Customer Experience

CRMs Versus Contact Center Solutions: Are They the Same?

Your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software is powerful in its own right, but it’s not a complete contact center solution. CRMs like Salesforce, Zendesk, and even ServiceNow are ticketing/case management workhorses, allowing businesses to store customer profiles, identify sales opportunities and leads, track service issues, manage campaigns, and see a customer’s journey from day 1 to now. CRMs manage the external interactions and customer relationships for a business, but they don’t facilitate them. What CRMs lack is the ability to connect customers to agents and gather meaningful data from those connections.

Contact center software provides the means to initiate omnichannel customer interactions, manage them, and translate them into data. Contact centers utilize communications tools like chat, SMS, voice, email, and messengers to get customers from point A to point B in the most efficient way possible. All about smart problem resolution, contact centers use intelligent routing to distribute customers to the best agents available (not just the first available agent), AI and cognitive technologies to drive interaction analysis and assist agents, and quality management tools to keep teams and SLAs on track. More than that, contact centers have the ability to record calls and screens, keep chat transcripts, provide self-service, collect survey data, report on customer satisfaction rankings, and evaluate agent performance with quality management tools like monitoring and coaching.

Most CRMs incorporate some communications tools, like email and messaging, into their platform. But they can only offer all the solutions of a real contact center by integrating with one. Salesforce, for example, offers live chat powered by Service Cloud, plus the ability to click to dial using a Google Voice integration, among other nifty things. Its messaging capabilities are add-ons, and the contents of real-time interactions are not logged automatically, creating a disconnect between the interactions and the customer’s profile and tickets.

Contact center platforms are designed to provide personalized omnichannel routing skills, analytics, reporting, and QM effortlessly. CRMs are not because it’s not their core competency. To have a complete view of a customer’s journey, you need to be able to combine CRM and contact center functions, and you get there with integrations.

Using Bright Pattern integrations, for example, your CRM becomes a robust contact center solution for the enterprise. Integrations add integrated UI, activity history, automatically saved contacts, click-to-call, screen pop, automated identification, prioritization, and self-service features to CRMs. A Bright Pattern integration with Salesforce, for example, also adds single sign-on functionality (sign in to both your CRM and contact center simultaneously), automatic push and pull of data, and desktop communications within Salesforce via the integrated Agent Desktop widget.

When CRM and contact center features are integrated, customers can reach you on any channel they want, agents can see the customer’s journey and anticipate their needs, and supervisors oversee quality management in order to boost customer satisfaction.

Though contact center software might offer some CRM-like capabilities, contact centers are not CRMs. Likewise, CRMs are not contact center platforms. Integrations are the key to getting a customer service platform that is personalized to your needs and effortless to use.

How to Create and Improve Your Customer Experience Model

To create a consistent, customized experience for your customers, you need a well-rounded view of the entire experience and all its parts. When you’re able to see the customer experience in full, you’ll streamline targeting and optimize communication.

By streamlining targeting, you learn which customer segments are interested in specific products and services, plus which channels you should use to target these specific customers. You’ll then uncover the best ways to communicate with that specific segment, including the sort of messaging they respond to.

What You Need to Create a Customer Experience Model

Creating a customer experience model takes into account all of the different parts of the customer experience you may have already tackled, like data, the customer journey and personas. Here’s where you’ll bring them together.

Who and Why

During this stage, you’ll understand your customers and see them as humans, not as metrics. This is where you’ll define customer personas. A persona considers the goals, motivations and needs of your VIP customers, which is based on data and research. You’ll gather and understand personal details, like who they are, what they want and why they should care about your product or service.

When and What

This is where you’ll map the customer journey, which highlights the key interactions your customers have with you. In addition to when the touchpoints take place, you’ll also determine what happens at each one – what are the customer’s perceptions and experiences along the way?

How

To pull everything together, you’ll work to figure out which processes and systems you need in place.

