customer loyalty

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.

3 Ways to Prioritize Your Agents for a Better Customer Experience

A great customer experience isn’t coincidental. It’s carefully crafted, highly intentional and, most importantly, it’s hard.

A mere 8 percent of customers think they’re receiving an awesome customer experience, according to a study from Bain & Company. And of those who have a really great experience, 68 percent of them attribute it to a pleasant agent, according to another study from American Express. Furthermore, 62 percent said the agents’ knowledge and resourcefulness was key to their positive experience.

You know knowledgeable and empowered agents provide a better customer experience, yet you’re still plagued by insane turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficient workflows and misaligned processes in the contact center. Why?! And what can you do to fix it?

Start prioritizing your agent experience.

Think about it, when your agents feel they’re working well – when they’re efficient, effective and aligned – they work harder. They know what your expectations are and how they’re impacting the greater vision of your company. Agents that are motivated, engaged, and empowered are happier and more satisfied with their jobs. And, they’ll provide better customer care.  They can see how their actions impact a real, live human by creating a better customer experience.

But if they’re stuck in a broken process, fumbling through outdated technology paired with a manager that has too much on their plate, their ability to drive positive experiences flounders into a sea of nothingness. And if they’re frustrated, the results on your team morale are toxic.

You’re searching high and low for coachable moments, without any time to actually coach, amplifying the negativity. And to top it off, the outdated tech stack your center’s using is mismatched with what your customers are using. For instance, your customers (and your agents, for that matter) are used to texting, sending pictures or videos, chatting on a live chat or using social media to communicate, switching from one place to another without losing context.

But your business is not.

It’s time for contact centers to put agents’ success at the top of the priority list. Start building your agents’ confidence and empowerment. But what exactly does agent success look like? Here are five ways to prioritize your agents and improve their (and your) success.

Three Ways to Prioritize Your Agents

  1. Start (and continue) coaching

The single most important thing you can do as a contact center manager is coach your team. But managers are struggling to train their people well. On average, managers are spending 53 percent of their week looking for coachable moments rather than actually coaching. Yet, studies show frequent touchpoints, with specific examples increase employee satisfaction, engagement and performance. And, it creates a culture of trust company-wide.

  1. Use the right tools

Efficient tools and processes increase agent productivity and satisfaction. Think about it: If your agents have to fumble through a messy process, touch eight different tools in under three minutes, just to find a clue to answer the customer’s problem, they’re going to get a little flustered. But offering up the right tools (with coachable moments built in), with processes meant to enhance the workflow, not stifle it, creates more effective and efficient agents – and happier customers.

  1. Empower them

Empowered agents work with more autonomy. They see more first contact resolutions and have clarity in where they’re impacting your company’s vision. Workers place a high value on employee empowerment, whether they’re in a contact center or somewhere else in the company. It’s simple, they want to feel supported and respected. They’re hungry to perform at or above your customers’ expectations, but they need the right tools to be successful and effective.

Sharpen has created a solution designed to remove the inefficiencies that are plaguing your agents, their quality of life and their ability to provide a positive customer experience every time. Join their webcast as they talk about key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

Trends in Agent Empowerment

Although businesses highlight the importance of customer service and retention, customer service managers continue to report an overwhelming amount of issues. Alarming turnover rates, frustrated workers, inefficiency and inadequacy are some of the issues plaguing contact centers today. The root of the problem? Agent success, or lack thereof.

Think about it – when employees feel they are working efficiently, effectively, and with constant support from supervisors, they work harder. In contact centers today, agents feel frustrated. Too often, contact centers will use outdated software, leading agents to become frustrated and be less efficient with their time. The lack of support from supervisors is apparent, while agents rarely have any means to track their progress, leaving the agent confused and directionless. To top it off, outdated technology used by most contact centers is mismatched with the technology used by the general public today including SMS & MMS text, live chat (not with a robot), social media, and way more.

It is time for contact centers to put their agents’ success first in their line of priorities. In order to do this, they must focus on empowering their agents. What exactly does agent empowerment look like? Empowered agents have access to the tools they need to do an excellent job, are fully supported by their supervisors, are capable of making decisions for themselves, and are well respected by their colleagues.

