We are in a new digital experience frontier. In the past two years, digital customer engagement went from being a fun perk to a business critical must-have. As consumers we enjoy the benefits of early access to the sales on our favorite goods, playlists that anticipate our music interests, celebrations when we reach our 100th ride, and much more on a daily, if not hourly, basis.
In a world where customer loyalty can be fickle at times, businesses must provide stellar customer experiences every single time. The cost is too high not to. In fact, Twilio found that more than half of customers are ready to ditch a brand if it can’t provide them with the service they want. Compare that to the 95% increase in profit some brands are experiencing from a 5% increase in customer retention, and the risk just isn’t worth it. If you have spent millions to attract and retain customers, why do you want to risk losing them with a disconnected and subpar service experience? Think of what we as consumers expect today: we’re conditioned to have the deep, personalized recommendations of Netflix and Amazon, and access to the always-on virtual personal assistants from the likes of Apple and Google. So how can businesses ensure they can deliver experiences on par with these digital giants?
The first step to competing and offering exceptional front-end customer success starts with taking a look behind the curtain at the back-end. It’s time to start asking yourself, what are your customer priorities and how are they represented in the solutions you use to service customers? Are the out-of-the-box, legacy solutions giving you the flexibility, scalability and personalization that you need? Do you understand the full journey your customer has been on with your brand? Do you feel like you’re constantly having to reacquire your customers — with the prospect of losing them a matter of not “if,” but “when”?
Surviving the era of digital-first customer engagement necessitates an approach and solution that is built to fit your business’ unique needs and demands, so you can better serve your customers’ unique needs and demands. And what better place to start than at a business’s largest customer touchpoint: the contact center.
Improving the contact center is a critical first step towards improving overall customer experience. This is beyond simply moving from on premise to the cloud. Businesses must take a look at the full end to end customer experience and build out the contact center that fits the journey you want your customers to have. Let’s take a look at the four steps every business can take to put their best customer experience foot forward:
1. Build to keep up with your customers
The businesses that are winning customer loyalty are the ones that have a close pulse on their customers and can be nimble to their ever-changing needs. Before you can begin building your platform, you need to determine how you’re going to keep a pulse on your customers—predominantly through flexible channels, relevant, consistentent communications and other engagement strategies—and build those processes into your customer contact center from the beginning. For example, if your customer base prefers to communicate via text message, meet them where they are by building that line of communications into your contact center. Alternatively, if your customers prefer a wide variety of channels, give them the power to choose which channel they want to use and when. If you make your contact center customer-first, the customers AND your workforce will both reap the benefits.
2. Embrace the AI opportunity
AI and automation are opening the door to smarter, more productive engagements. One in five organizations will double-down on “AI inside” – AI that’s embedded at the core of everything from architecture to operations – to boost real-time readiness. In 2022, Forrester predicts the use of real-time systems infused with AI to increase by 20%, removing the latency between insight, decision, and results1. As a lower-effort interaction than live channels, self-service is the biggest opportunity for brands to provide on-demand customer care, support a happier workforce, and reduce costs. We’re seeing that through the convergence of AI and automation, self-service is not only making conflict resolution faster, but it’s providing agents with a complete view into a customer profile. For the first time in contact center history, agents can see customer history across multiple channels. And that’s just the beginning. It’s time to say goodbye to the days where customers have to repeat their problem to multiple agents—when you hop on the phone, video, or chat, agents will already know who a customer is and what they need. Equally important, this is the same real-time and relevant information that is visible to your Sales, Field Representative or in-store Retail personnel.
3. Say so long one-size-fits-all
The ability to provide differentiated experiences is crucial to success. Businesses can no longer simply buy the same software package that everyone else is buying, they must build their own solution that’s flexible based on business and customer needs. So how do you build a customized platform that can keep up with the customers? It’s simple: make it programmable. It’s like choosing between building with Legos or concrete. One provides you endless flexibility and scalability, the other makes change difficult. For contact centers, the Lego approach is also known as the application platform approach, where you use Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) to build the exact functionalities for your desired customer experience – no more, no less. It lets you fully own the development and deployment of your contact center, and not be beholden to another vendor’s roadmap, especially a vendor that doesn’t know your customers. To understand how this works in practice, let’s look at a use case with Vacasa, a digital first vacation rental management company. Their out-of-the-box cloud contact center solutions were just not working. They had three different contact centers serving renters, owners, and sales prospects—data was disjointed, and there was no single solution that could meet everyone’s needs. So they turned to Twilio Flex to build a programmable contact center, customized to meet the unique user interface demands of the three constituencies. Now, their hosts can engage with guests across multiple channels and design personalized messages based on user experiences. Vacasa’s programmable contact center not only solved their data problem, but improved the overall experience for all their customers.
4. Personalization needs to starts with first-party data
The demand for digital and the demand for personalization go hand in hand. IDC predicts that by 2024, 80% of enterprises will need to transform their networks and processes to deliver more personalized and interactive online rich media experiences that meet and satisfy customer expectations2. Businesses need to build customer experiences that look like a digital recreation of a mom-and-pop shop, where customers feel like their needs are proactively being recognized as soon as they walk through the “front door”. Achieving this means moving away from third-party data collection, meaning that you stop using cookies or vendors to source your customer data, and instead leveraging a first-party data strategy, where you’re collecting and housing your customer data at all times. It will not only give you more ownership over your data, but it will also rebuild trust between your business and the customer.
To differentiate the customer experience in an increasingly software-driven world, businesses need to build their solutions to solve their customers needs. Buying the same software package that everyone else is buying won’t cut it anymore – you need to build a custom solution that is designed specifically for your customers today and tomorrow. Capturing the magic of personalization relies on true flexibility and a system that’s programmable and built for your business. So as we embark on the new digital experience frontier, equipped with our Legos of new possibilities, it’s time to expand beyond perks and build a customer experience that can flex above and beyond our customers’ expectations.
- 1. Forrester: Predictions 2022: Artificial Intelligence, October 28, 2021 By Brandon Purcell, Michele Goetz, Diego Lo Giudice, Charlie Dai, Andrew Hogan with Srividya Sridharan, Gene Leganza, Ian Jacobs, J. P. Gownder, Gabrielle Raymond.
2. IDC FutureScape: Worldwide Future of Connectedness 2022 Predictions, Doc # US47438921, October 2021