In order to survive and stay competitive in today’s customer-driven economy, attention to customer experience is not just important, it is absolutely CRITICAL.
Even with the most innovative product or service, if your customer experience lets you down, you will fall at the final hurdle. Your customers will vote with their feet and rapidly go elsewhere. Worse still, if they have had a bad experience, they will potentially make any negative opinions felt in a very public way.
Those businesses who succeed are the ones who create exceptional experiences for their customers. According to Forrester, there is a correlation between customer experience and revenue growth in most industries. Furthermore, if you get it right, you actually have the opportunity to reduce your costs.
Customers of course expect to have choice around how and when they can get in touch. But from an organisation’s point of view this adds to the complexities of creating a slick experience for the customer. The ability to deliver a great customer experience is dependent on creating a ‘joined-up’ experience for your customers across multiple touch-points. One which eliminates duplication, reduces confusion and makes the most of the information you hold on your customers.
A major pain point of any contact centre is a lack of coherent information. I don’t mean a lack of data; we’re all generating more of that than ever before; I mean a lack of integration between the various contact channels and the systems for managing them.
Most contact centres have an infrastructure that supports phones, web contact, email, live chat, even video conferencing, but in many cases, these systems are not fully integrated. This limits agents’ abilities to efficiently resolve customer issues in a single call or contact. Agents must have easy access to the information they need, when they need it, to handle inbound and outbound interactions efficiently.
As every contact centre manager knows, the better the customer experience, the greater their confidence in and loyalty to a brand, product or service. So, how should a business approach building efficient contact systems?
Joining up your customer information – Who? Why? What? Where? When?
Planning the most efficient customer contact systems begins with these questions, and it’s a mantra I borrowed more than 20 years ago and have used effectively ever since. Putting thought into answering these questions for each contact channel will make the time agents spend with customers more effective.
Who are they? Put simply, who is calling? Not ‘what’s the number?’, but ‘how can the caller be identified?’ How can their identity be verified? For emails, can the sender’s address be matched in the database? Who is on the website, have they logged in yet or not?
Why are they making contact? Did they dial a specific number in response to an advert, or did they select IVR Option 2 for account queries? What’s the subject and content of their email? Did they request Live Chat from a specific page on the website?
What do you already know about them? This is about tapping into your existing customer information to see what is already known about the person on the other end of the phone, email, live chat or yes, even a letter. Are they a prime customer? Have they missed a finance payment? Do they qualify for a promotional offer?
Where should they be routed? It’s not about getting the next call to the first available agent or sending off a quick reply to an email, it’s about getting that contact in touch with the RIGHT resource. This may mean encouraging them to use self-service instead of sending them to an agent, or to check the website, or respond to an email with an automatic reply attaching a user guide or a set of FAQ responses. ‘Where’ is about intelligent, data-driven routing.
When should the contact be handled? This is a two-part question.
Firstly, it’s about how quickly each interaction should get to the right destination – it’s about prioritising, escalating, or even diverting. If it’s a prime customer on the line, they can be routed to the next agent, or even to the last agent they spoke with. If it’s a general enquiry, the usual FIFO approach (First In First Out) may work best.
Secondly, when should agents or systems handle the contact? For calls, there is a large shift towards First Contact Resolution rather than the typical 80:20 service level. For emails or web chat requests, technology can flag or escalate if customers haven’t been answered within pre-set thresholds. With an interaction workflow solution this can (and should) extend to written or faxed correspondence – those customers are no less important. Service levels for support customers vs dealing with new customers should also be factored into contact routing intelligence.
If service channels aren’t properly linked, agents may well not be able to deliver as powerful a customer experience as they could. Indeed, cross-selling or up-selling may even be prevented.
Now that’s bad practice.
A recent report from The Aberdeen Group, leaders in business performance research shows that the most successful businesses rely on three key capabilities to manage customer data flows across their systems:
- Centralised product and/or service knowledge bases
- Sharing of information from interactions via social media with internal personnel
- Access to all customer information via a single screen interface.
The best performing contact centres make sure that customer information moves across channels with them, even if they are transferred between departments. This is vitally important as interactions often involve at least one transfer, despite efforts to resolve every issue on first contact.
Companies that provide their agents with recent and historical customer data see a reduction in the average handling time (AHT), compared to those without. When customers are transferred to another agent they often have to repeat their reason for calling; increasing the AHT, and adversely affecting the customer experience.
Contact centre performance issues are often attributed to a lack of knowledge. The fact is, all the required information is usually there, somewhere. It’s just that in their rush to deal with the fact that consumers have a choice of channel, companies have often simply installed channel-specific systems. The end result – islands of customer information across systems that aren’t integrated and are therefore not talking to each other effectively.
So, ask yourself: are you making the most of your customer information?
Keep a look out for the next article in this series, where we’ll focus on some of the growing trends in customer services, journey analytics and more
Digital Works Consulting – E-care
The DWC E-Care practice is laser focused to help you solve two integrated and mission critical needs for your business. Both brought about by the dramatic impact of digital change.
- Optimise your end-to-end multi-channel customer experience
- To make sure your customer care environment is fully aligned to the growing omni-channel needs of your customers of today and tomorrow.
Our Multi-Channel Optimisation service has been developed to help companies:
- Deliver a world-class joined-up customer experience regardless of the media used.
- Meet the demands of today’s multi-channel society.
- Leverage the customer experience to increase brand loyalty.