Charlie Herrin, the executive vice president in charge of customer experience at Comcast, earlier this year said, “customer service is what happens when customer experience breaks.”
It was an insightful observation that suggested if companies do their jobs right, get into the minds of customers, understand their intent, anticipate their needs and deliver outstanding experiences, we may no longer need huge contact centers to field communications from confused and disgruntled people.
Comcast, for its part, has had a long history of difficulties with delivering outstanding experiences. But under Herrin’s watch, it has made impressive strides toward improving its reputation.
To the same note, Scott Rice, chief information officer at Sprint, summed up the challenges of delivering a modern customer experience by highlighting what it is not, stating “It isn’t just a cool website…. Digital needs to be applied across every interaction channel because it affects how you make decisions and use information to solve a problem or to sell.” Indeed, neither digital transformation nor customer communication can be confined to a single channel, but rather should be designed to match your customers’ wants and needs.
This level of technology-enabled context – building 360-degree views of customers in order to engage with them more effectively – is where companies need to go in the near future.
Forrester says we have entered the “Age of the Customer,” an era where access to unlimited online information has empowered consumers with knowledge to be far more discerning about which brands they choose to patronize. Not only do they know more about product quality and features, sometimes they are even more informed than the sales reps themselves. More to the point, they are also very aware of which brands are delivering exceedingly great customer experiences – and they are choosing those brands over others that might even have slightly better prices and products.
That won’t surprise many people. According to a global Oracle survey, more than 75 percent of consumers feel inefficient customer service detracts from their quality of life. Conversely, the survey showed 25 to 30 percent of consumers would be more loyal to brands that use voice, video, chat and other engagement technologies to immediately route them to the appropriate people and places with the information they desire.
Most organizations know they need to up-their-game in customer experience and that technology can help. But knowing where to focus efforts can be perplexing. Here are five places to start:
1. Create a One-Stop Mobile Experience
People downloaded approximately 197 billion mobile applications globally last year, according to Statista. Users, on average, spend 70 percent of their media time on smartphones, Comscore estimates.
We’ve been a mobile (and digital) world for some time now. So, it behooves any organization looking to deliver better experiences to build a branded mobile app for engaging with customers. Moreover, that mobile app should make it simple for customers to interact with the brand directly within the app. All too often, today’s applications require consumers to leave the app to take the next step in customer service. Why? The app should be a one-stop-shop for anything a customer needs to resolve their issue, where that’s via a call, live video chat, chatbot, screen-sharing etc. as appropriate for the context of the interaction and available seamlessly.
2. Engage Customers Throughout Their Journey
Expecting customers to always take the first step to contact a brand about their needs is primitive as well. Customers expect more, and brands must invest in identifying, understanding and deploying new ways of connecting with and servicing customers throughout their brand journeys.
Comcast’s Herrin notes that one of the first things his company did with its customer service transformation project was to proactively reach out to customers throughout their brand journey with updates about anything affecting their experiences. For example, the company put more emphasis on monitoring customer communications on social media and went from taking weeks to respond to inquiries to 10 or 15 minutes. Similarly, it embraced basic text messaging to stay in touch, expanding its SMS database from “zero” users to more than 6 million. It now disseminates about 15 million SMS messages per month, he says.
3. Eliminate the Waiting Game
According to Oracle’s survey, long wait times rank as the top factor (51 percent) leading to customer experience dissatisfaction.
Customers hate being put on hold, having to navigate interactive voice response (IVR) systems for information where they often end up speaking with the wrong scripted agents. With bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, these types of scenarios could begin to vanish.
The University of Adelaide in Australia, for example, deployed a chatbot to help handle the overwhelming crush of inquiries it was getting during admissions season about ATAR scores, which help determine whether students get the courses they need. The chatbot automatically calculated any adjusted scores and then delivered them to students instantly. As a result, the university received 40 percent fewer calls and wait times on its phone-based inquiry system dropped by 97 percent.
4. Emphasize Context in Customer Journeys
The CEO of a large, international tech company recently shared a personal story about picking up a rental car after a long business trip – however, when he arrived the car wasn’t there. The CEO called up customer service, which asked for his reservation number. He didn’t have it handy but asked them to look up his last name or telephone number. This seemed to confuse the service rep who insisted on a reference number. After some back and forth, the rep finally found the information and only to say there was a mistake and they didn’t have a car.
Needless to say, the CEO of this huge global employer informed his company they would no longer be using this rental agency in the future. Its inability to quickly identify and understand who they were speaking with in this moment likely cost them millions of dollars in business.
This same scenario should apply in online situations. Associates should never have to ask security questions if a customer is already dialing in to a call center or logged-on to a Web site or app. They should be completely prepared for each and every call by having relevant information about the caller in front of them on a moment’s notice. Contextual details like who they are, what they were already searching for on the site, if they are a preferred member, etc. should be at the ready in all situations.
5. Always Be Listening and Learning
In addition to what customers see, back end systems are needed to optimize an organization’s ability to capture, analyze, and mine data for insights across all their customer channels.
All interactions and media types – voice, video, screen sharing, etc. – should be recorded in real-time and made available for insights later. This ultimately allows the business to modify customer engagement scenarios and deliver an even better experience moving forward.
Cloud makes this integrated channel approach simple. Businesses transitioning to a more seamless and digital approach must consider cloud as mission-critical for rapid adaptation and agility.
Regardless of your industry, today’s empowered customers consume digital and subscription services offered with innovative business models, and expect proactive and seamless digital engagement throughout their journeys. Personalized and proactive interactions are both critical to understanding the mindset of any customer. By leveraging the technology available today, businesses are better prepared to meet their customers’ needs and avoid “breaking the experience” altogether.