Customer Interaction

How to Improve Your Contact Center’s Live Chat Service

There are several different customer service channels available to customers, but the winner always seems to be the one that responds the fastest. Since web chat is both time-sensitive and personal, it’s often a customer’s preferred mode of contact. Here’s how to optimize customer satisfaction using live chat.

Make sure the chat is visible.

There’s a lot of information for visitors to look over when they’re on your website, but the live chat option should be obvious and easy to find. A pop-up window on the bottom of the page lets customers chat while still navigating around the website. Since the window is going to be small, make sure the font is large enough to read.

Only send an invitation if an agent is available.

Offering a live chat option at the right moment is key to engaging the customer at the best time. However, you should never invite the customer to a chat session if there isn’t actually a live agent available. Customers shouldn’t have to wait for help, especially if you reach out to them first.

Go off script.

Even though you want to maintain a certain level of professionalism, live chat conversations can lean toward the friendly and personal. The agent should introduce themselves and refer to the customer by name. Also, it’s okay to go off script if the customer asks detailed questions or if they’re upset and need the agent to show empathy.

Keep chat etiquette in mind.

Even though live chat is on the informal side, agents should still write in complete sentences; pay attention to spelling and grammar; and avoid slang. Paragraphs should be short and digestible, and technical speak should be avoided so that the customer can keep up with the conversation.

Make it quick.

Customers want their issue handled quickly on chat. Agents should make sure to respond swiftly whenever the customer sends a message. Conversation should be limited so that it doesn’t get in the way of solving the problem. Also, if the situation will take too long to troubleshoot on live chat, the customer should be given an alternate solution, like self-service or the number to the right department.

Live chat is helpful for customers who need to multi-task or want to get fast service. In order to deliver the service customers deserve, it’s necessary to know what they expect.

 

5 Barriers to Overcome When Creating an Omnichannel Strategy

If a contact center is going to understand how important omnichannel is, to them and their customers, they need to know the benefits of seamless interaction across all channels. Furthermore, it has to be understood that a one-size-fits-all solution will no longer work; it won’t provide a modern, enjoyable customer experience. Everything from antiquated technology to a lack of understanding or concern regarding omnichannel service can get in the way of creating a true omnichannel experience.

1. Not Providing All Departments with a Single View

Every department needs to have a synced, singular view of the customer, no matter what channel they’re on. Just as the different channels need to work together, so do the contact center’s various departments.

2. Not Understanding the Depths of the Customer

In the past, customer buying history was the main – and often, only – important detail to pay attention to and track. Today, omnichannel goes far beyond buying history, looking at what happened before, during and after the buying process. This plays into being able to define what omnichannel means to your specific contact center – it’s not a metric, but instead of way of offering a certain type of customer experience.

3. Poor Technology and Missing System Integrations

Even with the best omnichannel plan in place, contact centers can’t attain their goals if they don’t have a system that supports them.

4. Poor Management Regarding Big Changes

Instating an omnichannel system requires everyone at the contact center to get updated on the new processes. This requires training and education, as well as someone who is going to lead and manage the change.

5. Providing Consistent Service on Varying Channels

It can be incredibly difficult to provide the same level of service when switching from channel to channel. Specific strategies and specialty training have to be in place in order to provide high quality customer service on everything from email and phone calls, which have no communication limits, to something like Twitter, which has a distinct character limit.

While an omnichannel strategy puts the customer first, it requires a lot of setup and management on the backend, in the contact center. While switching to an omnichannel strategy or updating your current one can take some time and effort, ultimately what’s best for the customer is what’s going to be best for the contact center.

Learn from this Sample Customer Journey: Booking a Flight to Boarding the Plane

Today’s customer journey considers the beginning-to-end experience that the user follows to complete a task. Often, the journey involves numerous channels and devices that all must interact with the customer wherever, whenever and however they want.

Air travel can be exhausting, both physically and mentally, especially if the many plans that have to be in place don’t come together. Delayed or canceled flights, difficulty scheduling backup flights, lost luggage and missed connections are just the beginning of the travel headache. Done correctly, the customer journey of a person who’s traveling can be greatly eased with intuitive messaging and thoughtful touch points. Consider this modern customer journey for the traveler:

• Book your flight online well in advance to secure the best ticket price.

