When I started my career in 1988 as a sales rep for a predictive dialer company, call centers really weren’t focused on customer experience. As cost centers, they were hellbent on extracting every cent from the business. It’s no surprise that the outcome was a pervasive reputation for cringeworthily bad customer service. Even today, just the thought of dialing a 1-800 number can elicit cold sweats from the legions of customers who have suffered in the past.
A lot has changed since those days, and it’s been fascinating to me to watch two major evolutions:
- How important CX has become in customer’s buying decisions and,
- How the contact center has truly become the epicenter for delivering Customer Experience excellence. Sure, there are other touchpoints, like in-store experiences, but the contact center is where most touchpoints are happening.
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"Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline."
In today’s economy, providing a quality product or service are just table stakes. Customers DEMAND great CX. Not mediocre, not just OK, great. According to an American Express Customer Service Barometer report, 33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service. As consumers, we have more choice in terms of products and services than ever before. Competitive options are a click away. The true differentiator of your brand is customer experience.
TIP #1: Great CX is Designed, Not Purchased
Every customer touchpoint within your control should be purposeful, efficient and easy. Ask yourself these questions:
• Have you mapped your customer journey?
• What is the ideal journey you want your customers to experience?
• Are you delivering a frictionless experience?
If you find that some of the answers are NO, then you have your starting point to begin reshaping the CX that you’re delivering.
And that CX is a moving target.
"You have to skate to where the puck is going to be, not where it’s been."
We’re in a fast-moving digital world. Disruption is a way of life. But it’s not just new products and services that are disrupting the establishment—customer service is being disrupted too. Customers have different expectations, and they are evolving at a rapid clip. So, to riff off The Great One, how do you “skate to where your customers’ expectations are going to be”?
Tip #2: Channel Choice Wins
As consumers, we’re all spoiled with choice. We can order any of thousands of products on Amazon with a single click and have it delivered to our front porch tomorrow. I find the sheer number of toothpaste options at the drug store overwhelming! Your customers are programmed to want channel options.
“Digital channels are the #1 channel of choice of communication for people under the age of 35.”
– Dimension Data, Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report
Are you meeting your customers where they are in their digital world? Or are you still forcing them to use phone and email? Companies that make these channels available sooner than later still have a chance to stand out and build or deepen customer loyalty, while also improving customer engagement and satisfaction.
"Micromanage the process, not the people."
I always find it interesting how little time we as contact center leaders spend reevaluating existing processes. Contact centers have every type of KPI to micromanage people. Meanwhile, your customer expectations are changing, your business is changing, and your competitors are changing, but your processes are stuck in a time warp.
Process re-evaluation should be a regular planned exercise. An example of this process reevaluation is phone support. Phone support today is different than it was ten years ago—even five years ago. Nowadays when your customer reaches out to you via phone, chances are they’ve already exhausted their search for a resolution via digital means. And now they REALLY, REALLY want to talk to an agent to solve their problem. There is an urgency.
Yet, according to a Harris Interactive poll, 75% of customers believe it takes too long to reach a live agent.
TIP #3: IVR Prompts Should Make Things Easier, Not Harder
This is not a new concept, but it’s worth remembering the primary purpose of the IVR is to make things easier for the customer first.
In 2017, one of my all-time favorite survey statistics came out:
39% of customers in the poll would rather clean a toilet than look to an IVR to resolve their issue. That’s the reputation we’ve created for IVRs!
I recently found myself caught in “IVR Hell” while on the phone with a major Northern California medical group. After selecting one prompt and waiting, I was then bombarded with additional options, the last one being a request to do a survey. Really, you want to take my time to do a survey before you’ve even solved my issue? While I’m stewing in frustration in a queue? Trust me—you really don’t want my opinion right now!
Have you created an IVR maze for your customers? How many levels does a customer has to go through before getting to live agent? Are you passing IVR data to the agent in order to prevent the customer from having to provide the same information multiple times? We’ve all experienced this and we all hate it. Right? Lastly, it’s important to ensure that every single prompt and answer provides meaningful value to the customer. If it doesn’t, get rid of it.
"From a customer’s perspective, when something goes wrong, the overriding sentiment is: Help me fix it."
Your customers just want you to help them fix their issues, so they can get on with their lives. One of the most flagrant areas of customer annoyance is bad self-service and the breakdown between self-service and assisted-service channels.
