Broadly, we’re in the age of customer centricity.
Specifically, we’re two weeks removed from Call Center IQ’s 17th Annual Call Center Week and just over two months away from CCIQ’s CX Impact.
In short, improving the customer experience has never represented a more prominent focus. As you identify – and implement – strategies to optimize your own customer experience, consider the Top 10 Customer Experience Trends.
1) Effortless, Not Extravagant: We love stories about Nordstrom allowing a customer to return to a tire he bought elsewhere. We admire Morton’s for greeting a hungry airline passenger with a Porterhouse steak when he arrived at his destination. We applaud the Zappos employee who spent over ten hours on the phone with a single customer.
Indeed, we celebrate these “wow” moments.
We should not, however, build our customer experiences around them.
Today’s customers will probably not object to being dazzled, but their biggest priority is getting their problem solved as quickly and painlessly as possible. Make it easy to do business with your organization, and customers will clamor to do so.
Whether focusing on agent-assisted or self-service interactions, effortlessness should be your top priority.
2) Get Personal: The call for an effortless experience is not tantamount to acceptance of a detached, impersonal, transactional one. Today’s customers seek tailor-made experiences. Agents should immediately recognize the customer regardless of when or how he first contacted the brand. Self-service tools should speak the customer’s language. The business, quite simply, should confirm that it views each customer as a unique person rather than as a generic number.
3) Humanize The Non-Human: The rise of self-service and digital channels is a change in venue, not in expectations. These media may be “low touch” in comparison to the traditional voice channel, but customers still seek meaningful, efficient, effective pathways to resolution. The channels should be intuitive and easily accessible, and they should never leave the customer more than a click or voice prompt away from access to a live agent.
4) Be Predictive, Be Proactive: There is a saying that a perfect contact center should render itself obsolete. The idea is that the center (and greater business) would be so good at proactively identifying and responding to problems that no customer would ever need to call for support.
While that notion is both unrealistic and unadvisable – no contact center can anticipate every problem and no contact center should focus exclusively on support – it places a deserved spotlight on the importance of predictive, proactive care. When a customer calls, the business should have enough insight to determine why the customer is calling, thus enabling it to provide a near-immediate resolution. Leveraging collective intelligence, the business should also be able to proactively remedy most issues before they even become issues.
5) Consistent Connections: In today’s customer experience environment, everything must be connected. Contact channels must be seamlessly integrated with other channels. Data from past interactions must be used to inform future interactions. Agents must be in constant communication with other agents. Business units must be strategically unified with other business units.
This idea of a consistent connection is also a centerpiece of innovation. Cloud technology is enabling employees to stay connected no matter where they are physical located. Internet of Things (IoT) technology is connecting static, physical objects to the web.
Instead of merely referring to this as the “age of customer centricity,” we may want to label this the “era of the connected customer experience.”
6) Omni-Channel: It’s About Optimizing, Not Adding: Customers expect to communicate in numerous channels. Resistance to emerging media is unacceptable; your business truly does need to offer a myriad of engagement options.
The omni-channel movement is not, however, a game of addition. Whereas “multi-channel” focused on the where, “omni-channel” focuses on the what. What happens within each channel your business offers? What happens as a customer attempts to switch to a new channel?
Do not blindly resist new channels, but do not half-heartedly foray into new channels you are not equipped to support. Make sure all channels are fully capable of satisfying customers and communicating with other channels. If they are not, fix those gaps before even flirting with the idea of expanding your channel options.
7) Make Metrics Work For You: Customer experience functions have historically measured performance against a stock set of metrics. That approach is unacceptable in the age of customer centricity.
Do not adapt your performance management strategies to conventional contact center metrics; select – and interpret – metrics in the manner most befitting your business, its objectives and its customers.
Instead of blindly managing against average handle time based on industry tradition or blindly dismissing average handle time because Zappos ignores it, determine the value a metric like average handle time has for your specific operation. Measure – and manage – in accordance with that contextual value.
Many agree that first contact resolution is a worthwhile metric, but what does first contact resolution mean to your business and to your customers? What constitutes the “first contact”? When have you achieved a “resolution”? Who decides?
Assess your customers. Set your key customer experience objectives. Select the metrics – and the interpretation of those metrics – that best informs performance against those objectives.
8) Know Your Customers: Guesswork and the customer experience do not get along. Luckily, they do not have to. Thanks to the rise of robust, accessible analytics technology, today’s organizations can gain vivid insight into how their customers feel and what their customers want. Whether gauging reaction to the overall experience or determining how each moment of each interaction is increasing or decreasing each customer’s satisfaction, the business can know – with virtual certainty – whether it is turning the idea of customer centricity into a reality.\
9) Know Your Agents: As businesses recognize that an effortless customer experience may be preferable to an extravagant one, they must also rethink their approach to culture and agent engagement.
Instead of thinking about culture solely from an abstract standpoint – the overall training program, the joy of the workplace, the caliber of the compensation and incentive programs – organizations must focus on individual employees. Where are individual agents succeeding and failing? To what kind of incentives, coaching and performance measurement will they best respond? What kind of workplace perks matter most to these individuals? What is each agent’s career goal? Is this agent a good candidate for a work from home program?
We would scoff at a business that assumed all customers are exactly alike. Given the importance of agents – happy ones yield happy customers – we must vow to scoff at businesses that assume all employees are exactly alike.
10) Chart A Journey To Excellence: When it comes to the customer experience, each moment is part of a broader journey. The organization accordingly cannot view interactions in isolation; it must maximize the value it provides to the customer throughout the relationship’s lifecycle.
When working to optimize the customer experience journey, customer experience leaders must also consider the impact their strategies have on the overall business. Common sense, anecdotal stories and market research confirm that customer interests and business interests are not fundamentally oppositional; what is good for the customer can very well be good for the business.
It is the job of the customer experience function – one that has long asked to be viewed as a profit center rather than a cost center – to ensure the journeys it creates produce the kind of customer good that yield the most possible business good.