Tag Archives: customer engagement

5 Pillars of Success for the Modern Contact Center

As we’ve come to know that understanding our customers and meeting their needs is one of the key building blocks for this new decade, it has also become one of the most competitive areas in business. Two-thirds of businesses surveyed report that they compete mainly on customer experience.

The global call center market is predicted to grow to $481 billion by 2024, propelled by the need for businesses to deliver customer-focused services.

We also know that tech changes fast. With ever-growing competition, staying one step ahead of competitors can be difficult. Companies that want to stay competitive are evolving to better equip their support teams and improve service for their customers.

It can be a little overwhelming for companies that are launching tech or trying to update the tech they already have. It is difficult to know where to start.

The 5 Pillars of the Modern Contact Center

To help organizations understand where to start, we defined the 5 pillars a modern contact center should have to deliver the type of experience customers want.

1. Omnichannel Capabilities that Makes Customer Service Seamless

Today’s customers communicate across channels and platforms. Being able to facilitate conversations across channels is no longer an option. Also, it’s not enough to be able to connect with customers on these channels, you need to have a unified customer engagement solution.

Here’s why: Google research shows that more than 90% of people in the U.S. switch between devices every day. Customers may start a conversation on social media, move to text, and then switch to live chat. Being able to seamlessly follow the conversation as customers switch between channels is crucial.

Phone support, email support, social media all need to work cohesively into a comprehensive customer experience that empowers employees to be more effective and allows self-service capabilities so your customers can quickly find answers to their questions.

For companies with legacy systems, they may face a variety of roadblocks that prevent this seamless interaction from taking place:

  • Siloed infrastructure
  • Lack of (or broken) processes for handling the entire customer journey
  • Inability to easily hand-off queries from one agent (or department) to another
  • Inability to forecast volume across channels or departments
  • Stumbling blocks with hardware or software talking to each other

You need an omnichannel solution that allows for an integrated solution to get past these roadblocks.

2. On-Demand Self-Service Model for Customers

One of the best things you can do for your customers and your support team is to beef up your self-service tools. When customers are seeking information, they want answers and they want them quickly. Providing a self-service option for queries gets them the info they need fast while taking the burden off your support teams.

Some common self-service options include:


AI-fueled Chatbots can do much more than just answer routine questions. Advances in Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Machine Learning (ML) have moved interactions from pre-programmed commands to more human-like conversations. Contact centers are using Chatbots to provide instant answers to common questions, direct queries to the right agents, and reduce call volume.

Customer-Facing Knowledge Base

Whether it’s an FAQ, an in-depth library of How-Tos, or video tutorials, customers are more interested in getting answers than talking to a person.

Callback Request

For your customers, it’s all about speed and ease-of-use. The modern contact center allows customers to request callbacks rather than sit on hold while waiting for available agents.

24/7 Access

All of these items above allow for 24/7 access by customers. Investing in this technology and resources provides a better customer experience.

3. Advanced Tools for Agents to Provide Better Support

For most companies, a major concern in providing exceptional customer support are agent burnout and turnover. Dealing with difficult customers and having to handle the same routine inquiry over and over will wear down even the best teams.

Anything you can do to relieve these burdens will improve the environment for your team. The right software and infrastructure can lessen the burden and lead to significant improvements in productivity.

The modern customer contact center employs advanced tools, including:

  • Cloud-based CX solutions for seamless integration across departments and support channels (which helps remove silos between teams)
  • Single screen dashboards focused on relevant customer information provide a full view of customer history and any prior interactions regardless of the support channel
  • A seamless customer experience from start to finish across channels, hand-offs, and escalations
  • Automation technology to reduce or eliminate repetitive tasks
  • Support tools to manage, monitor, and coach support teams

4. AI & Predictive Analytics

Artificial Intelligence is enabling significant changes in the way modern contact centers operate. In addition to driving Chatbot interactions, AI is infused in all parts of the contact center. Large amounts of data can be processed to detect patterns while Predictive Analytics can guide agents and surface support materials before they are needed.

Seamless cloud integration allows AI to have access to data across systems for improved reporting and analytics. An AI-integrated system can accurately make customer predictions for more efficient workforce forecasting and scheduling, as well as how to guide agents through interactions with customers. It allows for a more tailored approach for support teams.

This leads to enhanced employee performance, a better customer experience, and improved operational cost control.

5. Scalable Infrastructure

When volume increases or operations grow, it’s important to be able to move quickly to scale. Cloud infrastructure allows for the rapid scaling of solutions across growing teams, departments, and locations.

