Our panel of experts share their ideas on customer experience management and the latest thinking in looking after customers.
What Is Customer Experience Management (CEM)?
Customer experience management (CEM) is the process of improving customer loyalty and satisfaction through strategic implementation of technologies and processes to enhance the customer journey and experience to exceed expectations.
Read on to discover what our industry experts believe are the key aspects of customer experience management.
Create Strategic Plans for Customer-Centricity
Understanding customers and creating strategic plans to foster a customer-centric culture allows companies to enhance satisfaction and develop loyalty.
Customer experience is exceptionally important and how organizations look after their customers and interact with them can have a lasting impact, especially when the interaction is due to a negative customer experience.
Most strategic planning in CEM revolves around behaviour. When looking after customers, it’s only after understanding why customers are doing what they do and say that we can accurately identify trends and predict customer demands.
Examining both internal and external communications has proven to be the most effective way to identify and track these trends.
Internal tools such as speech analytics can also help, and feedback monitors can help organize and catalogue a real-time customer experience while providing immediate insight and hot-button issues for your frontline agents to focus on.
But when we talk about strategy for fostering a unique and tailored yet autonomous customer experience, businesses must be mindful to guide the journey and remain available while allowing the customer to maintain some autonomy.
Manage Expectations as Well as Need
The disconnection between your business need and customer expectations is often the biggest driver of customer management.
Listening to the voice of the customer can help you understand what operational improvements your organization can make.
It can also help you fine-tune your messaging, which is much less costly and can have an immediate impact in creating a proactive management strategy that lends itself to customer autonomy.
Managing expectations is key to understanding and improving the customer journey and creating a collaborative experience with your customers.
Create a Happy Path That Stresses Proactivity
When you create a happy path that stresses proactivity throughout the customer experience, you can build yourself into that path wherever you want. Thoughtful customer mapping includes built-in touchpoints that act as markers or goalposts in the happy path.
An intelligent marketing strategy combined with proactive customer service can and will meet customer needs and illuminate the happy path to sales and satisfaction. Proactive, interactive CX often leads directly to a reduction in customer dissatisfaction.
By integrating technology such as AI, you can now create the momentum necessary to optimize experience, create sales opportunities, prevent customer complaints, and even forecast and predict future interactions.
CEM strategy gives your company the ability to offer expansive sales and service possibilities while focusing on customer autonomy.
Done right, your agents and your technology can continue to capture data from customer interactions to build preferences and profiles and apply better practices in order to create a collaborative, customer-centric culture that can adapt instantly to your CX needs, whether on a granular or market level.
Thanks to Jennifer Hughes at Alvaria
Do More Than Expected
The most commonly heard scenarios of exceptional customer experience – ‘delight’ – are generally those where the company has done more than was expected.
If a customer lodges a complaint about a late delivery, that presents an opportunity; how would a customer respond if they were contacted to confirm they were happy with the product, post-delivery?
Now how about if that communication was also to advise that changes were being planned based on their valued feedback, because their negative experience has been recognized as unacceptable?
Customers want to feel heard, understood, and valued. It’s the same with staff.
It is part of the human condition – when we feel valued, we are more likely appreciate the source of these positive experiences.
Thanks to Sean McIver at MaxContact
The Power of Customer Feedback
The power of customer feedback in CEM is undeniable. But what many organizations miss is the importance of interdepartmental openness and feedback within the organization itself.
Cultivating a better customer experience isn’t just a burden for your customer service team, it requires an all-encompassing approach that’s built into the core of your culture and values.
Collating customer query or complaints data and providing concise feedback to other departments can also make or break the success of your customer experience.
This type of feedback loop is typically employed by more technical sectors, and in customer support teams it’s not unusual to report back regularly to product development teams to ensure that these problems get ironed out in subsequent releases.
But this type of internal feedback could be valuable across all industries, allowing product or marketing teams to address frequent issues for a longer-term fix.
Provide Autonomy and Personalization
Customer expectations are at an all-time high. One of the ways organizations can stand out from the crowd is by upping their personalization game.
Brands such as The Ritz Carlton Hotel Company are famously allowing employees a budget to spend per day on anything that might improve the customer experience. Businesses such as online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos even named their above-and-beyond approach to personalization PEC – personal emotional connection.
