Meet your brand's new boss: The customer

22nd Jul 2014

The age of the digital consumer – if it were to have an exact birthday – began on July 6, 2009. That’s when singer Dave Carroll posted a video to YouTube of a song he had just written called “United Breaks Guitars.” Carroll’s song was a witty take on the fact that United Airlines’ baggage handlers were responsible for damaging his guitar. Perhaps more importantly, the song was about what United hadn’t done; that is, rectify the situation. The video received an astounding 150,000 views, prompting the airline to reimburse him for the damaged instrument.

Technology-savvy consumers like Carroll are shifting the balance of power in their favour when it comes to the relationships they have with brands. Customers have come to expect that a brand is “always on” in the same way that they are by virtue of their ‘round-the-clock use of social media, text messaging, and web browsing. That’s why it’s more important than ever to ensure your company has an effective and nimble customer contact centre. Today’s unhappy customers have an astounding number of outlets at their disposal to voice their gripes, meaning enterprises have a more difficult time keeping a lid on protests – whether legitimate or not.

Beyond the soap opera

Part of this new customer service paradigm is the shopping process itself. Take consumer goods as an example. For more than half a century, housewives would watch daily “soap operas” on television that were nicknamed as such because the large FMCGs sponsored the afternoon programming. Companies connected with consumers through daily television advertising that left little chance that they would stray and try out new brands. Their brand loyalties were rock solid. Today, however, it’s not uncommon for a web retailer to suggest new products to the customer based on their shopping preferences; Amazon, for example, frequently proposes personalised products based on customer search habits.

Add to this is the fact that the technology that runs the contact centre ecosystem for the organisation has grown more complex over time. Enterprises need to look for products and solutions that cover the entire end-to-end consumer service lifecycle rather than being reactive at a certain point in time. An enterprise that wants to deliver an integrated customer service experience must act on three customer-centric priorities: customer self-service, live and effective agents, and escalation management.

The efficiencies of self-service

The first of the customer-centric priorities is self-service, which is the most economical and efficient in the short run. The idea here is to nip small problems in the bud and offer quick, satisfying results so that nobody decides to go off and write a song about your company for YouTube. Businesses can achieve greater customer satisfaction levels through this by engaging them from any device and through any channel.

Not every problem or complaint has to be resolved by an operator. Nor does the self-service channel have to be devoid of human touches. If constructed properly, you’ll be making your customer’s life easier and keeping them more informed – all while trimming your customer service operational costs. We hear a lot these days about the ability to convert problem solving into revenue generation. By using smart assistance tools, however, you’re providing what we like to call “the one right answer” with the least amount of user effort.

Live and effective agents

Not every question can be answered in the self-service channel network, highlighting the need for live and effective call centre agents. Traditionally, the agent has been the reassuring voice on the other end of the line, yet today’s agents are expected to be synthesisers of vast amounts of disparate information. The speed required to access the right information during the course of a telephone call takes computing power, and many contact centre agents are still not being equipped with a simple system from which to source this.

There are an astonishing number of companies that invest in call-centre tools without a firm understanding of what that investment should produce. In a recent academic study, for example, just 20% of complainants said they were completely satisfied with how the company resolved their complaint. That’s compared to 23% in a 1976 version of the same study. So, despite the fact that companies have spent billions of dollars in compliant-resolution systems over the course of 35 years, on average they’ve backtracked in their ability to have live agents make a positive difference.  When it comes to the live agent, having deep collaboration capabilities provides new opportunities to connect with and influence customers.

Getting everyone involved

The final focus should be service optimisation and escalation management. Digital consumers expect flawless resolution of their complaints and this can occur at any point during the process. That’s why it’s vital to empower all staff with the information, knowledge, and data they need. The seamlessness with which a company can integrate multiple systems and involve multiple agents to get a swift resolution for the customer is the ultimate test of its mettle.

A unified desktop that any member of staff can use to investigate complaints is a powerful and effective tool. It means that anybody behind the desk or on a showroom floor can capture, aggregate, and analyse customer data to build trust. By focussing on end-to-end customer engagement and interacting proactively with the customer, the organisation is transforming a potentially bad situation and into a valuable interaction.

Create your company’s promoters

The logic that connects the customer experience to the bottom-line results is simple: if people love doing business with you they become advocates of your brand. They buy more products and services, sing your praises to friends and – perhaps most importantly – they cost less to serve.

It all starts with having the right customer service platform that can keep up with the intricacies of digital life. Today’s customers are in charge of your company and how you handle that fact will determine how your enterprise succeeds in the future.

Sanjay Nambiar is Product Head for AssistEdge, EdgeVerve Systems – an Infosys Company


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