multi-channel

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.

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.

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.

Multi-Channel and Omni-Channel Contact Centers

Contact centers are evolving constantly, challenging management to come up with more efficient strategies. A majority of CRM technologies strive for the same goal: to provide as much intelligence as possible so that the customer can be given a solution without requiring a live agent.

According to Gartner Inc., over the next few years customers will begin managing up to 85% of their brand relationships without interacting with people. To help with this change, contact centers are adopting multi-channel and omni-channel solutions.

3 Benefits of Multi-Channel Systems

  1. Contact center agents are able to connect with customers through their preferred method. According to TCN, this results in higher rates of customer satisfaction.
  2. As customers are serviced through alternate and automated systems (chat, social media, e-mail, etc.), call waiting time is reduced.
  3. Call agents will field phone calls that require in-depth troubleshooting and complicated inquiries. While there will be exceptions to the rule, expensive channels, like phone communication, will be more available to “high-value” customers, while “low-value” customers will be serviced via low-value channels.

From Multi-Channel to Omni-Channel Strategies

In the past, multi-channel meant that a customer could contact a brand via various channels (e-mail, phone, online chat, etc.). These channels were poorly integrated, though – they worked alongside each other but not with each other. Omni-channel is what multi-channel was reaching for but didn’t always achieve: multiple channels that are seamlessly interconnected. Now, customers can switch between contact channels without the brand losing any knowledge of the conversation.

The Omni-Channel Approach

Many customers prefer contacting a brand via social media. While there’s a distinct demand for these channels, many companies are still not using them as efficiently as possible. Jeremy Curley, Director of Business Solutions for Bomgar, told Customer Experience Report that the flow of going from one channel to the next should be seamless. If a customer decides to switch communication channels midway through a conversation, they should be able to do so, and only one record of interaction should result. Contact agents and customers should be able to pick up right where they left off.

According to a survey by The Corporate Executive Board Company, simplification is important to customers. As much as 84% of customers are more interested in having the right outcome than they are with worrying about the mode of contact. Ultimately, customers want smooth service as quickly as possible.

A ContactBabel study of multi-channel contact centers that supported e-mail, text messaging, online chat, and social media, as well as phone support, found that telephone channels were dominant at over 70% of the centers’ inbound communication. While phone channels are currently the most popular, though, even in contact centers that have adopted omni-channel or multi-channel practices, other communication channels are growing at a faster rate, specifically social media and online chat.

In an interview with Customer Experience Report, Paul Sweeney, Chief Product Officer of VoiceSage, pointed out that some modes of communication fall by the wayside and then become popular again, like text messaging. In the same article, Kumaran Ponnambalam, Director of Data Science and Analytics for Transera, said that he expects there to be an increase in mobile customer service applications. Brands recognize that smartphones give customers a readily available, easy-to-use-tool to send product questions, especially with images or videos of the issue they’re having. According to comScore, consumers access digital media on smartphones much more than they do on PCs.

Supporting an Omni-Channel System

In order to have an omni-channel system, CRM technology has to provide information about the context of each interaction, the customer’s profile, relevant history, and customer preferences.  Many companies are starting to train their agents in more than one channel.  Additionally, contact center systems should be able to support a universal queue and have intelligent routing.

Sweeney also talked about the difference between interactions and conversations. Interactions are based on process, automation, and reducing problems. Conversations are predictive – the customer feels like the brand knows them. In the Customer Experience Report piece, Matthew Choy, Managing Director of Rsupport, agreed, suggesting that contact centers begin reaching out to customers before there’s a problem. This will be possible if the brand monitors social media for trends, specifically those regarding product defects or common user issues. According to Destination CRM, an important trend in CRM is personalization by way of agents or self-service channels giving tailored responses or product offers based on information gathered from past interactions.

4 ContactBabel Predictions for the Future of CRM

  1. The percentage of live inbound communication will slightly decrease throughout the next few years.
  2. An increasing percentage of simple transaction-based contact will be managed through self-service channels.
  3. Voice channels will manage complex conversations and will require an extended amount of time to handle.
  4. There will be a large increase in the number of online chat and social media interactions, especially for support of online browsing.

According to the Aberdeen Group, 2014 saw several improvements in CRM, most notably when it came to the customer experience, including customer satisfaction, retention, up-selling and cross-selling. In 2015, this trend is expected to continue. Contact centers will become more responsible for a large part of a brand’s profitability, much more so than before.