4 Ways to Improve the Customer Experience Model

  1. Choose a business objective. It should be a high-level objective, one that directly relates to your strategic plan, and it’s also good if it has broad impact. Focus on creating results for just that objective.
  2. Choose one channel – and it’s okay to start small. You may choose one type of email communication or one social media channel, for example.
  3. Your plan should include performance targets and metrics. You’ll want to measure and report regularly so that you and your team know how well the strategy is working.
  4. Communicate with your team. Explain the reasoning behind the customer experience model, the changes that will take place and the results you’re after.

Tell us about your experience creating customer service models!

5 Trends in the Customer Service Industry

Every year sees new changes to the customer service industry, and 2018 has been no different. This year, the focus has been on improving customer service in order to meet growing expectations. Here are 5 trends that are influencing the industry right now, and they’ll likely continue – and be built upon – in 2019.

  1. Chatbots are providing customer care.

According to IBM, by the year 2020 as much as 85% of customer interactions will not be handled by a human. For the contact center, this means making sure chatbots are providing a great experience for the customer – poor technology or chatbots that are used incorrectly can seriously impact your bottom line.

  1. Cloud-based customer service software is the norm.

Contact centers that rely on cloud-based solutions can have remote agents located around the world. This means that different time zones and extended hours can be covered, offering customer service practically any time and from anywhere. This software can give a complete history of customer interaction, including past communication and notes that agents make about a customer.

  1. Success of the team has become a priority.

If individuals can provide great service, then teams of excellent agents can do even more. Teammate success is now a priority and contact centers are investing more in educating and training their teams. One way of making customer service teams more successful is by hiring agile agents who can handle more than one type of job.

  1. Increased reliance on self-service.

Self-service has been trending for a long time, but now companies are taking self-service to the next level by personalizing it. For example, customers may be shown only certain self-service options based on the products or services they have. This means that customers can get quicker access to the information they need without having to weed through an entire knowledge base.

  1. Software will seamlessly integrate.

Contact center technology systems are a big expense and they carry out integral jobs, like analyzing data and storing all sorts of customer information. Since software is so essential to the contact center, it’s important for different software and tools to integrate with one another. We’ll continue to see software that’s specifically designed to work seamlessly with complementary software so that you can piece together the best system for your contact center.

Have you noticed trends in the customer service world? Tell us about them in the comments.

Why Happy Agents Make Happy Customers

Guest Blog From Bright Pattern

Customer service agents are often the primary point of contact with your customers. It makes sense that you want your customer-facing employees to be helpful, enthusiastic, and happy to be doing their jobs. After all, your company’s reputation, satisfaction ratings, and profitability are at stake.

So how do you create a contact center environment that motivates agents?

Live by the Agent Empowerment Model

Through a recent survey of contact center decision makers, Bright Pattern identified the top three strategies for creating engaged agents.

Of our survey respondents,

  • 70% said to improve agent training
  • 64% said to provide agents with better tools
  • 49% said to offer better self-service

At Bright Pattern, we believe in the agent empowerment model, which means providing agents with the tools and technology they need to succeed. This model aligns with our survey results, and it’s been driving our roadmap since the beginning.

Here’s what the agent empowerment model looks like in practice:

  • Declutter the agent desktop with an innovative UI.
  • Give agents easy-to-use technology for automatic customer recognition.
  • Eliminate mundane transactions with AI and provide agents with AI Assist.
  • Automate workflows.
  • Limit downtime with active-active technology.

How Everyone Benefits

Here’s a breakdown of the benefits you can expect when your contact center operations revolve around the agent empowerment model.

Higher Customer Ratings and Sales

According to Gallup, highly engaged teams achieve, on average, a 10% increase in customer ratings and a 20% increase in sales.

Faster, More Efficient Problem Resolution

Agents who feel more valued by their employers are more motivated to resolve calls satisfactorily, find creative solutions, and improve their own knowledge and customer relationship skills.