• Receive a push notification from the airline’s mobile app that allows you to check-in the night before your flight.

• Choose the way you’d like to receive your boarding pass (saving it to your phone, via email, etc.).

• At the airport, visit a kiosk to scan the boarding pass on your phone and then print your baggage ticket.

• Show security your digital boarding pass.

• Receive immediate flight status updates through your preferred contact method (text message, email, app push notification, etc.).

• While on the flight, go to the airline’s website on your phone, tablet or laptop to watch movies.

Traveling of the past was often rife with long lines to get to an agent at the airport, paper boarding passes that can get easily lost and difficulty keeping up with the latest flight changes. The reason the new, digitally-enhanced customer journey flows so well is because the airline (or booking service) the traveler uses offers online and mobile access; remembers personal information, allowing the company to send customized alerts to individual travelers; has multiple digital options for doing necessary travel tasks, then syncs those options (saving the boarding pass to your phone then scanning it at the luggage tag kiosk); and generally keeps travelers in-the-know regarding their trip. Once on the flight, the company is further able to keep the traveler happy and entertained by offering in-flight Internet service and other types of free entertainment.

This type of customer journey takes into account the cornerstones that customers need: consistent and proactive service, optimized features, collaborative options and seamless transitions.

How to Improve Your IVR System

In theory, an IVR system is a great idea. Customers can get personalized support without having speaking with a live agent. When you break the cardinal rules of creating a user-friendly IVR system, though, you risk irritating customers and overloading your agents with live calls.

Simplify Options

Too many options are impossible for callers to remember. Menus within menus are confusing and long-winded. Customers will default to speaking with a live agent or choosing options that sound close to what they want just to get on with it.

Name the Department First

The department should always be named before its associated number You may think that a caller will easily remember to “press 1 for sales,” but “for sales, press 1” is much more fool-proof. This makes it easier for the caller to associate the number with the department. Otherwise, they’ll have to repeat the menu or just opt to speak to a live agent.

Allow Extra Time

It’s great when an IVR system can access detailed customer information, like an account number or tracking information. However, it’ll take the customer a moment to jot that number down. Give them a few extra seconds, say the number twice and offer a way for the customer to have the information repeated. If the customer misses the one detail they called in for, the IVR system hasn’t done its job.

Don’t Hang Up

Some IVR systems will automatically disconnect the call if the wait is too long. Even if there’s a lengthy queue and the caller will need to wait for a long time, it can be more frustrating to get hung up on. Some callers prefer waiting instead of having to call back at a future time, even if the wait time will be shorter. Offer a callback option that will hold their place in line and ring them when an agent is available.

Maintain the Same Voice

The same voice – a human voice, not a robot one – should be used throughout the entire IVR system. Switching voices is distracting and the caller may not focus on what is being said as much as the new voice. Maintaining the same voice throughout each menu and option is the most professional option.

AI integrations like IVR can be incredibly helpful for the contact center, so long as they make less work for agents.

Voice of the Customer: Beyond Feedback Surveys

Voice of the Customer (VOC) is important for contact centers that want to improve the customer experience. Many contact centers associate VOC with feedback surveys, but there’s a lot more to it than that. VOC has many facets that help brands learn about customers and not every type of data collection has to be announced. Here’s how VOC strategies can help you learn what customers want and need, plus how you should be giving it to them.

Conduct Interviews and Focus Groups

Interviews and focus groups, especially those that are in person, are excellent ways to test new products and services. This type of direct feedback is also a good way to understand the current perception of a brand. If interviews and focus groups can’t be conducted in person, virtual meetings are a useful alternative.

Ask for Input from Contact Center Agents

Nobody communicates as frequently with customers as your agents. A contact center’s own employees can provide a great window into customer expectations. Real-life scenarios, especially those that seem to occur frequently, can help you pinpoint areas of success as well as areas of failure.

Talk to the Marketing Team

There’s a lot of customer insight that can be gleaned from marketing and advertising analytics. The marketing team will be tracking the nitty gritty of their campaigns. You’ll be able to find out things like which colors are most appealing to customers, which images social media users are reacting to and the wording that has worked to get people engaged.

