Tag Archives: customer experience

4 Common Contact Center Challenges and How to Solve Them

In previous years, the contact center was seen as an operational necessity, an important but non-strategic wing of an organization. That has changed.

Customer experience (CX) is now understood to be among the most powerful differentiators for businesses today. Contact centers, and the technologies enabling them, now feature prominently in strategic decision making.

Many organizations know their current system for engaging with customers could be improved, but with new technologies, new vendors and new jargon seeming to appear every day, it’s difficult to determine the best place to start.

This blog will introduce four common contact center challenges you may be facing and show how four organizations overcame them.

Siloed Technologies

Silos are one of the great challenges facing contact centers today. A “silo” refers to a technology that is disconnected from the others.

Different departments acquire technology (billing system, dispatch system, WFM, etc.) based vendor strength, but they are not tied together, which hinders the ability to create smooth transitions between departments to support an end-to-end process. Data becomes siloed as the customer view is carved up between these systems. There is no master customer “system of record.”

The impact on the enterprise? Agents are forced to play the role of integrator, using multiple screens and numerous applications to resolve customer requests. Customer metrics sink due to the complexity of support. Agent turnover increases. Management lacks actionable insights into contact center events and trends. Maintenance costs rise, and rise, over time.

If technology silos are hurting your CX, the need for change is clear. The best course forward may not be.

Technology silos and process silos — you can have one, but you usually have both. Technology silos often lead to process silos.

See how SMART Technologies successfully overcame siloed systems and achieved a flawless customer experience without impacting their day-to-day operations.

Inflexible Infrastructure

Another common challenge facing contact centers is the use of inflexible, on-premise systems. Often requiring continual hardware upgrades and “quick fixes” to remain functional, these systems are the underlying cause of many of the silos mentioned above.

They also cause a heavy drain on the IT department’s resources, as more time is spent managing complexity than thinking strategically about where technology can create an advantage.

Many organizations dealing with inflexible infrastructure understand the benefits of migrating to a modern cloud contact center: minimum required investment to deploy, maintain and support; ease of managing multichannel communications; improved employee performance and CX; and the ability to adapt to changing business needs.

But there’s a natural resistance to change that stems from the fear of disrupting day-to-day operations.

See how a medical technology company with strict parameters seamlessly transitioned from an an end-of-life system to Salesforce to reduce maintenance and support costs, achieve unprecedented agent visibility and experience a 5X increase in order processing.

Introducing & Managing Multiple Channels

Customers demand more connected experiences than ever before. They expect to be able to communicate with you digitally, and expect you to provide a consistent journey across all touchpoints, whether they’re engaging in a web chat, texting or speaking to a representative by phone.

Many contact centers avoid adding digital channels because their legacy infrastructure won’t support it, and they don’t want to add new siloes to an already complex system. Others add digital channels, but struggle to integrate their data into the agent desktop so agents lack context and information on prior interactions.

Another difficulty related to managing multiple channels is integrating it properly with WFM systems, which makes it difficult to effectively forecast, plan and schedule agents across channels.

The end result of all these challenges — whether it’s a lack of channels or channels being poorly stitched together — is that you run the risk of customers churning to competitors that offer more consistent and personalized experiences.

See how a publicly traded financial services company with limited customer care channels and disconnected legacy technology turned their customer experience into an asset by introducing digital channels, modernizing their systems and optimizing the agent desktop.

Lack of Contact Center Visibility

Another harmful side effect of complex, siloed contact centers is that they hinder an organization’s ability to spot and resolve problems. Delivering consistent CX is a challenge; it’s near impossible if you can’t identify areas that need improvement.

Lacking a modern infrastructure, many organizations necessarily turn to the IT department to identify and fix problems with agents or operations, as they are the only ones with the technical know-how to navigate the system and manually analyze the log files. But dedicating IT resources to solve non-IT issues isn’t a sustainable solution.

See how a Fortune 500 transportation logistics company with the challenges above leveraged an operational analytics application to sift through massive amounts of data in minutes to identify and resolve issues, improve agent performance and achieve unprecedented visibility into their contact center operations.