This sort of outside-the-box thinking requires you to give customer service reps or front-of-house teams the autonomy to make quick decisions alone, and those decisions should be driven by their customer data.
Empowering teams with the right tools to interact on a per-case basis and with permission to show the brand’s human side could just be the ticket for smoother, more memorable customer interactions.
Thanks to Louise Newbury-Smith at RingCentral
Form Emotional Connections With Your Customers
A key driver behind managing the customer experience is being able to form an emotional connection with your customers.
Forming an emotional connection with your customers can be done in several ways, from using first names and real communicative language rather than corporate-speak, to providing your frontline agents with the freedom to interact with customers, rather than using a formal script.
Providing a personalized service through the channels your customers are choosing to use can also help make a positive impact. To help with this, consider making use of available CRM (Customer Relationship Management) data such as purchase history, interests, preferences and more.
Valuable customer data such as this can empower frontline agents to deliver personalized greetings and responses when interacting with customers.
Thanks to Alex Stenton-Hibbert at Business Systems
Employee Experience (EX) Is Key
When businesses think about the experiences they deliver, they often centre it around their customers. Unfortunately, this often leads them to forget about the other piece of the jigsaw puzzle, and the people who will deliver customer service: employees.
In order to deliver the best customer experience (CX), businesses need to provide their employees with the tools and resources needed to create positive experiences across all channels and platforms.
For instance, digital tools that deliver tailored experiences for an employee’s specific role, such as a receptionist or support agent – enables employees to provide a higher level of customer service because it gives the employee exactly what they need, when they need it.
Against the backdrop of the Great Resignation and Great Reprioritization, providing necessary, easy-to-use resources to improve the employee experience (EX) is a mandatory investment.
An integrated communications solution holds the key to improved employee and customer engagement, leading to enhanced CX.
Further, by providing a 360-degree view of the customer journey that is holistic and less siloed, organizations are better able to service their customers, regardless of location.
EX is the first step, and key, to delivering a differentiated CX in this new world of work.
Thanks to Mayur Pitamber at 8×8
Every Interaction Matters
It’s important to make sure all your customer-facing teams understand what a great customer experience means to the success of your business.
Having your frontline teams know how to do their job isn’t enough. They need to know why every interaction with customers is an opportunity to preserve that customer’s loyalty to the company, and how an exceptional customer experience can be the deciding factor in retaining that customer.
Encourage your teams to think about their own experiences dealing with businesses in their lives. What experiences stuck with them, and how did those experiences affect their perception of that business?
I can recall lots of these experiences and how they have shaped my perception of those companies even years after the interactions.
Thanks to Bram Borne at MaxContact
Create the Right Expectations
We hear a lot about the need to meet and exceed customers’ expectations. However, it’s important to recognize there is no one gold standard.
You don’t expect the same in-store treatment if you’re buying a Mont Blanc pen as if you’re shopping in Poundland. You pay a lot more for a BA flight than for easyJet, so it’s fair to expect more from the former.
The key here is to define your customer journeys and communicate to customers what they can expect, consistent with your brand.
This should include the contact channels you offer, and which one functions as your primary channel – lower budget brands are likely to prioritize chat over voice, so they will resource accordingly.
And the level to which you expect customers to self-serve or interact with a bot is key, if they can reach a real person if they really need to.
Meet Your Promises
However you define your customer experience, you must meet your promises. If you want people to self-serve, it should be through an efficient, end-to-end journey. There’s no point redirecting callers to your website, if you send them a link that doesn’t work.
If you want people to chat, you’ll want your chat channel to have a well-trained bot to cover the easier stuff and enough trained agents to satisfy additional demand; otherwise customers will just call anyway.
Of course, you need to check what happens in reality and how closely it matches what you planned.
Differences may mean a flaw in execution: for example, no route to escalate from a bot to a live agent, you’ve directed a customer to a web page that doesn’t work or there aren’t enough resources to cover demand on a channel. As long as you know, you have the opportunity to fix it.
Measure and Identify End-to-End Journeys
Measurement provides a lens to understand what your customers’ experiences are. However, identifying end-to-end journeys, especially those made up of multiple interactions, is not always easy.