As customer behavior and technology changes, a cloud infrastructure allows you to adapt to quickly and maintain your business agility. Legacy systems may require a significant overhaul across multiple teams, departments, and locations, which can be slow and costly. A cloud solution lets you leverage existing technology and integrate emerging technology based on your needs.

It also provides multiple points of access for employees regardless of location. Work can be handled in-house or remotely. Cloud infrastructure and automated routing can direct customer contacts to the right agent at your location or to specialists working anywhere.

Employing the 5 Pillars of the Modern Contact Center

Employing these 5 pillars of the modern contact center will provide long-lasting benefits including:

  1. Reduced operational costs
  2. Streamlined processes
  3. Improved employee performance and satisfaction
  4. Improve customers satisfaction and CSAT scores
  5. Faster contact resolution

By empowering your employees and your customers, the modern contact center simply provides for more efficient operations. These areas of opportunity translate to a better customer experience, higher retention rates, and more loyal customers.

Aria Solutions Can Help

Over the past 22 years we have empowered 550,000 agents and completed over 1,200 successful projects, collaborating with our customers to help them achieve their business goals and find better ways to serve their customers. Our customers don’t just see us as contact center experts or vendors. They see us as a part of their internal team responsible for building strategies and direction, recommending technology and providing direction on how the solution should be implemented.

If you are looking to replace, update, or improve your customer contact center, Contact Aria Solutions today for help. We can help you achieve your business and customer service goals.

How to Enable Customer Service Agents in the Omnichannel Era

Change is the only constant in the contact center. It’s a landscape in constant flux. Interactions once conducted on traditional channels like voice, email and standard IVR are moving to more manageable, lower-cost alternatives like chatbots, VPA (Alexa) and WhatsApp.

But with rapid technological advancement, the pace of change is accelerating.

It’s predicted by Gartner that organizations will have to address no fewer than 12 emerging and immature channels by 2022 compared to typically three or four today.

Managing multiple channels is already a top contact center challenge — so how can organizations enable their agents to move easily from one channel to another when there are eight or twelve instead of two or three? 

Perhaps the more important, broader question this: 

Has your organization prepared your agents for the new normal of customer service work, when bots and AI have siphoned off the easiest interactions and left agents handling only the most complex?

More channels means agents will need more help, and if your methodology is poorly thought out, the benefits of newly implemented technology will always be offset by the cost of unintended consequences. 

To help your organization better enable customer service agents, I wanted to share two recent webinars I led with Contact Center Network Group (CCNG). Both will help you future-proof your processes and arm your agents with the right tools to provide great customer engagements even as the nature of customer service work changes. 

Enabling Your Agents in the Age of the Customer

In this webinar you will learn how to:

  • Match the customer to the right agent
  • Centralize data and reduce the overwhelming number of screens
  • Automate mundane, repeatable tasks

                        Listen to the webinar


Helping Your Agents Manage the Expansion of Customer Channels

In this webinar you will learn how to:

  • Help agents deal with multiple channels
  • Ensure seamless transition from failed bot to agent 
  • Overcome silos                     

                        Listen to the webinar


About Aria Solutions

Aria Solutions is a customer engagement center solutions company that helps some of the world’s biggest organizations achieve unified customer engagement centers free of silos.

Over the past 22 years we have empowered 550,000 agents and completed over 1,200 successful projects, collaborating with our customers to help them achieve their business goals and find better ways to serve their customers.

Visit our about page to learn more about Aria Solutions or contact us today if you’d like guidance on how your organization can overcome your contact center challenges.

Thanks for reading!

How to Win Funding for a Contact Center Improvement Project and Elevate Customer Service

Good customer service has been shown to produce quantifiable results, from increased repurchases and customer retention to increased advocacy of the brand. Customer service leaders dealing with common contact center challenges know they must invest in modernizing their technology. But securing the budget to do so is a challenge.

To win funding for a contact center improvement project and justify the cost of needed investments, the first step is to create a strong business case that will win buy-in from key stakeholders.

One thing we’ve learned in our 22 years of creating unified customer engagement centers is that the way companies approach customer service generally falls into two categories: CX Focused and Cost Focused.

For your business case to inspire the necessary action, it must also communicate the business benefits of the improvement in language that’s familiar to your organization.

How to Win Buy-in from Key Stakeholders

A 1-point improvement in CX Index scores can help a company increase revenue by $175 million annually, according to Forrester research (Win Funding for your Customer Service Project, February 2019). Organizations are increasingly aware of this and many are investing accordingly. CX-Focused customer service is beginning to take root.

Customer obsession has surpassed efficiency as the primary driver of customer service. A survey of global networks and telecommunications decision makers working in customer service departments found that more respondents rated improving customer experience a critical priority than reducing costs. 

Still, many organizations don’t have a CX strategy, and thus many teams need to work in a cost-savings centric environment. We still work with companies that see the contact center as a cost center first and foremost.

Both kinds of companies exist, and we work with both. 

Below, we’ll walk through the benefits of several different contact center projects and present them in both CX-Focused and Cost-Focused language so you can see the difference.

If Your Organization is CX-Focused

If your organization is CX-Focused, the barometer for success or failure of any contact center initiative will be communicated in CX metrics like Customer Satisfaction Index (CSI or CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). 

These “gateway” metrics are linked to corporate financial metrics, and thus a positive impact to CX metrics translates into increased revenue. Movement in CX metrics are directly tied to reciprocal moves in wallet share, repurchase rates, long-term loyalty (reduction in customer churn), etc. 

While CX-Focused organizations see the contact center as a profit center, focusing on improved CX also naturally reduces costs via efficiencies by making things simpler and easier for customers. 

So if your initiative is to introduce a solution that will allow you to add and manage multiple channels, you might frame the CX business benefit in terms of “agent enablement” rather than “agent productivity” which would tend to perk up the ears of a Cost-Focused organization more than a CX-Focused one. 

If you aim to increase visibility into your contact center operations, you might focus on the ability to identify poor customer experiences and problematic agent performances as the primary benefit of analytics rather than lower IT and support costs, even though both are true.

If Your Organization is Cost Focused

If your organization is cost focused, it’s likely trying to contain costs and resources even as customer demands grow. It may be reducing or reallocating resources. Your measurements are likely cost centric, such as self-service usage, cost per transaction, interaction, or channel, handle time, and so on. 

So if your initiative is to reduce technology silos and unify disparate platforms, you might frame the business benefit in your business case as “smoother, faster calls and improved agent efficiency” rather than improved customer experience and agent satisfaction.

If your initiative is to introduce more self-service, you would focus on the projected operational cost reduction of steering interactions toward lower-cost channels — chatbots versus voice — instead of focusing on how chatbots make things easier on customers and increase Customer Effort Scores. 

4 Steps to Calculate the ROI of Your Initiative

Regardless of which kind of organization you are, you need to calculate the ROI of your initiative to win funding. To do so, follow these four steps:

1. Determine the Benefits

For a CX-Focused organization, the key thing will be to increase customer satisfaction by reducing the customer service effort, and seeing it reflect in CX metrics. Examples include better enabling your agents with knowledge and tools, ensuring customers can reach you on the channels they prefer and making it easier for customers to self-serve by providing access to information and intelligent conversational chatbots.

For a Cost-Focused organization, focus on similar areas, but with agent productivity and reduced operational costs in mind. For example, agent productivity becomes about the tools that help reduce the time an agent needs, while bots offload a portion of interactions completely and introduce lower cost channels that customers want (e.g. chat) to enable the organization to have lower cost interactions on those channels.

2. Capture the Costs

Capture the costs in these areas:

  1. Technology and infrastructure costs of expanding an existing system or adding new systems
  2. Services and labor, whether you’re using internal resources and / or hiring an external team
  3. Training for the agents and supervisors, so they can be effective from the get-go

3. Assess Business Adaptability

Businesses now have to be agile by continuously adapting to changing customer needs. Ensure that the solution or changes take this into account. Does the adaptability increase with the solution?

4. Understand the Risks

Different types of risk must be analyzed to provide the confidence that the funding is well placed.

  1. Project or Deployment Risk: How risky is the implementation of the new or expanded technology? Quantify the risk of cost overruns or delays in achieving the business value.
  2. Success Risk: How likely is it that the success criteria, which identifies the expected benefits, is correct? This is typically shown through the depth of the research data used to determine the business value.

In Summary: A Checklist for your Business Case

While your focus would be on the 4 points above, here are a few additional points to consider when developing your business case:

  • Tailor your message to the key decision makers involved in the process
  • Look for at least a 12-month payback period
  • Base your benefits on facts, case studies or proof of value so it clear and easy to believe
  • Think like an accountant. How you are delivering value will usually be secondary to how much payback and how quickly. Make sure your numbers stack up.
  • Align yourself to an executive sponsor who can champion your initiative at a senior level when you’re not around
  • Don’t ask for too much, prove the benefits case in the most economical way and if it’s successful, returning for more funding to expand the initiative will be easier with proven benefits
  • Remember you will be competing with lots of business case proposals so try and make your proposal appeal to the strategic initiatives from senior management as they will be more likely to fund your proposal if it delivers on their priorities and goals

If at first you don’t succeed, try again! A rejection doesn’t mean you should give up. It could be the result of bad timing. Budgets may be on hold until the next financial year. If you truly believe in what you’re doing, multiple submissions will demonstrate your passion and may help you get that approval!

Nail Your Contact Center Improvement Project with Aria Solutions

Have a contact center improvement project you want to start? Contact us today for help developing a strong business case that helps you achieve your business and customer service goals.

Aria Solutions has empowered 550,000 agents and completed over 1,200 successful projects.

Our customers don’t just see us as contact center experts or vendors. They see us as a part of their internal team responsible for building strategies and direction, recommending technology and providing direction on how the solution should be implemented.

Thanks for reading!

Aria’s Evolved Branding Reflects a Renewed Commitment to YOU

Aria Solutions is thrilled to announce that we’ve refreshed our branding!

This change is more than just a new logo and colors; it’s a reflection of how you see us – who we are today, what we value and how we’ve grownBefore I tell you more about our new look, let’s first take a few steps back to reflect on how and why it happened.


Watch Rob and I discuss what has occurred since we founded the company in 1997, and how this influenced the Aria brand evolution:

Our journey since 1997

As part of the technology industry, we’ve witnessed the monumental changes that have characterized it over the last 20 years. In looking for ways to take advantage of these changes, businesses have sought better ways to win, serve, and retain their customers. To help our customers achieve these goals, we’ve changed how we work with them, introduced services, built applications, partnered with industry leaders in the customer engagement space, and expanded into new markets and geographies.  

In other words, Aria has always adapted, and today we’re way more than the “technical call center implementer”. Now we collaborate with our customers to help them achieve their business goals and work together to find ways to better serve their customers. We’ve helped hundreds of companies evolve, and we’ve evolved with them in the process.  

All this transformation brought us to a point at which the Aria brand and how we communicate it to the world needed to be more current and needed to align with our organizational culture.  

We’ve always known that we had exceptional expertise in contact centers and the interconnections that make them work; and we commit 100% to supporting our customers. But what else makes us different from other service providers? What is our core identity? What have we evolved into, and what do we aspire to be?  

Discovering our core  

So, we set about the task of understanding what makes us unique. Through this process, we realized that our previous visual identity no longer reflected who we’ve become. We needed to take a moment to rediscover Aria’s true essence and reflect that in a new look and feel. So, we got some outside help to do confidential research, interviewing customers, employees, and executives.  

So, what did we find out?  

Our customers don‘t just see us as experts, but see us as confident, reliable, fun, compassionate and real human beings. We are not just a vendor to them but a part of their internal team. 


The experience we have gained in the past 20 years helped our team evolve into customer experience consultants – who guide our customers through the development of business strategies and solutions that might not look like what customers originally had in mind. Our project outcomes tell us how important this role is – with comments like, “I wish I had listened to Aria from the beginning,” and “Since getting Aria on board, I can sleep better at night”.  

So how do we give our customers, prospects, and the rest of the public an understanding of all of that? With a new logo that brings all our research and introspection into a visual presence. Our new vibrant logo represents the fun, energetic, and diverse personalities in our company. It captures our commitment to sensibly doing the right thing, while at the same time encouraging excitement and innovation.  

Aria Solutions logo 2018

While we love the clean and fresh look of the logo, the bright colors, and the fun typeface, we especially love the “Aria speech bubble” in place of the dot over the “i.”

It tells the world the most important things about what we do and why we do this:  

  • We empower businesses to excel in customer and employee engagements 
  • We value conversations, collaboration, and real interactions with our customers

“We value real relationships, which is not possible without meaningful conversations,” says Rob Church, CEO/President at Aria Solutions.

Robert Church CEO/President Aria Solutions


The next chapter in the Aria story 

What does our new branding effort mean for our future?  

It means we’ll grow faster and better, so we can continue our mission of helping you improve, stand out, and transform. It means we’ll strive to become an even better version of ourselves, remaining committed to our customers, employees, and partners. We will be doing what’s right regardless, collaborating, and helping each other evolve and achieve even more.  

I know I speak for everyone at Aria when I say we’re excited to start this new chapter of growth, innovation, and inspiration.  