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!

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.

branding-past-present

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. 

branding-people

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.  

branding-aria-solutions-team
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.  

 

Stop Poor CX! A New Way of Analyzing Operational Issues on PureEngage

It’s common for issues to pop up during day-to-day contact center operations and with a lot of customer interaction and agent activity within your PureEngage platform, many of those issues may be hard to find.

Contact centers continuously monitor metrics to:

  • Analyze data that affects customer experience (CX)
  • Ensure that performance goals are met
  • Catch issues

The tools they use often only show summarized data and don’t help much when the “devil is in the details”. When issues fall within what those tools look for and capture, they are easy to spot and solving them is usually straightforward. For example, if the call volume is unexpectedly high, the contact center will make more agent time available (e.g. bringing on more agents or canceling off-queue time).

However, for issues lurking beneath the surface, evidence may show up in the CX metrics, but standard tools don’t offer an easy way to pinpoint the detailed contact center activities behind the issue. Worse still, is that there are likely activities causing issues that companies don’t even know about.

For example, there could be agent behavioral issues occurring, such as this issue (happened to one of our clients), where some agents were placing customers on hold immediately after greeting them and increasing customer frustration. While this issue was caught by accident (by the VP of Customer Service’s office assistant!), the contact center didn’t have the tools to know who was doing this, how long it had been happening, nor how widespread this hidden issue was.

These more complex issues take time to identify and figure out, causing a lot of time to pass before a resolution is found and put in place. For contact center directors and customer experience executives, this means that their key customer experience metrics (like NPS and CSAT) are affected.

Wouldn’t it be great if contact centers could find those hidden and complex issues much faster, and reduce the impact on customer experience? This is possible but requires contact centers to shift from traditional methods.

Making do with traditional methods and tools

Contact centers use many tools to measure customer experience and identify customer experience problems when they arise. They look at contact center operational metrics (often aggregated data), analyze conversations, or pick up issues directly reported by customers and agents.

Reports, analytics (such as customer journey analytics), WFM, and QA, are tools that contact center professionals use to see how customer experience is impacted (such as higher call volumes, or agents adhering to their schedules), but these tools barely offer a glimpse into those harder to find day-to-day operational problems.

Basically, contact centers are “making do” with the tools they have.

New methods and technology to detect poor customer experience in real-time

To understand those hard to find or unknown issues affecting CX, without spending tons of time sifting through low-level system details, contact centers need to adopt a new way and new technology.

There are new and emerging ways to more quickly, accurately and proactively examine the contact center activity for issues and problematic agent behavior that can affect the customer experience. These methods and technology also help monitor these issues to keep them at bay.

For example, Aria’s Visualizer for Genesys that works on PureEngage helps contact centers:

  • Identify agent behavior and compliance automatically by listening to ALL calls instead of just spot checking a small sample of calls.
  • Analyze calls by learning and improving what is defined as a problem call.
  • See detailed analysis in real-time that captures all the low-level activity in a contact center. This will provide a visual picture of the customer experience, making it easier to spot issues you didn’t even know you had and that are beyond the reach of listening to calls.

Contact centers now have options for resolving issues that happen in day-to-day operations and can reduce the effect on customer experience. Visualizer provides the detailed insights that find the issues quickly so they can be actioned immediately, and affect a smaller number of customers.

 

3 Tech Trends & Factors That Impact Employee Experience

Who does not love a nice dinner out on a Friday night? It’s a great way to start the weekend and relax after long days at work. But then a server—clearly unmotivated—shows up, does not answer my questions, and gets my order wrong. What was supposed to be a relaxing evening turns out to be a stressful disappointment. Even if the food ends up being good, or even delicious, the moment is ruined. And if it was my first time at this restaurant, I would not come back, ever. 

Sounds familiar? I am sure many of you can relate. 

Well, the experience in a contact center is no different than the one in the restaurant. At a time when all products are similar and switching services happens seamlessly, the customer experience can make it or break it. This means the people on the front line of your company are key to your success, whether you like it or not. Consequently, it is in your best interest to motivate them, so that they represent your business in the best way possible. 