 

They have access to a knowledge base and can, at any time, reach out to subject matter experts to resolve customer problems faster and more accurately.

 

Less Employee Turnover

The costs of replacing and retraining agents can be a tremendous drawdown on operational budgets, and the loss of institutional knowledge when an experienced agent walks out the door also impacts customer service center performance.

Using AI to automate frequent requests and routine tasks makes the agents’ work less transactional. This increases agent satisfaction because agents can focus on helping people.

Higher Customer Experience

Empowered agents also have the right tools to provide a consistent customer experience and resolve issues fast, on any channel, any time. They depend on a single, integrated application combining unified communication tools, access to information, knowledge bases, and customer data in context of the moment, all of which ultimately improve customer satisfaction.

Get Started

By making some smart investments, you can vastly improve agents’ attitude, abilities, job commitment, and engagement levels—all of which have proven positive impacts on how they serve your customers.

What is the Effortless Customer Experience?

Going above and beyond customer expectations to surprise them and deliver that “wow” factor isn’t unimportant, but in terms of retaining customers and gaining their loyalty, it may not be as important as you once thought.

Matthew Dixon of Gartner (formerly CEB) wrote an article and a book about the power of the effortless customer experience, explaining how effortlessness is more impactful than greatness.

Satisfied vs. Dissatisfied Customers

The first thing to understand is that satisfied and dissatisfied customers behave very differently:

  • Customers who are highly satisfied do not always become loyal customers.
  • Customers who are dissatisfied become disloyal customers and talk to others about their experience, which spreads negative word-of-mouth.

Additionally, Dixon found that the more effort a customer has to put in to solve their problem, the more disloyal they become.

Redefining Customer Experience Goals

It stands to reason, then, that the contact center’s main goal shouldn’t be creating highly satisfied customers because they may not be loyal no matter how much you do for them. Instead, the goal should be to avoid creating dissatisfied customers.

How do you do that? By making it as easy as possible for an unhappy customer to resolve their problem.

Dixon’s research showed that customers who were able to solve their problems with a low amount of effort were more like to buy from the company again and even to spend more.

Clearing the Way for the Customer

When it comes to the customer experience, there are a few main culprits that always seem to stand in the way of ease and resolution:

  • Being transferred
  • Non-personalized service
  • Having to repeatedly contact support
  • Repeating information
  • Switching channels
  • Tedious policies and processes

While there are numerous ways to make the customer experience more effortless, here are two big ones:

  1. Create a rich self-service portal that will solve all (or most of) your customers’ issues without having to switch between multiple channels to find a resolution. The self-service portal should be simple and user-friendly.
  2. Avoid the next issue. First call resolution is the ultimate goal, but it’s not always possible, especially if the first issue gives way to a connected second issue. Figuring out what the follow-up issues tend to be will give you the power to prevent problems.

Have you found any ways to make the customer experience more effortless? Tell us in the comments below!

 

Using Big Data to Enhance the Customer Experience

Customers are happy to stay with brands that provide excellent service, and that includes knowing what they want and offering it to them when they want it. To the customer, this seems like uncanny intuition, but smart brands know this doesn’t have anything to do with a sixth sense. Analyzing customer data is the only “magic” needed.

Collecting and storing customer data is doing nothing for you if you’re not actually putting that data to use, though. Here’s how to make customer data work for you.

  1. Personalize the customer experience.

Today, simply having an app or website that works isn’t enough. A personalized customer experience results in better engagement, conversions and revenue. The customer should have their interests and preferences catered to when they log in. For example, customers who always pay online ­– and who don’t usually log in for other reasons ­– can be taken directly to the payment page.

  1. Fix problems quickly.

Real-time analytics show what’s happening now, giving you the chance to solve problems before they become catastrophes. For example, if a customer is having a problem with the support agent, you can jump in to solve the issue before the customer gets off the phone. If you end the call on a positive note, they won’t be tempted to bash your business on social media. You can also collect data from different social media platforms to discover when customers are talking about you online, and then get in on the conversation to solve issues fast.

