The year of engagement: Six ways to optimise customer service in 2015

29th Jan 2015

January is always a good time to review the year that was and identify customer engagement trends likely to play a major role in shaping the industry over the next 12 months. Below are six top tips that all organisations should be making for the year ahead, in order to ensure they are delivering the best customer engagement possible.

1. Engage your employees

Excellent customer engagement begins behind the scenes, with your employees. Not only do happy, engaged employees deliver higher levels of customer service, they also act as an early warning system on potential issues developing (both internal and external), and can alert the organisation long before customers begin to notice or complain. Voice of the Employee initiatives can provide staff with the means to give regular feedback on processes, products and services, so they can proactively shape the customer experience rather than having to reactively deal with issues after they have occurred.

2. Listen to your customers

The most effective way to engage with customers will always be listening to what they have to say and acting accordingly. Post purchase feedback surveys have become the norm but organisations shouldn’t wait until this point to ask customers what they think. After all, the views of those who didn’t go through with a purchase are equally, if not more important than those who did. Implementing a more comprehensive Voice of the Customer solution can be an extremely effective way to analyse your customer base in depth, and draws from a far wider pool than just those who purchased something. It can also help to identify opportunities to improve customer satisfaction, and act on customers' concerns in a time frame where it can make a difference, not when it’s too late. As mentioned above, employees are another great source of customer insight so make sure you include their feedback in any customer-based initiatives too.

3. Be proactive

The continued rise of social media channels has had a major impact on the way many organisations conduct their customer engagement activity. One area particularly affected is proactive customer engagement. While proactive strategies aren’t a new concept, social media has made them a lot more viable in many instances. At a most basic level, proactive engagement can be as simple as monitoring social media for relevant mentions and reaching out to individuals who need help or who are having issues. More comprehensive initiatives can utilise insights from Voice of the Customer analysis to identify potential issues and proactively contact customers most likely to be affected. It has long been recognised that prevention is better than cure, so if you aren’t already thinking about proactive customer engagement, you should be.

4. Make sure you are hardwired for service internally

Far too many organisations come unstuck because they project an external image of themselves as a customer-centric organisation, whereas behind the scenes teams are still working in siloes, disconnected from one another and the customers they are trying to serve. In order to be truly customer-centric, the first thing any organisation has to do is invest in the back office technology needed to build bridges internally, break down siloes and ensure all employees have the complete picture of every customer. Modern day customer journeys typically travel across multiple channels before they are complete and nothing is more frustrating than having to constantly relay the same information to different service agents due to a lack of internal systems integration.

5. Analyse which channels are right for you now

2014 was the year of omnichannel, both from a business and customer service perspective. Indeed, the principle of delivering a consistent presence across all channels used by your customers is hard to argue with as business best practice, but in reality, truly omnichannel customer engagement remains a long way off for most. Organisations must remember that without the right infrastructure and resources in place, trying to be everywhere can result in being nowhere. Instead, they must critically evaluate the channels that will give them the best presence among their customer base, and focus on delivering excellence on these based on current resources, whilst working towards a more long term omnichannel strategy.

6. Recognise that the customer isn’t always right

‘The customer is always right’ is one of the oldest mantras in customer service, but blindly adhering to this principle isn’t always wise. While the vast majority of customers that agents deal with have honest intentions, there will always be a small number who have unrealistic expectations, are unnecessarily angry (a particular issue on social media) or worse, are participating in fraudulent activity. Unfortunately fraud of this nature is on the rise and research has shown that more than 90% of total fraud calls are repeat attacks by a small set of professional criminals. Thankfully, next generation voice biometric technology is now available to help silently detect known fraudster voices during incoming calls, helping organisations to increase fraud protection without disturbing the experience of genuine customers. Expect to see greater adoption of this technology over the next 12 months as organisations look to turn the tide on fraudsters so they can focus on delivering service excellence to customers with a genuine need.

Make your resolutions stick!

In today’s fast paced society, customers have higher than ever expectations and lower than ever patience when it comes to customer service. As such, a smart strategy towards engagement is vital. These six resolutions aren’t a one-size-fits-all answer to customer engagement, but expect all of them to play a key role over the next 12 months and plan your strategy accordingly.

Research also shows that New Year’s resolutions are far more likely to succeed when shared with peers, so make sure that your engagement strategy has buy-in from all levels to give it the highest success rate possible.  With everyone pulling together, 2015 should be a successful year for your organisation!

Marije Gould is vice president EMEA, at Verint.

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