Listen to Social Media

Even brands that don’t have social media accounts may still have an influential presence online. Consumers often talk about products or customer service experiences by writing reviews on Yelp or posting on social media. Brands should be monitoring the internet for mentions of their company, products or services, and responding publicly to negative feedback.

VOC is an integral part of your customer experience strategy. Feedback surveys can be helpful, but they’re not the only worthwhile pursuit. It’s not always possible to get honest feedback by asking for it. Think of how many times you’ve been unsatisfied with the food or service in a restaurant but still smile and say, “Great!” when the server asks how everything is. When it comes to virtual brands, observing how people engage with products or services can provide a lot of insight.

How to Determine Whether a Contact Center Enhances the Customer Experience…or Detracts from it

It’s no secret …every time that a customer is involved with a company, they are evaluating whether to continue doing business with it. This makes every interaction critical, whether it’s a simple transactional exchange or high-impact conversation. Each interaction provides an opportunity to deliver the best possible customer experience, but it also presents the danger of a creating a negative impression that permanently damages the relationship. The contact center is of course the pivotal point of that customer journey. When agents don’t have the right tools, a business doesn’t just miss out on the chance to make a good impression, it could actually lose customers.

But how can an organization objectively and accurately evaluate how effective their contact center solution is in enabling a superior customer experience? Factors that need to be taken into consideration include:

  • Channel capabilities. Are customers able to reach out to the business via a variety of key methods, beyond just voice and IVR, such as web, chat email, text, social media and mobile? Are there preference management options in place that allow customers to consistently access their channel of choice? Are agents trained to guide interactions through multiple contact channels?
  • Convenience/speed/self-service. Does the IVR recognize callers based on their phone number? Does it use Natural Language to better understand responses? Do agents have access to all necessary data, such as account information and contact history, across all channels? Is first contact resolution currently being measured and if so, how high is the rate?
  • Caller satisfaction/Customer journey. Are customer expectations as they apply to the contact center being analyzed? Is customer satisfaction currently being measured? Is agent performance being tracked as it relates to stated business objectives? Is the customer journey being mapped and if so, are common customer pain points and key moments being identified?

No two organizations will have the same answers to these questions. Almost all companies operate at a different level of technology. But every business can benefit from gaining a comprehensive overview of the experience its contact center provides, and from exploring the many ways it can be improved. Take part in a complimentary interactive workshop  that will offer an individualized internal analysis which can be used to help plan for necessary improvements.

Consumers “unfriend” social media for customer service, new survey finds

Consumers “unfriend” social media for customer service, new survey finds

By Micha Catran

If you’ve spent any time on social media – Twitter and Facebook especially – you’ve likely seen posts from consumers less than happy with their recent customer experience. And sometimes a social post can be the quickest way to get a response from a company.

Yet, surprisingly, social media is among the last places consumers want to go for customer service, according to a new survey commissioned by NICE and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG).

The NICE/BCG 2016 Consumer Experience Report offers a snapshot into the attitudes and behaviors of more than 1,700 consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 across the U.S., the U.K., the Netherlands, France, and Australia.

And the decline of social media wasn’t the only note worth taking for brands looking to improve their customer service. Let’s look at some of the major findings and what they mean for customer service in 2016 and beyond.

Social media customer service drops off

Daily, weekly, and monthly use of social media channels doubled between 2011 and 2013, yet those same categories declined between 2013 and 2015. At the same time, the number of respondents who never use or are not offered social media customer service rose from 58 percent in 2013 to 65 percent in 2015.

Respondents who do not use social media cited a number of reasons why: It takes too long to address issues, said 33 percent. It has limited functionality, reported 32 percent. It isn’t feasible for complex tasks, according to 30 percent. Social media was the channel with the highest percentage of abandons in both 2013 and 2015, with the number rising from 32 percent to 42 percent over that period.

Americans have low customer service expectations compared to the rest of the world

The survey asked respondents to rank 25 customer service factors as essential, non-essential, or exceeds expectations. Australians and Europeans thought it essential that they be automatically routed to the correct customer service agent without being transferred multiple times, and that their service provider rep be aware of their past three to five interactions with the company to tailor service to their needs. Americans, on the other hand, said all of those actions would “exceed expectations.”

