sync between platforms, channels and devices. In a world where everything is on demand and instant, having any friction while searching for support will impact brand loyalty. Making the journey frictionless & easy will keep and grow a customer base in a competitive landscape.”
– Bob Farshi, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations, eClerx
Naturally, this includes adopting an omnichannel contact center framework that allows customers to swiftly move between channels. The platform also ensures agents can support multiple channels without having to access disparate systems.
It also involves unifying data sources to provide a 360-degree view of customers and their experiences. Every touch point, whether handled by a bot or a live agent, should have seamless access to relevant customer records and accurate company knowledge.
Not simply a technology play, the unification hinges on aligning all key departments – and their individual people and processes – around the notion of customer centricity. If different teams are not openly collaborating to achieve a shared purpose, fracture points will inevitably emerge throughout the journey.
Key #2 | Enhance
Unifying the experience is a pivotal first step, but it is not transformative in its own right. If a brand is simply “connecting” a series of impersonal, transactional service experiences, the customer will see little benefit. They will still feel as if they are interacting with a brand that sells products as opposed to one that delivers value.
Successful brands, instead, leverage their newly aligned service operation to enhance the customer experience.
One obvious example includes leveraging CRM data and real-time “agent assist” solutions to help agents anticipate needs and personalize experiences. With instant access to 360-degree insights about customers and their issues, agents can spend less time asking questions or searching through knowledge bases and more time using that intelligence to form meaningful connections.
Beyond augmenting agent-led interactions, modern AI solutions can markedly elevate self-service.
“Embracing & investing in digital and self-support channels as options for consumers who prefer nontraditional methods of support will simply elevate the experience in a meaningful way. For example, offering chat & voice virtual assistants that are fully integrated into your CRM which will drive a customized interaction. Alternatively, creating and consistently updating a library of self-support videos that are easily accessible via all platforms and channels.”
– Bob Farshi, Senior Vice President, Customer Operations, eClerx
By providing chatbots and IVR platforms with the ability to understand natural language and access robust data about customers, AI transforms self-service from “static FAQ pages” into a conversational, convenient, personalized option for helping customers achieve real resolutions on their own terms.
Conversational AI also helps bots capture meaningful intelligence from self-service interactions, ensuring a seamless handoff in the event the customer does ultimately choose to escalate to a live agent. In the long run, this intelligence can help companies better tune their bots, better identify the best self-service use cases, more effectively route customers to the right agent or channel, and ultimately strengthen customer journeys.
Key #3 | Understand
Customer centricity is an outside-in endeavor; it is the consumers themselves, not those sitting in the corporate boardroom, who should be dictating what happens throughout the journey.
Unfortunately, the typical brand lacks sufficient understanding of what customers want from the experience. A staggering 90% of organizations report issues capturing intelligence, citing challenges like trouble capturing data, difficulty unifying and analyzing insights, or ineffective strategies for putting data into action.
A modernized service experience addresses these gaps, pairing customer-centric thinking and technology to understand customer personas, preferences, intentions, expectations, and sentiments.
“Each consumer now expects a personalized interaction as the inherent tradeoff for their data privacy compliance. Gathering, sorting and then outputting the data in a meaningful manner helps drive the customer experience with not only the product, but also when it’s time to support the customer.”
– Libin Benny, Senior Vice President – Analytics & Technology, eClerx
Valuably, the aforementioned two steps assist with the understanding phase. When brands unify their touch points and then leverage that omnichannel framework to create more engaging experiences, they open the door to far more useful and actionable intelligence.
Brands with a singular view of the customer experience – including “external” channels like social media – gain a more thorough understanding of specific customer demands. They understand which product offerings and service experiences make or break customer loyalty, positioning themselves to maximize customer loyalty while minimizing the cost of unnecessary service.
Equally importantly, they learn what drives customers to switch channels throughout the journey – and what the experience entails. This information can be vital for contextualizing customer sentiment (was it the phone call that made a customer unhappy, or was it the convoluted process of getting to the live phone agent?), while also improving journey orchestration.
AI technology plays a vital role in this process, providing an efficient way for companies to unify, analyze, and then operationalize insights from all customers, interactions, and channels.
Key #4 | Evolve
Customer-centric brands are not simply seeking a list of challenges and opportunities. They aim to use that list to drive significant, and continuous, improvement in all facets of their customer journeys.
Democratizing data plays a pivotal role in the transformation process. Insofar as multiple departments may be responsible for improving the experience, all key stakeholders need visibility into what is going wrong – and what could be going better.
Leading brands also establish metrics that speak to value creation rather than cost containment. A 20% reduction in inbound call volume might, for example, imply that customers are increasingly using self-service platforms. If, however, the brand is simultaneously witnessing a 10% decline in renewal revenue, it might surmise that its new chatbot – those good enough to “solve problems” – is not creating the most engaging possible experience. The brand would consequently know to either refine the bot experience or ensure a certain subset of customers has a direct pathway to live agents.
“Seeing contact centers as cost centers rather than customer experience centers is one of the biggest misses for most businesses. Utilizing data and feedback contained within each interaction will help solve the actual pain points on the customer side as well as the care support, product and marketing side rather than relying strictly on survey data. Survey data is the end product and not the actual journey.”
– Kimberley Dye, Vice President, Customer Operations, eClerx
Although successful transformation is a continuous, data driven process unique to specific brands and their specific customers, all can benefit from adapting to macroscopic trends. The universal rise of low-touch digital interactions, for example, means the calls that do reach live phone agents will be more complex and unpredictable. It will take a higher-caliber agent, backed by more empowering tools, to meet this expectation.
As a result, savvy companies are already recruiting, training, and managing based on this higher standard.
“Aligning the hiring profile with the brand voice and supporting agents that are users/fans of the product/service offered does make a truer connection with the customer. Truly empowering and trusting your staff to do the right thing for both the business and the customer simply equates to a more effortless and positive experience.”
– Kimberley Dye, Vice President, eClerx Customer Operations, eClerx
Unlock the Value of Your Service Experiences
Yes, the aforementioned four steps will reduce the costs of your service experience. Unifying your operation will minimize the friction and inefficiencies inherent to fragmented systems and processes. Enhancing customer experiences will reduce the need for frustrating (and costly) escalations or callbacks. Understanding customers and their journeys will provide the intelligence needed to anticipate and proactively resolve many issues. Committing to evolution will ensure the business quickly and continuously addresses any performance gaps.
Successful brands do not, however, see modernizing their service experiences only as a way to reduce costs. They also see the value that will come from unifying operations to deliver more personalized and relevant support at all terms. Customers will reward this demonstration of value with future spending and advocacy. Employees will reward this demonstration of value with their ongoing loyalty and motivation. Indeed, the transformation from “cost center” to “profitable customer experience center” will come to fruition.