You have to spot when individual contacts on different channels relate to the same query. It’s okay when the customer tells you, but it’s much more difficult if the customer has to call you just because they didn’t get a response on chat.
There are analytic techniques that help you to identify journeys – they’re by no means perfect, but they can provide a good overall view of what’s going on, so you can learn and improve.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on what customers say on social media and on review sites. While they are often skewed towards the very bad or the very good, they are visible to everyone, and they can play a role in future customers’ decisions.
Thanks to Steven Harris at Odigo
Put Analytics Into Action
To help teams evolve and plan their CEM strategy take a look at the latest analytics tools. The most successful contact centres are using analytics to unlock insights on customer experience to make appropriate changes to help their customers.
Business intelligence (BI), quality management, speech and desktop analytics are essential when it comes to delivering a better, smarter, and more predictive service.
Knowing what customers want and identifying in real time bottlenecks and friction points is vital for customer experience intelligence and CEM.
The advent of AI-driven analytics makes it easier for contact centres to review all interactions to uncover customer sentiment and share insights with other parts of their organization. True CEM may start in the contact centre but it touches every part of the customer journey.
Without the relevant information and intelligence, will you ever really know what customers want and what keeps them coming back?
Target Specific Customer Emotions
Customers do not rate brands based on information and logic – they do so through emotion.
Therefore, building positive emotional connections with customers is critical. As Forrester research suggests, doing this makes us:
- 92% more likely to stay loyal to the brand
- 88% more likely to spend more
- 91% more willing to advocate on behalf of the brand.
To achieve these outcomes, many CEM teams make the connections between specific customer feelings and values. Then, they strive to evoke these emotions at moments that matter within the customer journey.
Using speech analytics to identify the moments provides vital intelligence about a customer’s mood.
Sentiment analysis automatically determines customer sentiment by utterance and looks at those utterances in context of the words in the interaction for a deeper understanding of the full customer experience.
Finally, CX teams should track their progress by continuing to measure emotions and sentiment. In this way, companies can highlight those critical moments that matter in the customer journey and drive benefit from them.
Engage in CX Diplomacy
Often, CX managers are skilled mediators, understanding the need to create cross-functional relationships to overcome critical journey pain points. Such collaboration is crucial.
As Su Doyle, a Senior Analyst at Forrester, says: “Start thinking of CX as a team sport and tap alliances to accelerate your transformation!”
To get started, CX teams often set shared metrics – whether that is customer effort, sentiment or satisfaction – so everyone works towards the same goals. Then comes connectivity.
By combining a business intelligence (BI) solution with quality management, it becomes easier to unearth siloed data across every department. Then share that data across the enterprise to establish a unified view of CX. This view should kickstart CX improvement conversations.
However, even faced with evidence, some department heads are resistant to change, which is where diplomacy skills win the day. Sharing angry customer recordings and feedback is an excellent method to get these leaders to stand up and take notice.
Thanks to Magnus Geverts at Calabrio
Automate Common Customer Questions
The key to looking after your customers is quite simple – provide customers with the information they need and answer their questions quickly.
However, it’s not easy to execute without the right technology. In today’s digital era, it’s important for call centres to automate common customer questions, so that customers with higher-value enquiries can quickly reach an agent.
For example, contact centres can automate simple tasks such as order lookups, appointment bookings and reminders. By automating these simple tasks, your agents will have the time they need to focus on higher-value interactions that will further deepen customer loyalty and trust.
Thanks to Mat Ladley at Five9
Implement Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs)
Contact centre agents encounter routine problems, which enables leaders to codify step-by-step guidance on how to resolve them in the form of standard operating procedures (SOPs).
SOPs help agents resolve problems consistently, increasing service quality and ensuring compliance with organizational rules and industry regulations.
Effective SOPs aren’t just written documents. They can also contain imagery, videos, and other visual elements to enrich how-to directions. SOPs can also highlight what not to do. For example, role-play videos help agents see process violations in a different light.
SOPs should be linked to policies and FAQs, stored in internal knowledge bases, and continually refreshed to keep them current. Some companies are even adopting dynamic SOP authoring tools to bring the documents to bring them into the digital age.
SOPs help agents stay on-target, when confronted with requests that are urgent, complex, and emotional. Agents can communicate rules and processes to customers confidently as they work to resolve their issues.