In total, Americans surveyed ranked only 15 out of 25 factors as essential, while other countries’ respondents expected anywhere from 21 to all 25 attributes.

While American respondents don’t seem to mind waiting for multiple call transfers or repeating their information, having issues resolved immediately was cited by other countries and all industries, genders, and ages as the top factor in a perfect experience, valued by 51 percent of respondents.

Other important factors include reps knowing what consumers need and providing an immediate solution, forwarding information and actions from department to department, and knowing what consumers already did through a self-service channel.

Other customer service findings of interest

Respondents expressed decreased satisfaction and success since 2013 across the board with all contact channels (except for mobile apps), particularly Interactive Voice Response (IVR) (down 20 percent) and social media (down 23 percent).

Churn rates vary amongst different age groups. While 78 percent of baby boomers will leave a provider due to a customer service issue, only 54 percent of millennials will do so.

There was a sharp increase in customer skepticism about the effects of their feedback, with only 25 percent believing that service providers took action based on their feedback, down from 40 percent in 2012.

What the results mean for brands looking to improve customer service

This year’s survey provides further proof that customer service is becoming more complex and more critical for a company’s success. When an organization can create a perfect experience, there are many dividends. As the report’s findings make clear, ample room for improvement creates many opportunities for businesses to set themselves apart.

Every day, we see companies adopting technology to better anticipate their customers’ journey. By leveraging advanced analytics to better understand customers both as individuals and as a collective, they can align their service organization with customer expectations in order to really make a difference.

Micha Catran, Global Vice President and General Manager at NICE, has expertise in portfolio management and new product development across analytics, customer experience, customer journey solutions for the telecommunications, banking, insurance, health care and hospitality markets.

Mr. Catran is responsible for growing NICE Customer Journey and Voice of the Customer market-leading position and ensuring continuous innovation and agility to meet the needs of customer experience and service firms around the world. Before joining NICE, he was a Director of Contact Centers in a leading Telco in Israel. Mr. Catran holds a L.L.B in Law and B.A. in Economics from Haifa University in Israel.

The Challenge of Customer Engagement in the New Digital Customer Journey

Today, we live in a multi-screen world. Shoppers worldwide are making purchases in a new way and smartphones now play a major role in the modern, digital customer journey. As a result, the customer engagement landscape is ever-evolving and fast-changing.

The challenge is that as soon as new digital channels become part of the journey, customers are already ready to begin interacting – and they expect a response. The main problem is this: customers want to stay involved and, when the brand is able to be responsive, those engaged customers end up bringing more revenue to the company. However, it’s highly challenging for businesses to meet those engagement demands, but ignoring customer needs is unacceptable.

Life is getting complex for customers, too. Some brands that have taken the steps to add new technology have so many communication channels that customers don’t know who to contact. There isn’t enough connection between marketing, sales and support teams. These departments don’t have any context about one another nor a method for letting the customer travel between them.

For a business to succeed in the customer journey, they need a variety of new technology, including:

• E-mail campaigns

• Inbound search strategy

• Location-specific solutions, like an app that shows inventory at a nearby store

Chat Strategy

• Mobile apps

• Modern contact center

• SEO policy

• Strategy for connecting with consumers on social media

• Way to stay connected with customers

These aspects of the brand’s strategy need to be synchronized, monitored and mapped in the journey. Plus, new digital channels and touch points have to continually be added to the strategy, including:

• App stores

• Customer communities

• Fan sites

• Mobile devices

• Social media accounts and pages

• Social networks

Mapping the customer journey in detail is helpful, so long as there are defined objectives. The following three techniques will help increase integration between digital touch points.

1. Engage the Customer

The main problem that today’s companies face when adding new digital channels to their strategy is that the customer expects the company to engage with them right away. While companies know there’s value in engaging, it doesn’t make it easier to do. Tools and policies should be in place so that brand advocates, including employees, partners and customers, can take on some of the work.

2. Simplify the Customer’s Life

Remove the time and effort a customer experiences when engaging with the brand. Modern companies are using things like concierge services and aggregators to help consumers’ access information quickly.