According to Accenture, 89% of customers get frustrated because they need to repeat their issues multiple times. That’s a direct result of disconnected channels and a disconnected customer journey. It means you’re not carrying conversational context from channel to channel.
As consumers, we’ve all had this experience. It says: you don’t value my time, you don’t know who I am as a customer and you don’t deserve my business
Tip #4: Self-Service Should Be Easy and It Should Be Connected!
When you think about your self-service strategy, what goal are you are trying to achieve? Are you offering self-service to give your customers choices and making it easy for them, or are you forcing them down a path because it’s a cheaper channel than a live call?
As I mentioned earlier, most customer engagements these days start in a digital channel and only escalate to voice when the self-service option failed. So, when that customer calls, does your agent have the context of the situation captured from the digital or voice self-service interactions? Or are they driving blind and forcing your customer to repeat everything?
At the end of the day, bad self-service that operates as a silo is a worse CX experience than no self-service.
"Show me the money!"
There is a major disconnect between what executives believe about the customer experience their company is delivering and what their actual customers are saying. According to a Bain & Co. report, 80% OF CEOs BELIEVE THEY DELIVER SUPERIOR CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE, while only 8% of their customers agreed. That’s a big gap. And a big problem! This disconnect has to do with the difference between executives being fully bought into the value of CX versus providing lip service.
Tip #5: Without Executive Alignment, Your CX Initiatives Will Fail
There are two ways to get executive alignment and free up those purse strings to fund CX programs:
First, Show Them the Money!
The challenge is that in the CX universe, economics is the single biggest topic that divides the perspectives of top executives and the professionals who run CX programs. When polled, the latter voted CX economics the least interesting topic, while top execs voted economics the most interesting topic.
This gap is a problem because the people who are running the programs consistently state that their programs are underfunded. And it’s no wonder. The root cause is that until these professionals can do a better job of articulating the financial upside of their programs, it will be tough to persuade leaders to fund it.
That’s not to say that the macroeconomics of CX financial benefits haven’t been clearly established. They have. As shown in the chart below from Forrester Research, companies that lead in CX outperform the S&P 500 in stock performance and total returns. Conversely, CX laggards significantly underperform.
As a CX program owner, your job is to articulate the financial upside for your company and your program. Build the business case that shows revenue upside from moving your NPS needle and resultant higher customer retention and lifetime value. Outline the cost savings upside from reducing handle times and increasing first-contact resolution rates.
The second way to get executive alignment is to Show Them the Experience!
“‘We have to focus on the consumer… I don’t think the answers are just in the numbers. You have to get out and look.”
– A.G. Lafley, CEO, Procter & Gamble
Have you walked your executives in your customer experience shoes? Send them into your IVR. Ask them to solve an inquiry through self-service. Have them escalate from a chat to an agent. You need to make it real to them.
"If you ain’t first, you’re last."
CX is the battlefield for the hearts and minds of your customers, whose expectations are only going to increase over time. Are you set up to win the customer experience battle?
Tip #6: Ensure Your Technology Is Giving You a CX Advantage, Not a Disadvantage
Cloud contact center technology has evolved at lightning speed over the past 10 years. The newest technologies provide levels of scalability, reliability and operational agility never before seen. It is these advancements that can help you achieve CX excellence.
Yet, most systems on the market today are built on 20+-year-old technology—before CX was even a thing!
So, ask yourself these questions:
- Do you know the delta between your current technology capabilities and today’s best-in-class capabilities? Is your current technology achieving perfect or near perfect uptime?
- Are you able to take advantage of leading-edge innovations, such as AI? Can your current technology accommodate them seamlessly?
Discover How Talkdesk Can Make CX Your Competitive Advantage
If the answer to any of these questions is NO, and you are serious about winning at CX, then it’s time to reassess your current contact center technology. Otherwise, you will be forever playing from behind the 8-ball.
Talkdesk recently won Frost & Sullivan’s 2019 Best Practice Award for Cloud Contact Centers. The following is a quote from the report:
“Keeping with the strategy of anticipating that additional digital channels will come online, and new technologies…will continue to infuse customer contact, Talkdesk is designed to be quickly modified as new channels and technologies become available”.
To learn how Talkdesk can help you make CX your competitive advantage, download the full report here.