Meeting customers' ever-growing expectations

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Companies with exceptional customer experience (CX) consistently out-compete their markets.  These organizations succeed because they make people feel good about doing business with them even as customers increase demand for more convenience and faster service. You can follow their example and turn callers into fans by nurturing a strong agent team, adding the right automation and making the most of your data.

Help Agents Help You

In an American Express survey, 68% of respondents identified pleasant customer service representatives as essential to their positive experiences. Almost as many noted that agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness also made a strong impression. Bolstering employees’ skills and job satisfaction results in happier customers.

Lower stress levels for more productive employees.

Agents with low stress levels bring fewer frustrations to the phone. Ensure desktop applications help them work efficiently and provide easy access to resources. The less they have to struggle with unusable software, the more energy they can devote to service.

You can also improve performance by adding mobile agents to your pool. Cutting the commute and giving people the flexibility to work from home lowers stress and employee churn.

Help agents work together.

As a whole, the contact center represents decades of knowledge and experience. You can take advantage of that aggregate intelligence by helping agents collaborate. Open chat lines people can use to get assistance on obscure policies or trouble-shoot support problems. If needed, help agents link to subject matter experts outside the contact center so callers get their issues resolved faster.  

Create a culture of continuous learning.

Effective training takes more than a few weeks. It’s an ongoing process involving mentorship and continuous development. Use small learning modules on a regular basis and incorporate a quality monitoring system that supports mentoring.

Don’t forget that agents need to understand the self-service you offer as well. People who have trouble with it often resort to the contact center or live chat. A representative who can help them use self-service successfully makes the customer happy and saves money in the long run.

Involve employees in customer experience initiatives.

A customer-centric culture starts at the top, but front-line employees turn objectives into reality. Ensure they’re involved in planning initiatives. Help resolve their challenges when customer demands conflict with company policies. And support their efforts to finish what the executive suite started.

Make Self-Service All About Service

Automating simple and common interactions can save millions in agent time and free the phone lines for more complex tasks. And customers often prefer helping themselves when it’s easy to do. But if you want to create self-service people love to use, remember that’s it’s still service.

Make self-service available across channels.

According to Microsoft’s State of Global Service report, 66% of people have used at least 3 communication channels to contact customer service. Give them the option of using automation on the channel they prefer.

Extend offerings to text, websites and mobile apps. And as much as possible, keep the interaction consistent. If I know how to get my balance on the website, I should have no problem doing the same thing on the mobile app.

Clear the way to help.

People have learned to suspect self-service as a trap.  They worry about getting caught in dead ends with no access to a person. At any point, help should be available. Whether that’s a link to the contact center, a live chat or an appointment to contact them back, make that option easy to find.

Users won’t select it if they don’t need it. But if they need it and it’s not there, you’ve left them angry and frustrated.

Coordinate all your channels.

Ensure that any data captured in automation becomes part of the consumer’s history.  If people need to follow up with an agent or return to self-service for additional tasks, they don’t want to repeat what they’ve just done. But customers feel important and appreciated when representatives and omnichannel contact center systems know who they are and “remember” what they’ve already told you.

Ride the Data Wave, but Don’t Drown

There’s way too much information available today for most organizations to make sense of. To get real business results, you have to focus on the quality measurements that provide insights you can act on.

Find on customer patterns.

When trying to anticipate what customers want, you need good information about how they tend to behave. Customer journeys, usage patterns, call reasons and purchasing trends will help you understand what people need at each point in their relationship with you.

Ensure you can collect and integrate data from all your channels. For example, first contact resolution is most meaningful if you know where the first contact was made, such as over chat, on the website or over the phone.

Go beyond the basic survey.

In your quest to figure out what people want, don’t forget to ask them. And for real insight, get creative with your questions. People are used to being asked if they were satisfied with a particular interaction, but how would they respond to “What could we have done better to improve your experience?” Open questions could reveal upcoming trends or new avenues for CX excellence.

Upgrade to artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence (AI), such as predictive analytics, helps you turn behavioral trends into an understanding of what your customer is looking for from you. Armed with that information, you can proactively answer questions, offer products and services or send appreciation for their business. When you get it right, people respond with increased loyalty and repeat purchases.

Turn data into action.

Many companies fail to profit from big data initiatives because they have no plans for acting on the information.  Set up processes for identifying and addressing pain points or bottlenecks. Plan for regular updates and changes to your systems so you can respond to customer needs quickly.

Set Yourself Up for Success

Even with these best practices for building a customer-centric contact center, if your infrastructure and culture resist change, CX initiatives could fail. High-powered CX requires constant adjustment and innovation. Ensure you’re working with a flexible architecture and a team backed by efficient support applications. With those pieces in place, you’ll have the foundation to please today’s customers and rise to whatever expectations tomorrow’s customers will demand.

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