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Go Beyond "Crisis Response" and Reimagine Customer Engagement

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Brian Cantor

Reimagine customer engagement (Image via Pixabay)

What customer experience leaders once viewed as ambitions are now necessities. What CX leaders once considered possibilities for the future are now realities of today.

Prior to this year, the typical CX leader was likely thinking about ways to improve self-service offerings, redesign the digital experience, reduce agent effort and establish business continuity. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, this same leader is running a CX function with digital engagement and distributed work at its core.

Reimagining Customer Engagement is the theme of the free CXNext event on May 12; learn more and register now

Chatbots and low-touch digital channels are no longer fringe options for customers; they are the default - if not only - communication media. Remote work is not an experimental idea for a small subset of the workforce; it is the standard for every support employee in many organizations.

As a result of this sudden transformation, leaders are learning how viable many of these options were. Many, for example, would have laughed if someone suggested converting to a 100% remote workforce. Now, many are questioning whether it makes sense to ever bring the entire workforce back to the office.

Leaders are also learning about the real challenges that come with these opportunities. Customer demands are increasing -- not decreasing -- amid all the change and uncertainty, which means companies have to ensure their digital channels and new agent workflows are ready for primetime. They cannot allow any operational bottlenecks or inertia to compromise their customer centricity.

They are additionally recognizing the importance of reimagining customer engagement as a holistic, ever-evolving, end-to-end journey. They are learning that they cannot simply build CX processes that solve today’s problems for today’s customers in today’s channels. Instead, they have to design their journeys and operations with customer centricity in mind.

When an overarching commitment to customer (and agent) centricity -- and not just the specific answer to a specific question -- drives CX strategy, it ensures the requisite agility and flexibility. If, for example, a company defined “agent experience” as “comfortable chairs and 4PM toasts in the breakroom,” it likely had trouble coping with the transformation we are witnessing. If, however, the company committed to real-time communication, gamification, and reducing agent effort, it would have invested in collaboration tools, microlearning, rewards programs, AI agent augmentation solutions, and unified desktops. These solutions would have been ready to go as agents transitioned to their home offices, minimizing learning curves and downtime and maximizing agent performance and satisfaction.

But - and this is the key - they would have been equally valuable even if COVID-19 had not happened. These tools, solutions and ideas are just as effective at motivating and engaging agents in a traditional contact center.

The same applies to customer journeys. Offering self-service for “transactional issues” may have worked yesterday, but it no longer suffices in an era where self-service is the only option some customers have. Companies need to adopt a higher standard for omnichannel engagement -- one that empowers companies to seamlessly support customers however they move through the journey. This commitment will pay dividends in terms of customer satisfaction and operational efficiency even if marketplace sentiment changes.

Coaching agents to be personable on the phone -- a longtime contact center ideal -- is similarly inadequate in today’s world. Many of today’s customers require more than friendly greetings and references to their account histories; they need emotional empathy, support and guidance as they work through tough times. If CX leaders set the bar too low when training and recruiting for human skills, they will bottleneck their ability to thrive in key moments of truth.

Business continuity is meanwhile about more than having cloud tools and a few outsourcing partners. It includes a multi-tiered contingency plan with predictive analytics, advanced security and privacy, access to a globally distributed workforce, and agile agents who can “step into” other roles.

This notion of reimagining customer engagement may seem like a lofty, challenging endeavor, but it is anything but. It is very attainable, and an elite speaking faculty will reveal the blueprint at the free CXNext online event on May 12.

As you attend the sessions, hearing from influencers like Adam Toporek, Jeannie Walters, practitioners from IBM, Corning Credit Union, Audible and, and innovators from LogMeIn, think about what successful customer engagement means for your organization and its customers. Once you define that overarching goal, you can think about how the different strategic and technological pieces ensure you can achieve that goal from end-to-end. You can also think carefully about the risks that could threaten your employee experiences, as well as the fail safes and contingencies that can help you remain agile and customer-centric no matter how the market evolves.

You’ll be able to build an experience for your customers, not just for today’s world.