Johannes, Nadine, and Thomas drawing the new Aria logo


Aria team - new branding
The Aria team in Ontario, Canada, with some new branded swag

Results are in! Emotion is key to achieving customer loyalty.

Forrester conducted a survey of over 110,000 US adult consumers in 2018, to help measure how well a brand’s customer experience strengthens the loyalty of its customers. In this report, the US Customer Experience Index, 2018, they reveal which brands rank the highest when it comes to CX quality.

They found that emotion plays a bigger impact on brand loyalty than effectiveness or ease! This suggests that for companies that want to break away from the pack and deliver differentiated CX, focusing on emotion is a critical place to start.  

emotion key to customer loyalty
Figure 1: Forrester’s CX Index from report, “The US Customer Experience Index 2018”

Positive emotions drive long-term loyalty 

It’s no surprise that when customers feel good about your brand, they stay with you longer, but happiness is not the only emotion that matters. There are 6 feelings that customers say can help boost their loyalty:  

  • Appreciated  
  • Confident  
  • Grateful  
  • Happy  
  • Respected  
  • Valued  

Companies that can continually deliver experiences that make customers feel this way, also have more to gain than simply satisfaction. When customers associate positive emotions with a brand they are more likely to forgive an experience hiccup, refer the brand to others, and in some cases even pay a price premium for better service (How Firms Help Employees Evoke Emotions That deepen Customer Loyalty, Forrester Research, January 2018). This is truly enduring customer loyalty.  

emotion key to customer loyalty
Figure 26: Forrester’s CX Index from report, “The US Customer Experience Index 2018”

Although other aspects of the brand can influence positive customer experiences, customer service employees have the greatest impact in making customers feel the 6 emotions listed above. How the employee feels will result in how the customer feels, hence when employees are unhappy, the customer likely will be unhappy too. That’s why it’s essential to enable employees to deliver positive experiences through the following: 

  • Empowerment: Provide the necessary tools and data to make it easy for employees to create positive emotions. Consider programs or processes to offer critical feedback that focuses on how to improve the customer experience.
  • Training: Help them see opportunities to create positive experiences and ways they can improve how they handle customer inquiries. A consistent and regular training program keeps employees fresh, engaged and current. 

Be aware, negative emotions drive customers away 

It’s no surprise that the more bad experiences a customer has, the less loyal they are to your brand. Somewhat surprisingly though, anger isn’t the only impact on loyalty. Making customers feel annoyed, disappointed or frustrated is equally related to a customer’s negative emotion towards your brand.

Bad customer experiences also hurt revenue and as an example, [easy-tweet tweet=”a multichannel bank leaves $124 million on the table for every 1-point decline in its CX Index score” template=”light”]

Having the right technologies deployed properly, such as these, can reduce customer frustration: 

Tech upgrades to turn negative into positive 

Modernize IVR: 

The good news is negative experiences are avoidable. 

If you haven’t looked at or updated your IVR in a while, this is often a good place to start. Since the IVR is the first brand touchpoint for your customers when they decide to call your company, the experience they have here will dictate how they feel throughout the journey. Some benefits to a modern IVR: 

  • Natural Language: Speech recognition and text to speech realism has vastly improved in recent years.  Customers can experience a completely new paradigm in interactive technology that is more fluid, genuine and comfortable. 
  • Personalization: Reflecting customers specific situation or recent activity such as booking a flight or tracking a package means the customer’s request can be serviced quickly and seamlessly.  
  • Integrated self-service: IVR integrated with CRM can greet a caller by name or send them directly to a dedicated agent if they are a premium customer. This not only reduces negative emotions but also helps to create positive ones by making them feel valued and happy with the experience. 

Omnichannel Desktop: 

Customers want to be able to contact your company using the channel of their choice and they expect a seamless experience from channel to channel. For example, if they start a booking online they want to be able to call in and have the agent see all the activity they did online. This is possible with an omnichannel desktop along with these other benefits: 

  • Efficient resolution: Customers get annoyed when they have to be put on hold or wait too long while an agent searches for information on multiple systems. One agent desktop/screen will help agents see all the information about the customer/order and help them more efficiently.
  • Customer focus: Systems working together properly mean the agent can focus their energy on the customer, not how to get to the right screen.  Active listening and empathy are more prevalent from a relaxed and organized agent.
  • Happier employees = happier customers:  When agents have the right tools to do their job they get frustrated less and enjoy their job more. Happy employees are more likely to provide happy experiences and care more about the customer.  

Don’t stop there 

Understanding the correlation between customer loyalty and positive emotion is good but how can you put the practices in place to make it a reality? Here are 3 steps to get you started:  

  1. Understand the role positive and negative emotions play in CX If you read this blog you’re your halfway there but you can also read this complimentary Forrester report  “The US Customer Experience Index, 2018” to learn even more about the role emotion plays in CX and other 2018 findings. 
  2. Strive for more positive experiences, less negative ones:  Understanding what needs to be done is always easier than implementing it but a good place to start would be to try and ensure you are delivering more positive customer experiences than negative ones. Companies that ranked high on Forrester’s CX Index, on average, are delivering 22 positive experiences to every negative experience (The US Customer Experience Index, 2018, Forrester Research, 2018). Your ratio might not be as good as this yet but the more you improve it, the closer you will be to increasing customer loyalty.
  3.  Learn how your CX quality stacks up to your competitors:  Do you know the CX leaders in your industry and where you rank? Download the US Customer Experience Index 2018 report to see which companies where high and low on the CX index and use the findings from this report to inform your ongoing CX improvement efforts. 

Achieving differentiated CX takes work but there are big gains for companies that make the effort. Just remember how important emotion is and that customers care about how their experience with your company makes them feel.  


Why Tech Start-Ups Should Start Their Customer Journeys Early

There are more and more start-ups in the tech industry every year. They have become an integral part of our business landscape, driving innovation and entrepreneurship.

All of these start-ups begin with a vision and a few individuals who want to bring it to life. Over time, they will find investors to back them up and the people to transform it into a product. Everyone works hard for the success of the newly founded company. But building this success is difficult, and developing a product to a point where it is marketable requires a lot of hard work and fortitude.

At the beginning, the product is the one and only focus. It’s about developing a platform for the business idea to come alive and building the artifact (product, app, etc.) that customers will want to use or buy because without the product, there is no business.

Later, once the product has matured and larger audiences start using it, the business aspects need to be embedded into the process. Customers need to be managed, sales handled, licensing applied, and even more importantly, the moment the first customers are on board (while the product is still in an infant stage), customer service is crucial to keep the users engaged.

Today, success is not only defined by a vision or product itself, but also by timing and the execution of the company’s ability to attract users. This becomes even more crucial once others start to copy your business model.

However, customer service does not just stand for troubleshooting anymore. These days, customer engagement represents a journey, which starts with:

1. Attracting a consumer to your product (marketing)

2. Followed by collecting information about the product usage (analytics)

3. Then supporting the consumer through common early stage issues (support)

4. To finally – building a brand allegiance that leads to future purchases (overall business)

It is no secret that great products fail due to poor execution of those steps.

But how can start-ups succeed in those areas without devoting too many resources? Last thing anyone wants is to jeopardize the execution of the product itself.

Well, I believe that it is important to pay attention to those business aspects right from the beginning. The product vision needs to be combined with the customer engagement vision.

The Power of CRM in Building Customer Journeys

Customer Relationship Management (CRM) is a key aspect of the customer journey and should be done using the right tools instead of improvisation. At some point, the Excel worksheets and emails won’t cut it anymore and then it will be even more difficult to migrate the loosely collected data to a proper CRM solution.

Since we are dealing with a start-ups, cost is obviously an important factor. Today’s CRM cloud solutions with their different tiers and subscription models help mitigate large financial commitments.

Investing into a CRM tool as soon as the product gets released is a logical choice. However, there are advantages to signing up at an even earlier time. If the product supports connectivity features that allow for an Internet of Things (IoT) business use case, there is an option to collect valuable information about the device and its usage.

The collected data can be very valuable when making product roadmap decisions or for marketing purposes. In the situation of a support service request, having access to the device information can be crucial in locating a root cause and solving the problem.

Of course, there are many ways to implement such a solution. Plus, there are many platforms that offer great services. Salesforce is one of the top cloud CRM companies, and it is named a leader for the ninth consecutive year in the Gartner Magic Quadrant in the CRM space. This platform should definitely be on the list of vendors to evaluate.

Besides being a very feature-rich CRM, what is often overlooked is the development platform Salesforce is built on, including its large set of APIs and tools to integrate with (Standard SOAP/REST APIs, custom SOAP/REST APIs using Apex, Javascript toolkits, Heroku, etc.). A great number of options are offered for integrating your product or other systems with your customer data.

On the business side, everything is there and ready when you need it. Whether it is marketing, sales, customer service, billing… As long as you maintain your customer data on the platform, you can plug in those functions and use them whenever you are ready. And with the per-user payment model, the cost will only grow when your company does.