Use Empathy to Connect With Customers
Only 9% of customers are able to fully resolve issues via self-service web knowledge bases and other tools. As a result, when customers call, the pressure is on for agents to listen to customers’ complaints and work on a speedy solution.
Agents should acknowledge customers’ emotions, relay their understanding of the problem back to them, and describe the process they’ll use to research solutions.
One way to establish rapport with customers is to display empathy. A CX survey found that 91% of customers say they want agents to listen well and understand what they’re trying to achieve, while 78% say agents should also understand and acknowledge their emotional state.
Agents should acknowledge customers’ emotions, relay their understanding of the problem back to them, and describe the process they’ll use to research solutions. By so doing, agents build connection with customers, as well as gain their cooperation in waiting for problem resolution.
They also help burnish their employer’s reputation as an empathetic company, which can drive revenues. A study found that the 10 most empathetic companies generated 50% more earnings than those ranking lowest.
Empower Agents to Report Problems
Agents have to support multiple channels at 57% of all contact centres today. These staff say that their most significant challenges are navigating multiple screens and interfaces (52%), learning new processes (50%) and adopting new technologies (48%).
But sometimes these processes break. Interactive voice response (IVR) journeys may be too complex or can’t be fully completed.
Web knowledge bases have out-of-date or incomplete information. And chatbots can’t triage enough queries because they’re not coded sufficiently to support complex requests
Agents can provide an early warning of broken processes, if given structured ways to report them. Customer experience teams can then get involved, using automated testing to fix process flaws and authorizing more investment to expand current capabilities.
Thanks to Cyara
Gather Accurate Customer Feedback
Looking at your organization through the eyes of your consumer can be invaluable when managing the customer experience.
One way of doing this is by looking at conversations your agents have with your customers every day. Another is through customer surveys.
However, these both come with their own challenges, not to mention being time consuming. For example, most organizations manually review only a small portion of their customer interactions.
More organizations are starting to realize that there’s a better, more comprehensive way to gather customer feedback.
This includes capturing and analysing a wide range of customer data points – from contact centre interactions and customer surveys to texts, emails, chats, social media mentions, online reviews and more.
Being able to view the reality of your customer experience automatically from every angle can help provide a deeper understanding of customer satisfaction and experience, including how they feel about your brand, specific products or services, as well as patterns or recurring issues that could be improved across the enterprise.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
Self-Service to Meet Customer Needs
Prior to the pandemic, phone was the preferred customer experience channel for issue resolution according to Gartner. Yet, only two years later, self-service has taken hold.
A study commissioned by NICE found that 84% of consumers are more inclined to do business with organizations that offer self-service options. Sadly, only 61% agree that this is being done well at present. Findings also indicated that 81% of consumers demand more digital self service.
Conversational AI-powered chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR) systems can deliver a seamless, highly personalized, and vastly superior customer experience from end to end.
And today’s technology enables companies to harness conversational data from voice and chat interactions across all channels to power smart self-service and virtual agents.
This allows virtual agents to learn from previous interactions between human agents and customers, helping to improve self-service through answering more customers’ questions efficiently and quickly across digital channels, optimizing resolution paths, and identifying the best automation opportunities.
Good self-service does not leave the customer to answer their own questions or resolve their own problem. It ensures that customers can find answers or resolutions aided and abetted by deliberate touchpoints.
Thanks to Laura Bassett at NICE
Have Outcomes, Goals and Plans
Managing customer experience involves knowing desired outcomes, goals, and plans. Therefore, the best way to manage customer experience is to understand and measure the outcome’s customers desire most.
A capable Voice of Customer (VoC) platform can help. The best VoC platforms will help
- Make sure diverse teams can easily capture customer feedback,
- Go beyond simple surveys to capture active and passive feedback (e.g., social listening or sentiment of recorded interactions),
- Help clearly identify and prioritize where actions are most needed, and
- Provide a steady-stream of snapshot and near-real time customer insights.
Using a VoC platform will help make sure your customers are always represented and the right initiatives are identified, prioritized, and performing as needed.
Thanks to Mark Ungerman at NICE
For more great suggestions from our industry experts, read these articles next: