The name it’s called might change, but the concept of the customer experience is one that keeps stimulating the imaginations of those in contact centers or other customer-facing roles. Each contact centre facelift, retrofit, or redesign seems to point towards to the customer experiences being the reason for changing things. They said in “Field of Dreams” that “if you build it, they will come.” It would seem many businesses believe.
Unfortunately, there are many times where premium processes and the latest in technology don’t deliver the desired goals concerning customer experiences. In many cases, the faults lie in mismatches between the expectations of customers, and the implementation of the actual system.
Be mindful of the fact that the customer experience is a comprehensive totality of any and all interactions between the customer and your organisation, so that includes things like wait time, IVR effectiveness, the demeanour of your agents, outcome, and the time it takes to achieve resolution. It also includes phone interactions, chats online, in-store conversations, and all other communications, even on social media. The customer experience is one that is a combination of the subjective, like frustration, joy, or anger, and the objective, like monies owed or a problem solved. It’s also something often judged differently by the customer and the organisation in question. Customer experiences are also influenced by various parts of an organisation that might not often be recognised by leadership as having roles in the process, be it field operations, delivery, or invoicing.
Since all things have some effect, a contact centre can influence the customer experience in many ways that might not be immediately apparent. The more you can know about your customers, the more you can adapt your protocols and technology to fit their needs. You might just be shocked to find out some of the hidden ways your organisation is already shaping up customer experiences.
Internal Guidance? Or Traffic Patrol?
IVR systems are usually pretty well understood but also widely disparaged. They’re a prime example of how a once-promising technology got implemented poorly, instead of becoming a detriment to positive customer experiences. Many IVR systems seem like the kind of tool that organisations can use to route customers into particular agent queues for various conveniences, and this gets often confirmed when an agent picks up but doesn’t have any information a customer provided via the IVR. Even worse is the fact that some IVR systems seem to be established to keep customers from even reaching live agents. Whether this is intentional or otherwise, a contact center just made their IVR the cop directing traffic.
On the other hand, an IVR system tuned towards laying out an efficient route to informed agents gives customers internal guidance. Any time dedicated to mapping out an excellent customer calling tree is certainly time that is spent wisely. Customers get an IVR interaction that is fast and smooth. That’s certainly true for any interaction completed or finished successfully without any agent having to step in. For calls that do connect to agents, even a little bit of technology can still provide wisdom into the journey the customer has taken so far. In each case, contact centers have shaped their customer experiences in subtle, yet critical ways.
Early applications of artificial intelligence and machine learning can manifest themselves in the forms of chat bots and even virtual agents. These are often applied as attempts in improving IVR experiences for customers. They hopefully empower self-service, or at a minimum deliver a customer smoothly towards a live agent, with rich content along the way.
The Best Agent? Or The Next Agent?
As long as contact centres have been around, so have various forms of routing. A lot of different organizations have gone through quite a bit of experimentation trying to find the best ways of prioritizing their interactions. In truth, there’s no ideal solution perfect for all organizations. However, some optimizations prove useful more often than not.
The simplest style is likely first-in/first-out routing. In a talent pool where agents are largely homogenous in personality, talent, skill, and experience or training, then this style might prove just as good as any other. Your only challenge in scheduling is making sure you have enough bodies to handle trough volumes and peak times.
In truth, though, the next available agent is often not the best one for a given exchange or interaction. Agent pools are usually diverse, and so are your customer interactions. That gives you the power to tune your routing based on either one or multiple criteria. For instance, a contact center could base their routing on skills, which improves the chances that agents can handle any interactions sent their way quickly, efficiently, and effectively. A contact center might also pick routing based on the kinds of interactions, sending chats to a particular group, emails towards another, and calls to the third.
Some centers are starting to shift their emphasis away from actual interaction content and more towards customer attributes. For example, customers who have gotten to a high level of buying or match a desired profile of demographics might get queue priority or even routed towards specific agents. In some cases, behavioural traits can get lined up between a specific agent and a customer to make the interaction more effective.
Routing is something that is too critical to leave up to random chance. Just a little time put into understanding the history of your contact centre interactions, client demographics, and your available agent pool can yield tremendous insights that make choosing or developing an enhanced routing strategy. Then, you can implement in such a way that supports your customers in having consistently positive experiences.
Agents As Lifeguards
The concept of self-service is something that has garnered increasing attention in recent years as growing numbers of consumers take on the task of simple problem solving on their own. Such systems that help them empower your agents and customers to focus on more complicated matters. If a customer fails to identify a successful resolution to their problem, then they’re going to need help. Your agents can act as lifeguards who see any actions that lead up to the eventual cry for help, knowing how and when to come to the rescue. When you create bridges from self-service to assisted service, a contact center cuts down on customer frustration while also boosting time-efficiency for all involved. A combination of best practices and technology make for a robust interaction that creates a customer’s positive experience from start to finish.
Show Your Clients Respect
When they are executed properly, callbacks usually prove to be a good idea. They often can shorten your queues, thus reducing your perceived wait times. They also save on phone charges for both your centre and the caller. More importantly, they show respect. In some circumstances, they even provide a helpful life line in critical situations like providing roadside assistance in the middle of a snow storm. The right callback can easily prevent someone who is waiting on hold for their wireless phone from losing precious battery power.
Requirements for callbacks are spectacularly low; you just call back the customer provided phone number when they request you do it. It establishes credibility for your contact center, and use of callback services grows from there.
Smooth Out Your Operations
Analytics, recording, and monitoring are all valuable tools in improving or maintaining the customer experience. In fact, they’re often underappreciated or underused. Contact centres that use these improve their operations because they empower coaching and even allow for fine-tuning of their interaction technique and abilities.
These very same tools are scalable, in that an individual agent can be judged by the customer experience he or she delivers, or even at a department or organizational level. Any change in perspective, no matter how slight, can help a contact center gain new insight into how effective its customer experience is and what contributions might make it better.
Shaping Up The Future
The investment world has a rather adage, and even a common warning, that past performance is never an indicator of actual future results. In the case of a contact center though, past performance is something that you can use to improve the results you get in the future. Each interaction with customers is a teachable moment through situational reviews, agent analysis, interaction analysis, and surveys. Contact centres that put such feedback mechanisms into play are likely to find chances to influence and direct their own future.
The right best practices and technology make it possible for customers to have good experiences. When there is a deliberately conscious implementation of a robust review methodology that puts the customer first and foremost, the customer experience you want yours to have is very much possible to attain.