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Digital capability and execution have not kept pace with customer expectations. As customer experience (CX) practitioners, many times we fail to create the digital experience customers demand.
Convergys handles about 8 billion interactions a year, and we’ve seen the tide shift. Business must get better at supporting customers along the entire omni-channel journey, both within and across touchpoints. To adapt, support models should be adjusted to deliver digitally-enabled transactions and combine human interaction with automation.
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Connected Customers Expect Connected Experiences
Convergys conducts an annual syndicated research series among thousands of customers to understand their experiences and viewpoints. As we sift through data and marry it to other information, we see three key themes relating to digital care:
- 1. Customers want experiences to be easy and quick everywhere. No surprise here. Customers want questions resolved quickly and easily. That’s why growing numbers turn first to self-support for the simplest path to success.
2. Digital channels are the norm but companies aren’t executing well. No one wants to go multiple places to solve an issue, but we still see it happen up to 40% of the time in some industries.
3. Companies don’t really understand their customers. Customers want personalized care where their history is automatically recognized and care is adjusted to that relationship. This rarely happens.
Despite the explosion in digital CX delivery, voice still is the elephant in the room. It scores highest in usage and preference – yet has become a melting iceberg. From our research, we see enormous usage shifts within a two-year span: App usage up 67%, chat usage more than double, social care was up 5-fold. In the next 2-5 years, we expect web and mobile self-service to increasingly become service’s first point of contact. Chat is predicted to be the top digital channel implemented in the next 24 months, and online communities will offer an important link to self-serve. Within 5-7 years, voice will shift from a primary channel to an escalation point as the level of complexity for voice contacts increases.
The Digital Landscape Isn’t Always Easy
The reason some journeys are hard is because organizational digital maturity fails to meet customer needs or expectations. When we asked customers to take us through their interactions, 25% said they used multiple channels to resolve a particular question. If that sounds high, we’ve also seen the number rise to 40% for certain contact types.
What happens when we make customers switch channels? Nothing good. Everyone knows that multiple contacts leads to bad experiences. What isn’t as widely known is that if customers switch channels for resolution, the effect is magnified. Just the act of going digital-to-assisted can drop experience scores 12-19 points, depending on the metric.
If this is the future, what does it mean for us today? Increasingly, it means these trends are starting to play out in your care environment. For a sizeable percentage of people contacting you over the phone, the 800# isn’t their first stop. And the baggage they’re bringing includes frustration with upstream channel breakdowns. If a customer can’t help themselves, more than 50% of customers will go to an agent.
That leaves agents dealing with already frustrated customers, both from a relationship perspective and a channel perspective. The front line now has to understand not only what went wrong a few minutes ago – when the customer tried to self-serve – but also what’s been happening to that customer over the course of their relationship with you.
Making Great Experiences Happen
The days of calling to check your balance or change your address are gone; these needs are easily met within digital self-care. Now, the most common calls left are the hardest to solve. To meet these needs, Convergys has developed a proprietary tiered strategy to successfully navigate this changing CX ecosystem:
1) Use foundational analytics to underpin experiences and processes: The first step is to understand what customers experience. The call center is a rich vein of information about journeys within and outside the 800# from call recordings, agent notes, VOC data and CRM. The data that you collect in the center reveals whether customers are on the paths you laid out for them or if they’re falling off and getting lost in between.
Once you understand their journeys, you can redesign experiences. For example, with one digital payments provider we identified password resets as a major dissatisfier and resulting driver of call volume. When we re-engineered the workflow, handle time for those calls dropped almost two minutes.
As you start to look at root causes of poor experiences, you uncover where and why customers move to live agent. What’s stopping digital completion? Is the right information accessible? Is it possible to resolve digitally? A robust analytics program offers insight into what performed well in the live agent environment, and also what happened upstream.
2) Hire talent with digital fluency and social intelligence: Analytics tells you how to move strategically but it won’t change experiences by itself. Another investment opportunity is how we hire and train the frontline. We’ve changed where we market and message to partner more closely with communities. Testing for digital skills has increasingly been a strategy to ensure fluency. We’ve introduced gamification in learning. If you look at the literature that most adults learn best by doing, games-based learning becomes critical and a more enjoyable way to train.
We also develop our front-line people using science. We have done extensive research on which agent behaviors matter most in driving CX satisfaction and effort. We then coach explicitly to those behaviors rather than relying on more qualitative information or rigid scripting.
Finally, the labor force is changing. There’s a generational shift with fundamentally different work values. So we’ve refreshed how we recruit and motivate a Millennial workforce. We recruit via social media. In some geographies, we use free text and IVR links to engage applicants via advertising. We’ve also done research to understand what’s important in their workplace, like acknowledging their milestones. They’re our most digitally adept talent pool so we have to invest in them heavily.
3) Embed technology and automation across the journey: The third element of our solution and the one that continues to evolve most rapidly is how we use technology to drive better experiences through personalization, agent enablement and automation. If you want to understand the customer journey, you have to measure across all channels. One of the tools we have built to facilitate this is our Customer Interaction Hub. Think of it as a digital vacuum; it scoops up all the breadcrumbs left by phone contacts, Web visits, chats, customer data and ties it all together to build an actionable summary of all interactions. In the center, then, a rules engine and the agent can personalize that interaction based on history. If they’ve checked their bill online in the last 30 minutes, we can direct them to an agent that specializes in billing.
Building virtual assistants has been another area where we’ve seen payoffs from technology investment. By providing agents with context-sensitive information on how they should be responding to the customer’s particular issue and delivering the answers more quickly to the desktop, we can decrease AHT, improve CSAT and have a net effect of easy for the customer. Similarly, robotic process automation has created simpler, faster interactions by automating labor-intensive steps in the call flow that delay customers and slow resolution.
We’re all facing a new reality in omnichannel CX delivery. Fortunately, new and evolving analytics and automation tools are making things a little bit easier for all of us.