  1. Figure out what you’re doing wrong.

Customer data can show you where visitors are getting stuck or at what point they’re abandoning your app or website. This can help you hone in on areas that aren’t working so well, giving you the opportunity to streamline processes even more. For example, do you notice that customers who try to engage in a live chat via the app often end up calling for phone support? Maybe the chat freezes or agents are too slow to respond.

User data can be turned into reports for all sorts of information, and customers can be segmented in a variety of ways, giving contact center agents the chance to provide excellent, targeted service. The best approach is to figure out which data you need so that you spend more time using it than you do collecting it.

5 Contact Center Trends to Watch

Contact centers have a lot of contradictory goals to juggle: focusing on both employee and customer happiness; modernizing while still utilizing helpful legacy systems; and upholding security while being open-minded enough to evolve. Contact centers are almost always in some sort of transitional phrase, with late-2017 being no different. Here are five trends you should either be familiar with or keep an eye on moving forward.

1. Omni-channel, not multi-channel, service.

Some contact centers mistakenly think that offering multi-channel service means they’re immediately able to deliver omni-channel support, but the two are quite different. Omni-channel services takes those multiple channels and seamlessly integrates them. Agent-customer interactions can be switched to a different channel mid-communication without losing any relevant data.

2. New digital channels.

Customers want convenience, which means being able to interact with customer support when they’re on-the-go. Emerging digital channels have to be adopted by contact centers, including mobile apps and web chat. These channels must be adaptable and easy to use, too, and they have to make it simple for customers to troubleshoot on their own and, when needed, get in touch with a live support agent.

3. Additional performance metrics.

Most contact centers have strategies in place to measure voice and call quality, but since digital channels are still relatively new, measuring them isn’t as commonplace. Understanding how agents perform on digital channels, including mobile, live chat and social media, can help to increase agent productivity and improve the customer experience.

4. Dependence on the cloud.

Though many contact centers have switched over to the cloud, others are still relying on their antiquated legacy systems. According to Customer Think, reliance on the cloud is about to increase dramatically, particularly over the next four years. More contact centers will move to the cloud, allowing them to scale globally, improve their data security and increase their efficiency.

5. Two-way conversations on social media.

The ways customers want to connect with brands on social media has changed – they now want to engage in a back-and-forth conversation with support instead of just observing the content a brand posts. Contact centers will need to train agents in how to chat with customers on social media platforms, both publicly (like on a Twitter thread) and privately (like on Facebook Messenger).

 

5 Must-Ask Questions When Choosing a Cloud Solution for the Contact Center

When was the last time you took a good look at your contact center and vowed to give it the update it needs? Regularly taking the pulse of your contact center, particularly when it comes to the software you use and how efficient it is, will help you remain competitive in the industry and relevant to your customers. Once you know the improvements that need to be made, you can find a cloud solution that meets your needs. Ask yourself the following questions when choosing cloud software.

  1. Will it support our omni-channel strategy?

Any software your contact center uses will need to support all of the channels your customers use to interact. This includes text, voice, web and social media. Additionally, these channels need to work flawlessly together so that you can provide omni-channel, not just multi-channel, service.

  1. Will the cloud solution remain up-to-date as time goes on?

The last thing you want is to be under contract with a cloud software provider who lets their service become antiquated. A quality cloud solution vendor will regularly add new features so that your contact center can remain on the cutting edge and continue to serve customers’ changing demands.

  1. How is uptime ensured?

A cloud solution that has too much downtime is going to be a major problem for your contact center. Ask your vendor about their service level agreement (SLA) for uptime. A certain amount of uptime should always be ensured.