Millennials entering the workforce place a high value on employee empowerment whether in the contact center, or in another industry. It’s simple – they want to feel supported, respected, and feel as though they have the tools they need to be successful and effective. These tools include a way to track progress, up-to-date technology, effective training programs and constant feedback.

Sharpen has developed a holistic solution designed to eliminate common inefficiencies that ultimately impact the agent, their quality of life, and their ability to provide a perfect customer experience. Check out their webcast on August 2 as they discuss key trends driving new opportunities for agent empowerment, and how contact centers can take advantage ASAP to improve their agents’ experience.

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!

 

Customer Journey KPIs Every Contact Center Should Track

 

The customer journey can be a difficult thing to map and understand. With so many touchpoints along the journey, the map isn’t predictable and linear, yet it’s still necessary to monitor and analyze. These Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) will help you gain insight from the customer journey and move on to improve it.

Customer Effort Score (CES)

Even if a customer prefers self-service to live agent support, they don’t necessarily want to put a ton of effort into solving their own issue. Self-service shouldn’t be a difficult-to-implement alternative to normal customer support. Instead, it should meet the needs of the type of customer who seeks out self-service via quick, easy-to-find answers and the ability to make changes sans agent assistance.

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

Some of the most important customer journey touchpoints will occur when the customer interacts with a support agent. CSAT is the measure of the customer’s satisfaction before, during and after they contact customer service. If CSAT scores are dropping, it may be time to look closely at agent productivity, ticket management and self-service options.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

The NPS will tell you if your customers are going to recommend your products and services to others. You have to go deeper here, though – why will your customers recommend your products and services, or what it is that’s keeping them from doing so?

Customer Churn / Retention Rate

Customer support teams for subscription-based products and services have to pay special attention to retention rate. If you see a lot of customers leaving around renewal time, it’s necessary to figure out why you lost them. What part of the customer journey is causing customers to change their mind? There’s a snag somewhere.

Customer Success

Customer Success isn’t a single KPI, but instead a customized KPI program based on your specific business, customers and goals. A Customer Success strategy may include Up- and Cross-Sell Rates; Average Revenue per Customer; or Rate of Adoption, which starts with defining beginner, intermediate and advanced customers or users. You may also want to include Retention Rate, NPS and CES in your customer success KPIs. Think of Customer Success as an overarching customer journey strategy based on what success means for you.

Customer journey KPIs may be difficult to track, but they come with a big benefit – often, improving one will have a positive impact on another.

4 Best Practices for Your Social Media Customer Service Strategy

The days of wondering whether or not your contact center needs to have a presence on social media are over: the answer is a resounding “yes.” Now, the main questions revolve around how you should be listening and responding. Here are four tips that will help your agents build beneficial relationships with customers through social media.

  1. Use the right platform.

Not all social media platforms are created equal. For example, Instagram and Pinterest are ideal for image-focused brands, like retail shops, while LinkedIn may work better for B2B companies. The ideal social media platform is the one where your target customers are ­– don’t waste time on the others.

  1. Keep track of mentions.

Staying on top of customer needs doesn’t mean staring at your feeds all day long. There are plenty of listening tools out there to help you monitor when your company or product is mentioned online, even if your profile isn’t tagged (which it probably won’t be). Modern contact center software with social media integrations will put these mentions right in your help desk. (P.S. Make sure to monitor for common misspellings, too.)

  1. Respond quickly.

Customers use social media for convenience and speed, and you need agents who can respond quickly. Since social media is based on live feeds, customers have different expectations than with other communication platforms. Whereas a 24-hour response time may be okay for email support, a 30-minute or 60-minute response time is expected on social media. You may need to adjust your scheduling to accommodate for this quick response time, especially during something like a product launch.

