Why You Should Upgrade Your Customer Service Strategy

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Renowned architect, systems theorist, author, designer, inventor and futurist Buckminster Fuller said, “You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

So what happens to a business or brand that can’t react to a changing model or environment? History is littered with former market leaders that stopped innovating, fell short of customer expectations, and became obsolete.

Enterprise brands are especially vulnerable. Innovation at scale is expensive, and replacing long-standing legacy systems is costly and difficult. With mounting pressure to reduce costs and increase efficiencies, stagnation feels easier than advancement . But customers never stop moving, and the pace of innovation only accelerates. It’s not good enough for brands to walk hand in hand with customers; they need to be comfortably out ahead.

Spotting Trends Can Take You From Legacy to Leading

Customers are, and always will be, the heart of any successful business. Yet, nowhere is the stagnation of enterprise technology more evident than how we service and support them. Despite the buzz of “digital transformation” over the last decade, it’s shocking to see how similar today’s contact centers are to contact centers of 10 or 20 years ago.

In today’s world, enterprises must grapple with customers who share everything they think, feel, and know about brands. How the business is run, executive reputation and leadership styles, products, services, and the good, bad and ugly of ratings and reviews is fair game for public online discussion.

For too many organizations, all of this customer feedback and conversation isn’t being shared with the agents who are serving customers daily. Agents are in the dark, reliant on and reacting to inbound customer calls or emails.

Unfortunately, the evolution from legacy to leader requires more than just offering a website bot for support. If you don’t have dynamic, customized AI, guided workflows, and an ability to preserve the context of conversations from every digital channel with proper routing to the right agent, you’re only inches ahead of those considered “legacy.” Currently, customers from around the world are “hanging up” on your bot just like your 1-800 number call tree.

Where Customers Are and Where They Need You to Go

We have seen three phases in the evolution of the contact center since the 90’s. From legacy on-premise systems, to the first cloud-based solutions, to truly omni-channel solutions of today, it’s good to know where the contact center has been, but it’s more important to know where it should go.

Twenty plus years ago, the customer service function was performed in completely separate silos. In-person customer service in physical stores was separate from employees in call centers. In the 1990’s and 2000’s, providers began to roll out the first software-based systems to manage call centers. Software allowed customer service teams to add modern functionality – namely email and chat – creating the first contact centers with multiple channel capability.

The center of gravity remained very much around voice, and these software solutions were entirely on-premise solutions. Companies made massive investments to serve thousands of customer service agents. These systems were complex and very expensive, and many enterprises are still stuck with core systems that are decades old. Estimates vary, but up to 85% of contact center agent seats are still supported by premises-based solutions today.

In the early to mid 2000’s, the very first virtual contact centers emerged. Cloud-based alternatives to traditional, on-premise solutions marked a new era for contact centers. However, these systems were still using voice as the central call-center technology. And even today, many still consider a voice-first approach.

For companies who made the shift from on-premise to cloud solution support, they claim benefits of cost savings, better interfaces, and more access to data for agents. But what does that mean for customers? Antiquated voiced-based systems that rely on automated menus haven’t changed our experience much, and with customers in charge of who they will or won’t do business with, poor customer service can inhibit growth – or worse, it can break a brand’s reputation and bottom line.

The Next Generation of Customer Service

The latest and most sophisticated generation of contact center software is like comparing EVs to ICE vehicles. It’s a fundamentally and radically different experience for the consumer and the future of the best, and leading customer service. One that provides benefits to both the business and the customer.

Next-generation Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS) solutions don’t wait for a customer inbound call. The new model for customer service shifts from being reactive, to being proactive. Why wait for complaints or even a crisis? With customers sharing petabytes of publicly available data every day, brands can tap into insights about what their customers think, want, and need.

Contact centers that are fueled by insights can activate a very different model for service and dramatically improve that experience for customers. Every one-star review can become a prioritized ticket to resolve. Every mean tweet becomes an opportunity to create an advocate. Every outreach becomes a sales opportunity.

Dynamic AI that is trained to learn and grow, sits at the heart of a leading contact center. AI powers forward-thinking brands to proactively listen for relevant conversations, distill and quickly analyze massive volumes of data and insights to engage with customers on the digital channels of their choice. And while voice is still a channel option, customer analysis suggests that faster and easier resolution of problems makes voice support your last resort.

New Model: Less Service is Better Service

For today’s consumer, the best service is no service. Proactive listening and insights inform product development, marketing, and sales to help address common pain points and eliminate the need for service at all.

The second best service is findable, self-service help or virtual agents. Trust me, your customer does not want to call you. AI can provide smart answers to common issues via a bot or self-service FAQ. Customers are often happy to help themselves or engage with technology, if you can make that interaction painless.

When a customer needs an agent’s support, a brand is ready with its third best option. A phone call may indicate a particularly difficult issue or very frustrated customer. Agents need a system that captures and preserves the context from any previous interactions on social, email, chat, and more, and makes that context readily available so they can move forward with the best resolution. Ten to twenty year old legacy systems on premise or in the cloud, cannot do this.

As customers become increasingly vocal about their preferences and 24/7 personalized communication needs, it’s increasingly important for companies to change the way they mange customer support. Simply meeting expectations means shifting from an outdated approach to a contact center that delivers personalization — with dynamic AI, listening and insights. And as companies continue to revamp their customer service strategies, the organizations that win will always put customer happiness first.

Ragy Thomas
Ragy Thomas is the CEO & Founder of Sprinklr, a provider of enterprise software for unified customer experience management (Unified-CXM). Sprinklr helps global brands like Microsoft, P&G, and Samsung manage marketing, advertising, research, and customer service across all major digital and traditional channels.

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