Using a CRM application early allows you to start building customer journeys right when your product hits the market. Using a CRM may not guarantee the success of your innovation, but it significantly decreases your chances of failure. Plus, it can set you up for a much quicker transition from a start-up to an established, successful company.

If you require assistance in optimizing Salesforce, enabling omnichannel, or integrating it to various business systems – see us at Dreamforce 2017 or contact us here.


6 CX Competencies to Driving Better Customer Engagements

Overwhelming evidence confirms that improving CX does drive business results and that prioritizing customer experience is the proven path to success. However, many customers feel that only a few companies engage with them well, and even with those companies there is room for improvement.

So why are companies still struggling to deliver great customer engagements? For many organizations, this requires a customer engagement transformation. And how to go about this is often unclear.

Before moving forward with any CX strategy it’s important for your company to understand why it’s important to improve CX and what this will mean for the organization, including what CX competencies you need to establish. You need to assess where you stand on your journey to CX transformation and benchmark where you are against your competitors. This will help your company understand the level of transformation required as well as the urgency.

Once that’s done, you can plot your strategy. In the June 2017 report “Why and How to Lead A CX Transformation”, Forrester has identified 6 crucial CX competencies that companies must establish to start the transformation: research, prioritization, design, enablement, measurement, and culture.

6 CX competencies to establish and optimize

1. Researching your customer preferences

CX competencies
Figure 1: Forrester’s 6 CX competencies from the Forrester Report, “Why And How To Lead A CX Transformation”

If you are just getting started on your CX transformation, then the first thing to do is research to ensure there is a good understanding of your customers wants and needs. This should be the first competency you look at because otherwise it will be very hard to move forward with the other cx competencies necessary to develop your CX transformation strategy.

2. Prioritizing based on what matters most to both – your customers and your business

Prioritization can be done by ranking your most important customer groups, journeys, and interactions and aligning that with your business values and business success criteria, so you can then move forward with the right focus.

3. Designing customer experiences

Then, you will identify and define the experience you want customers to have based on your CX vision and customer understanding (developed in the research and prioritization cx competencies above). This requires generating ideas, prototyping, testing with customers, and repeating that process many times before deciding that a design is done.

It’s important to not define the experience based on what the business wants. Capture what your customers want, and then design the way the organization engages with customers to meet those experiences.

Remember that you want to achieve the experiences that you define, but you don’t control experiences directly. What you do control is how your organization engages with customers, which then leaves customers to perceive these interactions and this results in the experiences your customers have with your organization.

4. Enabling your employees with training, information, and tools

Once you’ve defined the customer experience you want to deliver, you must provide employees with the resources that they need to properly engage with customers, and ultimately provide this experience.

And so, for some companies this might be the hardest part of their CX transformation. If you are dealing with system and process silos or legacy technology, delivering the right CX might mean upgrading technology or fully integrating your business and contact center systems. Depending on resources, it might take longer to work through this stage. But don’t let that deter you. The alternative option of continuing to deliver low quality CX will hurt your company in the long run.

By having the right architecture in place, you can start providing your employees with training, information, and tools that support the intended experience across all touch points.

5. Measuring CX metrics

To understand if your company is doing CX well, will require you to quantify the quality of experiences and link them to your organizations’ overall metrics. Ideally, you want to analyze what happens when customer interact with your brand, how they perceive these interactions, and what they do as a result.

This might require a shift in how you look at customer interactions and what metrics you report on. For further insights into how to measure CX, read the blog Looking at Contact Center Metrics In A Customer-Centric Way.

6.Establishing a customer-centric culture

To make sure that CX is a priority in your company will require a system of customer-centric values and behaviors that focus employees on better engaging with customers.

This is an especially important competency to continue your CX vision and drive business success. If you try to create this culture without looking at the other cx competencies, you are likely to be unsuccessful.

A good start is to educate employees about your customers, CX vision, and their roles in fulfilling your vision. Reinforcing customer-centric behaviors through routines, celebrations, and rewards is another good way to establishing customer obsession in your organization.

Don’t wait to start your CX Transformation

Some CX competencies you may be more mature at than others. Forrester Research suggests that companies establish the competencies they are missing, and optimize those already established. Eventually all competencies need to be optimized to be a well-managed “customer obsessed” organization, and be able to keep innovating.

Remember that with great CX being uncommon these days, acting now means you can more easily get ahead of the competition.  Putting off the number one way to differentiate your business, will make CX differentiation much harder later on.