In other words, satisfaction of your employees has a direct impact on your customers’ loyalty, and therefore on your revenue and profits. While leadership, employee engagement, and other HR related measures obviously play a big role, the importance of technology in the workplace is steadily increasing. The primary reason is a steady increase of demands, and technology helps employees work more efficiently to meet their goals. It’s as simple as that. 

What are the key technological factors and influences that improve the employee experience (EX) and as a result make a company more successful? 

1. Automation

Automation is still one of the most important factors. Unfortunately, many companies are not fully leveraging it.  

Painful, repetitive tasks such as copying and pasting data between multiple systems are the result of these shortcomings. It is one of those common productivity roadblocks that is increasingly frustrating in an environment where performance is rigorously measured.  

Building integrations between multiple systems allows automation and is essential to improving the EX.  

For instance, a common scenario is the handling of an order or return between Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software and an Order Management system (OMS). If agents have to create an order by copying all customer details and product line items between the two systems, they can become extremely frustrated over time. Adding a button that does all that work with one click, where the agents only have to validate the order before booking it, makes a big difference. 

2. User Experience

“It’s all about saving clicks” is what people say when talking about automation. But automation is not the only means to save “clicks” for the user. An often overseen factor is the user experience (UX).  

With the high level of configurability and customizability of today’s applications, such as a CRM software, it matters what agents see on the screen. This is all about showing the right information in the right place at the right time. Button locations, dialogs, and wizards are just some of the tools that can improve system usability, and consequently employees’ satisfaction. Even the look and feel plays an important role, since the users are spending several hours a day looking at the software.  

UX has been crucial for product development, but it is often neglected when building systems for internal users. For example, screen pops are a common feature utilized in any contact center. If an agent only sees the service record for the customer’s current incident, it is certainly helpful. But, if the system is configured to show key customer information (besides just the name), for example, recent history and other related information (such as the products the customer owns) – all on one screen, the agent can operate much faster and provide better service, leading therefore to reduced handle time. 

3. Artificial Intelligence

Last but not least, the power of artificial intelligence (AI) offers a huge potential to improve EX. This is a real game changer because AI is not meant to improve how users do things, but what they are doing.  

This is significant because every employee can now be a rockstar sales person or a customer service champion. In an environment that thrives on success metrics, such as sales numbers and service level agreements (SLA), this can help each individual meet or even exceed their goals.  

Lead scoring is a great example. If a sales representative handles 50 leads a day out of a pool of several hundred, success depends on converting those leads into real opportunities. Based on historical data, lead scoring algorithms will help choose leads that have a higher chance of converting into a sale. This will not change the number of leads the agent will call, but it will improve the number of sales during a day.  

It will make the agent successful, and there is no better motivator than success. If people feel empowered and effective, they are more willing to face obstacles in their way. 

But keep in mind that AI is still an emerging technology. It needs to gain trust from business users and technology experts alike. Rolling out features to smaller groups first can be helpful in collecting valuable data, thus proving the positive impact of AI. Building a success story is key to getting acceptance. 

Evaluate and Apply Technology Properly

From my experience working with contact centers, I know that a great employee experience is driven by productivity. A productive and rewarding day can boost your employees’ happiness and engagement, leading to an even better performance in the future.  

Technology is a key ingredient in nurturing this successful experience, and it is crucial to make it a standard, not an exception. However, it is important to understand that there is no silver bullet. There should be an evaluation first – to understand the greatest weaknesses and how the technology can help resolve them. 

Technology can only reach its full potential when applied properly. Often, business users describe their needs by providing a solution to the problem. Unfortunately, their solution does not include a full understanding of features and dependencies within the systems they are using. So in short, IT and business users should work closely together to come up with the best implementation. 

With technology evolving so quickly, the journey is the reward. 

If you need help with business challenges, choosing the right solution for your pain points, or evaluating specific technology – Aria is here to help!

We offer expert services on the Salesforce platform and can help you customize your crm to fit your needs. We also have many omni-channel desktop products, including our newest product Legato which includes a robust softphone and integrates Salesforce with Amazon Connect Voice so your agents can see everything on one screen. Contact us today to learn more or visit us at booth 2226 during Enterprise Connect Orlando.

