7 Burning Customer Experience Questions We All Must Answer

Brian Cantor

It may not be a “cool” thing to admit, but I think tirelessly about the state of customer contact.  I pretty much have no choice – over the course of 2018, I will be producing 24 special reports, 3 market studies, dozens of articles, countless social media posts and 3 online events aimed at customer contact audience.  My job requires me to make the customer experience my mental priority.

And even if writing about the customer experience was not my job, thinking about it absolutely would be.  It is everyone’s job.  If you cannot properly connect with your customers, you cannot succeed in business.

My musings often lead me to new content ideas for CCW Digital.  Sometimes, however, they stop short – at least in the immediate term – at questions.

I wanted to share some of those burning questions with you today.  Over the course of 2018, I’m hoping that our community – through commentary, networking, benchmarking and research – can provide answers.

And to the extent that universal answers are inappropriate or insufficient, I'm hoping our community is constantly thinking about how these apply to their own customer contact operations.

What kind of “customer centricity” moves the needle?

We all want to be as nice as possible to our customers.  But in a numbers-driven world governed by tight budgets, few organizations can afford to view “being nice to customers” as an end in and of itself.  They certainly cannot afford to take actions that produce a net financial cost.

When crafting a customer experience strategy, it is important to separate initiatives that actually help the business from those that simply feel good.

This, it should be noted, is not an anti-customer exercise.  It is actually the polar opposite.  It is a request that you, the business leader, think about what really matters to your customers.  What customer experience elements truly determine whether they buy from you or a competitor?  What prompts them to share stories – good or bad – with their friends?

By prioritizing business impact, you actually steer your organization toward the most meaningfully customer-centric initiatives possible.

What can bots do better than humans?

For as much excitement as there is about bots, I also can’t help but detect a conciliatory attitude.  We, for all intents and purposes, present bots as “good enough” to handle customer issues.  They are positioned as a practical necessity (no organization can afford to have live agents instantly engage with all customers) rather than an ideal.

While I value any perspective that improves efficiency, I also think we should focus on identifying scenarios in which bots are better-suited for certain tasks than humans.  Examples that come to mind include diagnosing medical conditions (patients may feel uneasy explaining symptoms to live agents), confirming delivery instructions or changing a takeout order at a noisy restaurant.

When we start to understand the scenarios best-suited for bots (and best-suited for live agents), we can build the most customer-centric, productive journeys possible.

Customers will not simply feel “supported” – they will feel valued.

Why don’t we measure the environment?

Per CCW Digital research, only a handful of contact center leaders believe their systems are “difficult” to use.   These same contact center leaders, however, reveal that slow and disintegrated systems are the #1 cause of agents complaints.

How is this contradiction possible?

A lack of insight.  I’ve been gradually pitching the idea of measuring the “environment” (screens to resolution, routing efficacy/efficiency, etc) to the customer contact community, and I have no plans to stop soon.  This needs to transform from hypothetical to requirement in 2018.

Where does the time go?

When I advocate for measuring the environment, I am speaking about the tools and systems that impact agents’ ability to perform their jobs.

It is also important to consider whether we’re assigning agents the jobs we really want them to perform.

If you agree that “engaging with customers” is more valuable than “logging call information in the CRM,” then you operational framework needs to maximize the time agents spend engaging and minimizing the time they waste logging.

An obvious case for “automation,” this line of thinking more broadly asks us to consider what we are really hiring agents to do.

Why do customers ask to speak to a manager?

We claim we value customer centricity.  We claim we believe in agent empowerment.  Yet “let me speak to a manager” remains part of the customer lexicon.

Assuming Morgan Freeman is not a supervisor in your contact center, it is highly unlikely customers are simply interested in hearing the manager’s voice.  They are asking for a transfer because they do not feel the agent can help them.

We need to address that.  We need to ensure agents are properly trained – they also need instant access to the knowledgebase and/or subject matter experts to help solve unique, unexpected issues.

They need great people skills.

Most importantly, they must be empowered to take action for a customer.  If customers feel believe the supervisor is even slightly more willing to – or more capable of – providing a great resolution, your customer experience is broken.

Can we use data without abusing it?

Insofar as they want simple, frictionless, personalized experiences, customers truly do want businesses to collect – and utilize – data from their interactions.

The problem, however, is that they are conditioned to associate “data collection” with future sales and marketing messages.  They fear organizations will use their information to aggressively pitch products (and perhaps as a commodity to sell to other companies) rather than to create more valuable engagement experiences.

It is this fear that drives data regulations across the globe.  It is this fear that, ironically, prevents customers from getting the engagement experiences they actually want.  No data – no personalization – no reduction of effort.

Business leaders know data benefits the customer experience.  They also know it is invaluable for optimizing operations.  Cognizant of these benefits, they cannot succumb to the “shortcut” of abusing data.  Through great behavior, they need to condition customers to see “data collection” as the ultimate act of customer centricity.

Why do businesses say no?

In an earlier question, I made clear that I do not believe “poor business instinct” is a prerequisite for “customer centricity.”  I believe it is perfectly fine to say “no” to customer requests that do not make sense for the business.

The bold part is an imperative qualifier.  Saying “no” should be a product of sound, contextual logic – not previously mandated procedure.

If you do not want to accept a customer’s return at the 93-day mark, that is your prerogative.  I hope, however, that you have a better reason for saying no than “our return policy only extends for 90 days.”  I hope you have a better reason for disappointing – if not angering – one of your customers.