  1. Is the vendor reliable?

Problems are bound to occur. When they do, you want to know that your vendor will be available to help you sort them out as quickly as possible. First, make sure the vendor has plenty of availability. Then, ask about the process they use to problem-solve.

  1. What will happen as the contact center expands?

Your contact center is going to change and, hopefully, grow with time. The cloud solution you choose will need to evolve and adapt along with your contact center. It should also be able to scale so that you won’t have to find a new cloud solution as you grow.

Have you hit a wall with your current software solution? It may be time to move to a cloud-based solution. Your contact center will get the modern functionality needed to quickly and properly serve today’s customers.

 

The Importance of Chatbots for Customer Service

Consumers are getting increasingly comfortable interacting online with artificial intelligence.  As a result, more and more brands are using chatbots and, furthermore, chatbot technology is evolving. According to Adweek, it’s possible that a majority of customer service queries will be answered by chatbots instead of humans by the end of the year.

Big companies see the value in chatbots: Facebook now allows for Messenger to work with third-party chatbots and Microsoft’s Bot Framework is a tool for building chatbots. Retailers, customer service departments and contact centers all recognize the importance of chatbots and must keep up with emerging technology to ensure their AI is as up-to-date as possible.

Chatbots seem to be most effective when combined with social messaging, where many of today’s consumers are spending their time, even more so than on social media itself. Additionally, young consumers prefer text and messaging for communication, which makes chatbots even more appealing. The key is to present them with interactive chat where they already are – on the social media or social messaging applications they’re already using. Customers are hesitant to download and learn new applications when they already have their preferred messaging apps.

What exactly do customers want from chatbots, other than accessibility? Chatbots Magazine published the results of a Bentley University study on the topic and found the following:

· Face or icon for the chatbot.
· Single search bar where all questions can be asked.
· Single chatbot instead of one for each department.
· Comprehension even if a question is asked in a “lazy” way.
· Simplistic speech that is still highly useful.
· Anticipation of what the customer’s next question will be.
· Patience no matter how complex the query is.

It’s expected that a growing number of brands will build their own chatbots to ease the burden of customer service on their live agents. Social messaging is expected to continue growing, too, which will make those new chatbots even more prevalent in daily customer-company communication.

4 Trends that Improve the Customer Experience

When customer service teams want to differentiate themselves from the rest, they focus on improving and optimizing the customer experience. Companies are more than willing to go above and beyond for the sake of meeting and exceeding customer expectations. Here are four trends that will help distinguish your contact center.

Relying on Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence (AI) is everywhere, from video games to the automobile industry. Customer service has been impacted by the increase in AI, too. This technology can be used to chat with customers about easy-to-solve issues, which frees up live agents for more difficult and complex matters. Automation with AI can reduce customer wait time, interact with customers and collect important data for the contact center to later analyze.

Implementing an Omnichannel Strategy

One major gripe that customers have is repeating themselves to various customer support agents in order to get an answer or have a problem solved. Channel integration isn’t the same as omnichannel service. Today’s companies can’t just respond to a customer, they have to know as much as possible about the customer and their problem beforehand in order to provide customized, relevant support. Customer service requires empathy and a human touch in order to connect meaningfully to the customer.

Analyzing Big Data

While much of the customer experience is about interaction and communication, big data still has a pertinent place in understanding customer behavior. Big data can actually help the contact center connect on a more personal level with customers. There’s so much information that can be tracked now, from customer behavior at every point of the journey to customer preferences regarding any number of attributes. Data helps customer support do things like figure out what a customer is going to want before they even ask for it and determine the best way to reach a customer on the channel of their choice.

Providing Real-Time Communication

Using things like AI, which can automate several processes, and ominchannel strategies, which can cut down on the length of time it takes to solve a problem, gives customer support agents the extra time to handle some queries personally. Real-time communication, specifically via mobile and social media, is in demand, especially by younger generations who are used to communicating in these ways. Being able to provide immediate support improves the customer experience and builds trust in customers.