3. Solve a Problem

Get rid of a Pain Point. For example, give customers order status information on their desired channel. Let them participate in the design of a new product. Or, simply engage with customers who have complaints.

Satisfying the Mobile Customer During Micro-Moments

Brands can no longer consider mobile strategy to be insignificant. Today’s smartphone users check their phone almost immediately upon waking and they keep their device by their side for a majority of the day. Micro-moments, which are the crucial mobile moments of truth during the digital customer journey, influence purchase decisions.

The Four Types of Micro-Moments

1. I Want to Know: The consumer gathers information about a topic or product.

2. I Want to Go: The consumer wants to know where to go and when to go there for either an activity or to find a product.

3. I Want to Buy: The consumer gathers information about purchases, opinions, special deals, facts and comparisons regarding products or services. They may do this when they’re in the brick-and-mortar store.

4. I Want to Do: The consumer gathers how-to information on a variety of topics, like home repair or beauty techniques.

During these micro-moments, brands have the opportunity to serve the customer in three main ways:

1. Be present.

During the “I want to know” micro-moment, make sure it’s your brand’s information that shows up in search results. To do this, the metadata of your content (titles, descriptions, tags) must be optimized. Figure out which terms people are using when searching for the type of content you product. When developing your content, include information about your niche, not just your brand. Consumers often search for a category, not a specific company, when looking for a product or service. Your content should incorporate industry-specific trends, topics and events.

2. Be helpful.

Consumers prefer to choose brands that regularly provide them with helpful information, like how-to guides and unboxing videos. To generate content ideas that satisfy your “be helpful” goal, read comments on your own content or on the content of your competitors. This is where you’ll discover needs that have yet to be filled. What are people still trying to learn? What questions haven’t been answered yet? You can also straightforwardly ask your customers what they want. For example, send a poll or questionnaire to your mailing list to find out their most plaguing questions or what kind of content they’d like to see from you.

3. Be fast.

The purchase process a customer goes through has to be quick. If there are too many steps, they’ll go to another brand. Eliminate as many steps as possible and consider enabling one-click functionality. The opportunity to make a purchase should be obvious and at the beginning of your content.

Register for the Journey of the Connected Customer Virtual Conference to learn more about the Mobile Customer.

Satisfying the Mobile Customer During Micro-Moments

Brands can no longer consider mobile strategy to be insignificant. Today’s smartphone users check their phone almost immediately upon waking and they keep their device by their side for a majority of the day. Micro-moments, which are the crucial mobile moments of truth during the digital customer journey, influence purchase decisions.

The Four Types of Micro-Moments

1. I Want to Know: The consumer gathers information about a topic or product.

2. I Want to Go: The consumer wants to know where to go and when to go there for either an activity or to find a product.

3. I Want to Buy: The consumer gathers information about purchases, opinions, special deals, facts and comparisons regarding products or services. They may do this when they’re in the brick-and-mortar store.

4. I Want to Do: The consumer gathers how-to information on a variety of topics, like home repair or beauty techniques.

During these micro-moments, brands have the opportunity to serve the customer in three main ways:

1. Be present.

During the “I want to know” micro-moment, make sure it’s your brand’s information that shows up in search results. To do this, the metadata of your content (titles, descriptions, tags) must be optimized. Figure out which terms people are using when searching for the type of content you product. When developing your content, include information about your niche, not just your brand. Consumers often search for a category, not a specific company, when looking for a product or service. Your content should incorporate industry-specific trends, topics and events.

2. Be helpful.

Consumers prefer to choose brands that regularly provide them with helpful information, like how-to guides and unboxing videos. To generate content ideas that satisfy your “be helpful” goal, read comments on your own content or on the content of your competitors. This is where you’ll discover needs that have yet to be filled. What are people still trying to learn? What questions haven’t been answered yet? You can also straightforwardly ask your customers what they want. For example, send a poll or questionnaire to your mailing list to find out their most plaguing questions or what kind of content they’d like to see from you.

3. Be fast.

The purchase process a customer goes through has to be quick. If there are too many steps, they’ll go to another brand. Eliminate as many steps as possible and consider enabling one-click functionality. The opportunity to make a purchase should be obvious and at the beginning of your content.