For more guidance on a CX transformation & how to implement these 6 competencies watch the webinar “CX Transformation: Six Essential Competencies”.

Why Prioritizing CX Is Your Secret Weapon To Business Success

Customer experience is a commonly discussed topic and certainly on the minds of many organizations. As Forrester research shows – 84% of CX executives work at firms that are prioritizing CX more than they did two years ago (“Why CX? Why Now? Forrester Research, October 5, 2016).

Although there are brands that have made significant transformations to delivering high quality CX, customer surveys reveal that this is only true for 1 in 5 brands (Why CX? Why Now?, Forrester Research, October 5, 2016). For many organizations, there is still a lot of room for improvement.

Customers switch brands faster than ever

In the age of the customer, competitive strategy can no longer rely on strength at manufacturing, distribution, or information. Companies that focus on improving their products and services only, without looking for new and better ways to engage and delight customers, no longer stand out among the competition.

Due to a new customer behavior phenomenon called hyperadoption, customers easily switch brands after just one bad experience. This is one of the reasons why it’s important to get every customer interaction right and focus on the new competitive differentiator – customer experience.

Forrester has found that year after year, brands with higher quality CX experience faster revenue growth than their direct competitors with lower quality CX (“Why & How To Lead a CX Transformation, Forrester Research, June 19, 2017). It’s been proven that when customers have a better experience, their intentions to stay, buy more, and recommend the brand all increase.

Adopting a customer-obsessed mindset is the only way to survive

With great CX being exceedingly rare, this creates an opportunity for companies that focus on CX to differentiate from their competition in a major way. To retain customers and attract new ones your organization must adopt a CX focused mindset.

  • The first step on the path to delivering great CX is adopting a customer-obsessed way of operating. According to Forrester Research, companies that have made significant headway on the journey to customer obsession shifted from a customer-aware to a customer-led mindset (“Why & How To Lead a CX Transformation, Forrester Research, June 19, 2017). To make this transformation, you need to shift from delivering customer experience that your brand has defined as acceptable to providing experiences the customer wants instead.[su_spacer]
  • Next, you need to master CX management to reliably deliver the right CX. For many companies, this may be the hardest step, and most likely the reason why they haven’t been successful in engaging their customers. Improving CX can seem elusive because it’s based on customer’s perceptions of their interactions with your brand, but it’s not as mysterious as you may think.[su_spacer]

Forrester has identified the CX competencies that your company must establish to deliver the right CX along with strategies that will allow your company to successfully complete your CX transformation.

Download this complimentary copy of the Forrester report “Why & How To Lead A CX Transformation” to learn about these competencies and gain deeper insight into how to implement this transformation within your organization.

3 Steps to Providing More Engaged Customer Service

I am increasingly frustrated by quick thoughtless responses during transactions.

For example, when I was ordering dinner at a restaurant the other night, our server responded to my dinner choice as ‘awesome’ and ‘perfect’.

When our dinner arrived – they were neither ‘awesome’ nor ‘perfect’. My guest ordered a dinner that turned out to have no starch with it and mine arrived missing half of what I had ordered. It was obvious that the server had simply shown up and was in dress-code. This appeared to be the only pre-requisites at this restaurant.

So, what could have been an alternative to the server’s thoughtless responses? How about responses that showed that the server was engaged in what he/she was doing? When my guest ordered his dinner the server could have said, “I really enjoy that but it doesn’t come with any starch on the side, would you like to order a side of rice?”.

It doesn’t have to be complicated and can even be an opportunity to ‘upsell’ without being scripted or feeling pressured.

While I speak of an experience at a restaurant, this type of ‘zombie’ service happens far too often and across all sectors of service, including call centers. I notice it in meetings too.

So, how can your employees provide more engaged customer service in the customer transactions?

I suggest that you start with these three easy steps:

  • Make sure your staff or team are trained to discuss the various aspects of your products
    Really, it’s simple. If your team doesn’t know the products then they won’t be able to engage in a meaningful conversation about your offerings.
  • Ask questions during the transaction
    Try to use open ended type questions rather than yes/no questions. For example, ‘how does the curry cauliflower as a side sound?’ vs ‘is cauliflower as a vegetable okay?’
  • Practice customer interactions
    This comes down to training again. Playing out scenarios can be a very effective way of preparing your team for better customer engagements.

Realizing that you or someone on your team is providing ‘zombie’ service is a good start. Now, ensure that your team is more engaged when interacting with your customers. This will help you to transform your customer service center into a customer engagement center.