The 80/20 Rule Is Dead! You Can Do More with Social Media Data

In Shifting the Paradigm of Contact Center Interaction Tracking, we spoke of a paradigm shift that needs to be considered in standard contact center metrics. For the sake of all great social experiences, let’s revisit one of the most common and basic measures of contact center success – the service level.

Relying on service level to measure customer satisfaction

Oddly enough, service level has always been somewhat of a misnomer and often wrongly applied.

Service level was created to satisfy a base driver since contact centers needed a way to quantify how well they looked after their callers. And thus was born the 80/20 rule of quantification –  where 80% of calls are answered within 20 seconds.

Makes sense, doesn’t it? Speak directly with your customers within a certain amount of time, within their threshold of patience, and everyone will be happy. Maybe not!

Service level today is so ubiquitous that hosted service providers and support organizations set their contracts to meeting service level agreements (SLAs) with financial repercussions tied directly to that service level metric.

While contact centers may have shifted those parameters over the years with a 90/10 or 70/30 ratio as the measured bar of success, it’s become tougher to generally apply that rule to customer communications.

At its fundamental level, meeting that quantified threshold does not directly equate to providing “good service” to your customer base.

What is good service? It is entirely held in the eye of the customer and how they feel about their unique individual experiences with your enterprise including how they perceive interactions with your brand. Service level was an incredibly indirect metric to equate waiting with dissatisfaction but that is not the only factor.

Measuring customer satisfaction – back then and now

Years ago, in the voice-only world, where the 80/20 rule was created, this metric along with mailed surveys from the marketing department would be the standard to gage customer satisfaction. However, both were separate entities that had virtually no correlation other than to say: “You can’t blame us that survey scores are low. We’re answering the phones quickly”.

Survey tools today have come a long way to capturing that customer feeling. However, the tendency of customers is to only complete a survey if their experience was negative and they feel the need to report a behavior or unsatisfied outcome.

This is a reactive process with lengthy delays before action can be taken. The damage often has already been done and their likelihood to recommend (Net Promoter Score- NPS) has been reduced. Historically a negative customer experience would simply make interesting conversation over coffee.

Today is a brave new world where technology affords us a better chance to gain visibility into the fundamental definitions of good customer service.

But with the advent of social media, it’s important to start looking at social media data, since social has become the means to vent and report poor experiences with businesses or otherwise. Folks do like to complain! This pseudo-friendship world increases the audience that will hear about any shortcomings your business may have. The ability to “share” and “retweet” grows that audience exponentially if the reader is moved by the initial statement.

Fixing customer experience before it is too late

That just means that today you simply must get it right because everyone will hear about it if you don’t.  Unfortunately, that ideal is unachievable; perfection is unrealistic; and mistakes will undoubtedly be made. So, the question becomes, how can I mitigate the risk associated to bad customer experiences being broadcast throughout social media?

Leveraging social media data

Today we have the technology to view and access social media data through social media interfaces. A targeted push to collect social media profiles (via Twitter “follow”-ships” or Facebook likes, to name a couple examples) allows you then to collect and use social influence as a decision-making parameter when prioritizing their incoming interactions.

Those with a larger social network may have a higher priority to satisfy to hopefully leverage a “post” about positive experience as grass roots marketing or to lessen the broadcast impact of a possible negative experience. It is then up to the business to balance customer value and social influence in that prioritization.

Deploying intelligent routing that listens for social media data

Waiting in a queue and missing service level targets still has impact on the overall experience. But technologies today, such as intelligent routing, leverages customer value and social influence; virtual queuing and overflow routing all exist to eliminate that wait, reducing the overall impact of a service; level metric is the be all satisfaction statistic for contact centers. Intelligent prioritization lets you dictate which customers get faster service, thus reducing negative blow back towards your brand.

Relying on Net Promoter Score to make better decisions

So, what will fill that void in the future? The clue may have been dropped in an earlier statement. Net Promoter Score (NPS) should be the metric that drives your business decisions. “How many of our clients would recommend us to a friend?”  We should make sure they all do, and keep that in mind for all our business decisions.