  1. Customize your tone.

Tone is important for customer service overall, but with social media it can trickier to (1) figure out the right tone for the situation at hand and (2) fit an appropriate tone into a character limit, like on Twitter. Here are three quick tips for getting the tone just right in-the-moment:

  • If the customer uses a casual tone, like through slang, exclamation points and emoticons, you can reciprocate.
  • If the customer doesn’t seem to be 100% fluent in the language, keep your tone basic and avoid nuances.
  • If the customer is agitated, be more empathetic and apologetic than usual.

 

While social media support is a necessity for contemporary customer service, you can simplify the process by following these basic, tried-and-true tips.

Self-Assessment and Self-Coaching for Quality in the Contact Center

 

Traditional quality management solutions support standard processes of scoring, assessment and coaching. Metrics such as average handling time (AHT) are calculated automatically, and quality assurance specialists score calls based on a standardized evaluation form and guidelines. Then these evaluations are reported to managers, who schedule sessions to review and support employees to improve their quality scores.

It’s a good system, and it works. But it could be even better. New quality management solutions offer capabilities that automate more quality processes than ever before. Analytics-driven quality assurance can analyze and score 100 percent of interactions and provide a more holistic view of contact center performance. Automated dashboards provide managers, evaluators and agents alike with insights into key metrics, and they further drive contact center goals and success. These solutions are fluid and robust. Their complex custom and out-of-the-box workflows also include automated self-assessment and coaching processes that enable employees and managers to further boost their performance.

The value of self-assessment and self-coaching has been confirmed by psychologists, educators and business experts. On its own, or combined with group and one-on-one coaching, self-coaching can improve performance. One study found that students who learned self-assessment strategies performed significantly better than those who didn’t. Self-coaching also has shown its value in a business environment, and evidence suggests that it can surpass peer coaching in effectiveness. Similar trends have been recorded many times, both in educational settings and in the workplace.

In the contact center, self-assessment and self-coaching can enhance and supplement more traditional coaching models, in which supervisors send personalized coaching feedback — such as links to knowledge resources, instructions and due dates — as needed.  Because quality is a vital factor in maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction, the added boost provided by self-assessment can determine the long-term survival of an organization.

The success of self-powered quality improvements for your employees depends on your ability to support them in their efforts:

  1. Train your employees to self-assess and self-coach.

Reviewing your own actions and thoughts isn’t always instinctive. Just as employees have to learn how to use scripts, technology and recording tools, they need to learn how to self-assess and to understand the value it brings.  Coach your employees on best practices, such as how to identify problem areas and deconstruct call recordings themselves. Be sure to explain why you are teaching them: “When we first start reflecting, it can feel like a burden,” explains teaching expert Starr Sackstein. “If students don’t understand why they are doing it, then it will seem superfluous to them. Thus, it is crucial that we communicate to students why we reflect.”

  1. Provide thorough, reliable information.

Don’t just teach employees best practices; give them the information they need to act on them. Ensure that they have regular access to up-to-date scores. People who are struggling frequently don’t know that they’re having trouble, according to the researchers who defined the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias that causes individuals to assess their ability as much higher than it really is.

“…Incompetent people do not recognize —scratch that, cannot recognize —just how incompetent they are…. Poor performers — and we are all poor performers at some things — fail to see the flaws in their thinking or the answers they lack,” explains David Dunning.

Once people identify the areas that need improvement, they can correct themselves. This applies to quality management too. When employees have regular access to reports and dashboards reflecting their scores, they know whether they are performing well and when to reach out for additional support from peers or management.

  1. Articulate expectations and set criteria.

Learners need more than statistics about their own performance. In an educational environment, students are much more likely to self-assess when they understand what their teacher’s expectations are. To achieve this in the contact center, provide employees with clear outlines and guidance. Calibrate frequently so that everyone is working toward the same goal. Calibrations also improve the perception of transparency and fairness, which makes employees feel more confident that their efforts to self-direct will be rewarded.

Strong self-assessment and self-coaching skills can improve quality scores that in turn contribute to meeting and exceeding contact center goals. They’re natural additions to traditional training programs and, with the self-assessment automation capabilities now offered by top quality management solutions, are accessible to all.

 

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.

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.