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Correcting 5 Misleading Statements About The Customer Experience

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Brian Cantor

“Right idea, wrong execution.”

Few quotes more accurately describe the big challenge facing customer contact leaders. Most of these leaders – and many of their businesses – fundamentally understand the importance of customer centricity. They truly want to deliver exceptional experiences for their customers.

Unfortunately, they face immense difficulty realizing those visions.

There are numerous culprits. Sometimes, they lack the budget needed to turn a customer-centric ideology into a customer experience reality. Sometimes, they lack the data needed to truly understand the kind of experience that their customers want. Sometimes, they lack the internal know-how to conquer complicated service challenges.

Sometimes, they fall victim to misleading statements about key contact center trends.

In the past, we’ve identified some “best practices” that do not actually warrant that label. Today, we’re sharing five common statements that may send customer contact leaders down the wrong track.

It is not that they are necessarily inaccurate, per se. They are, however, the wrong things to say to people who are already facing so many barriers to great execution.

Statement: Self-service should handle transactional issues, agents should handle complex ones

Issue(s): As self-service platforms have historically been slow, robotic and unhelpful, customers are conditioned to seek agent assistance even for simple matters.

As agents have primarily been handling transactional matters, they are not necessarily equipped to engage customers in deep, nuanced conversations.

Actions: Develop natural, adaptive, “intelligent” self-service platforms that can quickly and accurately resolve customer issues. As customers increasingly encounter these systems, they will become more comfortable using self-service. It will start to feel like a “preference” rather than a “burden.”

Concurrently prepare agents for deeper, more meaningful conversations. This involves training “engagement” rather than “scripts.” It also involves providing agents with access to the data and tools needed to quickly and successfully personalize interactions.

Statement: What’s good for the customer is what’s good for the business

Issue(s): The statement itself is not incorrect, but some “customer service advocates” misunderstand (and definitely overstate) what really matters to the customer. They assume any theoretically “pro customer” gesture reflects a great customer experience, and accordingly consider investments that would neither move the customer satisfaction needle nor drive business results. They are just costs.

Actions: Adopt a multi-pronged approach to the voice of the customer. Leverage indirect social chatter, formal customer surveys, real-time agent analytics, agent “recaps” of interactions, issue analysis and buying patterns to determine the issues that either trigger new purchases or costly customer frustration. Adjust processes, make technology investments, set policies, rewrite scripts and revamp products based on that insight.

Statement: Culture is the key to contact center excellence

Issue(s): The workplace atmosphere absolutely does impact the success of the contact center. Happy agents yield happy customers, after all.

The problem concerns how organizations define “culture.” Far too many focus on the “soft” elements – the wacky office layouts, pizza parties, games and company retreats and ignore the day-to-day factors that more notably impact the agent experience. Agents appreciate “fun” environments, but they crave productive ones – environments that minimize the “hassle” of doing work thanks to their smooth systems, collaborative environments and strong training.

Actions: Upon setting “agent satisfaction” as a key objective for the contact center, establish “environment” metrics that track the connection between workforce factors and employee happiness. Just as you may use average handle time, customer effort or first contact resolution to “signal” customer satisfaction and loyalty, use “screens to resolution,” “routing accuracy,” and “return on learning” to determine whether agents are empowered to succeed.

Statement: GDPR inhibits the ability to make a personal connection

Issue(s): Many business owners will argue that the GDPR, itself, is the product of a misconception. There is some truth to that assertion. In selling the importance of the GDPR, many advocates focus too heavily on the potential cost of data misuse – rather than the very real benefit of using that data correctly.

But the reality is that this argument does not need to happen. While the GDPR undoubtedly imposes broad, substantial restrictions, it does not completely prevent well-intentioned businesses from making meaningful connections with customers. It does not render the idea of personalization obsolete.

If anything, it prompts businesses to think more strategically about how they’re using customer data. If they truly care about creating value for customers – rather than building up e-mail lists they can sell and spam – they can probably find a way to make their initiatives work in a post-GDPR world.

Actions: Use GDPR as an opportunity to re-evaluate your data strategy. What kind of customer data do you really need to drive the engagement experience? Why is that data so crucial, and what tangible benefit will that have for customers? By exploring those questions, you put yourself in your customers’ shoes – and understand opportunities to properly leverage their data.

Customers may get heated and emotional at times, but they are rational at their core. They are not going to object to a more seamless, personalized, valuable experience. If that is truly what you plan to deliver, then you will have no trouble establishing legitimate interest or gaining consent.

Statement: Omnichannel is about consistency

Issue(s): This statement was critically important at the onset of the digital transformation. Far too many leaders were treating web, social and mobile media as standard-free “bonus offerings” and thus needed reminder that customers were demanding complete, resolute engagement experiences in these channels.

In today’s world, the notion of “consistency” can become problematic. While organizations must demonstrate the same commitment to customer centricity in all channels, they should view the channels as identical. Engaging via Twitter is fundamentally different than speaking on the phone, and it would be thoroughly anti-customer (and simply unproductive) to pretend otherwise.

Actions: Analyze, map and orchestrate your journey to understand what customers are trying to achieve -- and how they opt to accomplish those tasks in different channels. Tailor everything from the way you authenticate customers, to the way your agents communicate, to the “triggers” that drive escalation, to the metrics that score performance based on the specific nuances of each channel.

Channel preferences are not random; customers have a reason for engaging in a particular medium. If you honor (rather than ignore) the nuances of that preference, it is true you will be left with different experiences in each channels.

It is also true that you will have delivered a more important form of unity: a consistent commitment to doing right by your customer, regardless of where, when or why they chose to interact.