The technologies discussed herein all provide the ability to collect directly or indirectly data elements to produce a score at a client level or directly improve their experience.

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.

Looking at Contact Center Metrics in a Customer-Centric Way

Contact Centers, as an industry, have been around since the advent of telephony technology. That technological era has also enabled us to measure and track contact center activity quite accurately. For too many years, contact centers were focused on operating contact centers as efficiently as possible, not providing outstanding customer experience. Our early ability to track and measure activity resulted in a series of metrics being adopted to monitor the overall contact center performance.

These traditional metrics include average handle time, average wait time, occupancy, idle time, and service level among others. These metrics largely have a philosophical basis in Fredrick Taylor’s “The Principles of Scientific Management”, which still have a certain degree of operational relevance.

Even though managing to those metrics resulted in running contact centers efficiently (and thus became the new norm to benchmark against), it also resulted in contact centers blindly managing to those metrics alone, without any analysis of how they are servicing and satisfying their customers’ expectations today. In true Fredrick Taylor style, we still will find those same metrics present in most dashboards and reports used today.

But what about measuring the customer experience?

The issue with traditional metrics is that they are largely inward facing to a company. Customer service has evolved since those early days and the relevance of traditional metrics have waned in the current age of customer engagement. It is a fair question to now ask if these traditional metrics still make sense as the benchmark?

Today, contact centers increasingly understand the importance of providing excellent service to their customers, and as a result, they are adopting a customer-centric engagement approach. All aspects of customer contact need to be weighed for effectiveness and striking the perfect balance to maintain a continuous relationship.

For organizations to compete and differentiate themselves, departments such as marketing, sales and customer service must coordinate their varying points of contact across all channels – not to inundate the recipient, but to strategically keep the relationship alive.

Shifting from traditional to customer-centric metrics approach

With a customer-centric focus, new metrics should be introduced. Net Promoter Score, the likelihood of recommending your business to another, has traditionally been a metric tracked by marketing as a measure of success of the company brand.

Contact centers today have a deep impact to that brand. With the technical ability to offer surveys to customers to review their contact experience across all media channels – can provide insight for quality of relationship management. Surveys can be skewed, because someone receiving poor service may be more motivated to report on a bad experience, as opposed to someone who feels they got the experience they expected.

Businesses can implement technology that evaluates the tone of voice during a conversation via a multitude of media channels and rate the relative satisfaction of a customer through language and tone. Everything can be combined to represent how your customer experience is impacting that relationship.

Leveraging both approaches effectively

Traditional metrics can continue to help with internal efficiencies, but the actual metric result should be modified with a focus on the customer. For example, service level has widely been accepted in the industry to be the percentage of calls answered within a threshold and that it should align with the 80/20 rule (80% of calls answered within 20 seconds). The “Calls in Queue” or “Time in Queue” metrics that meet a certain threshold are alternative ways of measuring the same – customer wait.

In a customer-centric focus of contact center one may argue that great service and relationship management would mean never having to wait in queue. “Calls in Queue” and “Time in Queue” would then strive to be zero and service level would strive to be a 100/0 rule (100% of calls answered within 20 seconds).

Technology such as virtual queuing can be introduced to facilitate the drive to those metric values in concept. With virtual queuing, customers no longer need to sit on the phone until an agent becomes available. They can schedule a callback at a convenient time or just have the agent call back when their turn comes up.

Traditional evaluation would see this solely as inefficient. But today, one can and should calculate the financial impact on sales and recurring revenue to a reduction in “Net Promoter Score” and how managing to new metric values versus old metric values could impact that “Net Promoter Score metric.

Unlike the Fredrick Taylor days, measuring the relationship satisfaction today can effectively be translated to a financial impact, as technology now permits us to effectively evaluate satisfaction. Metrics change and accepted values shift as the expectation of great customer service and the company’s relationship with their customers.

Why will your customers come back and recommend you to others? Because you’re measuring how well you’re delivering what the customer wants.