One of the key findings from a recently-published report by Deloitte titled Exploring the value of emotion-driven engagement is that customers expect a consistent and contextually-appropriate experience of brands across all interactions.
In fact, sophisticated companies create experiences that delight customers and turn them into loyal ambassadors.
I would argue that businesses aiming to offer a differentiated customer service must go one step further to deliver personalised, transparent and emotionally intelligent interactions.
Technology and data obviously play a key part here. Some companies use technology to replace human customer service, but in fact, when used in the right way and at the right time, technology can actually augment and support the delivery of a human-driven service that builds loyalty.
While this may sound theoretical, there are many real-life examples of UK companies that have transformed their customer service using technology. Here are five lessons that our customers have learned:
1. Make work more meaningful for your employees
Customer service agents are often burdened with repetitive tasks that divert them away from focusing on high-value interactions with customers. By streamlining work and simplifying core processes using digital workflows, Virgin Trains has ensured its staff are carrying out more fulfilling work on the front line.
In many cases, those working at stations, on trains and in support roles have reduced the time required to complete tasks from from a month to just one day, with the help of automation.
Virgin Trains’ internal Net Promoter Score was in the mid-20s, but now averages 70 to 80. As the CIO of Virgin Trains, John Sullivan, says; “That score is a measure of how much lost time we’re giving back to employees, and how much more they’re able to focus on what matters most—constantly improving the customer experience.”
2. Make life as a customer the same as life as a consumer
Today’s tech-savvy customers expect to have immediate access to personalised, relevant information. Cheshire Datasystems Ltd (CDL), a provider of software and services for insurance brokers and insurers, has brought a consumer-like experience to its customer care, empowering customers to help themselves to information, services and knowledge, 24/7, through a self-service portal.
Automatically generated dashboards provide CDL customers with full transparency on the progress of queries, requests and support issues. In many cases, customers can bypass the support and ticketing process completely, with instant access to a knowledge library of information through the self-service portal.
According to Clive Simpson, Head of Service Management at CDL, the approach “has improved our customer experiences with reports and knowledge at their fingertips.”
3. Think location, location, location
The more you know about your customer, the more personalised the experience that your organisation can offer. Let’s take location as an example. Knowing exactly where an individual is based means a company can often predict the issue they are facing and expedite its resolution.
Affinity Water has used this insider knowledge to its advantage with the introduction of its Customer Impact Tool — a control hub that handles the communication and information flow for every planned and unplanned interruption that might affect its 3.6 million customers. The hub, powered by digital workflows, provides timely alerts on what has happened, why it has happened, and what is being actioned—putting customer service teams firmly on the front foot.
4. Develop the human-machine partnership
The AI ‘revolution’ is well underway, with nearly a third of European organisations having already introduced AI technologies to customer service, according to research by ServiceNow and Devoteam. But the true potential of AI comes to the fore when we consider how this can augment the role of the customer service representative.
Within progressive companies, AI is reinventing customer engagement by automating high-volume tasks and enabling agents to drive meaningful and proactive interactions. And the thing is that you no longer need to learn how to code to create the digital workflows to underpin these more advanced technologies.
Clive Simpson of CDL believes that when AI and agents work in unison there can be a greater focus on interactions where the human touch is needed the most: “This gives customer service agents a greater job satisfaction, enabling them to focus on VIP customers and high priority enquiries, as well as focus on more strategic contributions within organisations.”
5. Bring your partners and suppliers on board
Truly enlightened companies are aware that the delivery of delightful experiences relies on extending beyond corporate boundaries into the wider ecosystem; they are created through a joint effort with suppliers and partners. By working closely with like-minded specialists to create an end-to-end service value chain, organisations can drive continuous improvements and greater customer satisfaction.
Virgin Trains, for example, has restructured its RFP process to encourage suppliers to adopt new technology solutions for their own service management processes. As Virgin Trains CIO John Sullivan highlights, “We want to extend the efficiencies we’ve achieved internally to our supply chain to further enhance service.”