Laura Bassett at NICE CXone looks at how exceptional CX is still the exception and how you can change that.
How often do you hear someone say, “I love dealing with customer service!”? Not very. Maybe not ever. Why is customer service something that must be “dealt with” in the first place? We have enough on our plates: work, family, pandemic repercussions, natural disasters across the globe.
In a world of infinite data where our every move is monitored, why aren’t we greeted by name when we call a contact centre? Why must we constantly repeat ourselves? Why isn’t customer service more proactive?
Exceptional CX is driven by a genuine understanding of customers: where they are, what they want, and how they want it. Some of my favorite brands crushing it right now prove that exceptional CX can be the norm.
Here’s what they’re getting right:
- They meet customers where they are and bring service back to their brand while keeping customers seamlessly connected in their CX flow.
- They understand that exceptional CX is not exclusively about the slicing and dicing of measures, especially those related to performance and costs.
- They recognize today’s ingenious world of self-service and think outside the box, making what feels complex simple and effortless.
- When it comes to the agent experience, they just “get it” and do what needs to be done.
Prioritize the ‘Everywhere Customer’
“The Everything Customer” is a term Gartner coined to illustrate modern customers who want to maximize their tech, and the brands they access through their tech, all in one seamless swoop. Just as important is the “Everywhere Customer.”
Customers almost always start their service journey outside of a company’s purview. They do an online search or pay a visit to Pinterest, Reddit, or YouTube (almost 3.5M YouTube videos are watched each minute, according to the latest research). I know I do.
I recently bought my kids a new remote-controlled game they had been begging for. Just our luck, one of the system’s built-in cameras stopped working shortly after the warranty ended. I searched everywhere to learn how to fix the problem—starting with Google, then YouTube.
I eventually engaged the company directly, where it took an hour and a half only to be told I could get a replacement toy for 10% off. Frustrated doesn’t even begin to describe how I felt.
Imagine if you could meet customers wherever they are along their journey and bring service back to your brand while keeping them connected in their CX flow.
You’ll begin to understand their intent in how they want to resolve problems (what questions they ask, what words they use) and use those insights to fuel meaningful improvements that create exceptional CX.
Here’s how you can start making headway:
- Have one of your customer service specialists do a Reddit AMA (“Ask me Anything”) where communication is open and authentic. Use insights gained to improve your customer journey.
- Meet customers where they are and intercept to build trust. Imagine if one of your CX specialists commented on a popular YouTube tutorial of one of your products with a link that redirects viewers to your company’s tutorial (that’s better) or a knowledge article on your website that makes things simpler.
- Ditch post-call surveys for “pre-call” surveys in which customers are asked what led them to reach out before they connect with an agent. This will help you understand their pre-contact centre journey and the language they use (your true voice of the customer) so you can better understand and anticipate their needs.
What Are KPIs Really Measuring?
Why are KPIs like average handle time (AHT) standard measures of CX when they’re geared toward performance and costs? These things matter, but to whom?
Exceptional CX focuses on what matters most to the customer. Keep this at the heart of your contact centre KPIs and everything will be in perfect harmony.
Case in point: I once worked with a business that decided to remove AHT as a KPI for its contact center. The result was an average 14-second increase in call length, which was negligible in the grand scheme of things considering that first contact resolution more than doubled.
The company’s survey scores also increased by more than 20%. The removal of AHT as a CX measure actually improved the customer and employee experience at this company (after all, a floor of stressed-out agents doesn’t do anyone any favors).
The best indicators of CX success are difficult for companies to measure, such as empathy, understanding, and tone of voice.
I remember a meeting I once had with someone who at the time was working as a CX officer in healthcare.
This person shared with me the story of a patient who, after being informed of having stage 2 cancer, left her visit in tears after being treated like “just another number.”
As she left the hospital, a valet worker (who could see she was visibly upset) offered some kind words in the brief time they shared.
His words were so touching that the patient wrote a letter to the healthcare organization about how that one interaction turned everything around for her. This is what exceptional CX is about, not the slicing and dicing of measures.
Here are my best recommendations:
- Prioritize measures that offer clear value to your customers (this brings us back to understanding customer intent).
- Reassess performance measures that are counter-intuitive to the quality or value of agent work (like AHT in the example above).
- Understand that every element of every engagement matters, and empower a sense of ownership in everyone.
Basic IVRs and Chatbots Are Novelties in an Ingenious World of Self-Service
Almost every customer journey begins with some form of self-service, and I don’t mean “Press 1 for X, Press 2 for Y.”
Why hold for hours with a besieged contact centre when you can search subreddits (a specific online Reddit community where posts and conversations are dedicated to a particular topic) for the answers you need?
Why drive your dog to the vet for a non-emergency matter when there are Facebook groups with approved veterinarians who volunteer their time to address pet concerns?
Today’s world of self-service is truly extraordinary.
Again, it’s about bringing service back to your brand. How does your self-service take the complexity out of solving complex problems? The best way to assess your organization’s self-service is to use it as a hypothetical customer.
Let’s say you start a conversation using proactive chat (this is a pop-up chat window that appears on a website with a message like, “What brings you to [company] today?”) and it goes something like this:
You (as the customer): I want to learn more about a product.
Your company: Hi there! We’re so glad you stopped by. Chances are you’re looking for something particular. Whether it’s tech support, product info, or useful resources, we have what you need. What can we help you with today?
The red flags are clear: lack of context, a big chunk of copy, and a tone-deaf response that forces you to repeat yourself. Small changes can be made here to make a big impact, like limiting the length of your chatbot replies to one or two sentences and prioritizing customer value when writing copy for your chat interface.
Even the most reasonable customer expectations can’t be met by companies whose self-service flow is the same as it was 10, 15, or 20 years ago. We need to do better!
Here’s how you can start creating more intelligent and intuitive self-service:
- Ask yourself: what are your customers trying to solve for themselves that you’re not letting them solve? This will help you understand customer intent.
- Be completely transparent about self-service limitations or issues. The other day I was informed that my grocery delivery would be arriving late (the following morning versus that evening). When I called to understand why, a service rep informed me there was a power outage in that area of town (my home was fine). This was frustrating, but understandable. Customers tend to be forgiving about service disruptions or limitations if there is honesty and transparency.
As a side note, this would have been a fantastic opportunity for proactive service. Imagine how much better the experience would have been if I received a text message that read, “A power outage has affected your shopper’s ability to complete their order. Unfortunately, this means your delivery will be delayed until [date and time].” The company could even throw in an offer (say, $5 off your next order) to lock in loyalty.
- Out-of-the-box solutions allow you to easily launch your own intelligent bot that can be trained to understand different customer intents. Depending on what you want to accomplish, these solutions can be ready in a matter of minutes.
Rethink Your Entire Agent Experience
After searching high and low for answers on your own, interacting with a bot, and waiting for frustrating lengths of time to speak with a human, the last thing you want is to talk with an agent who’s tangled in red tape. In my opinion, this is a threefold issue:
1. Agents Aren’t Given the Right Technology to Effectively Help Customers
There’s no shortage of solutions that help agents work smarter and faster, from real-time guidance (information that automatically appears on-screen informing agents of their next best step, etc.) to real-time translation that shows at the bottom of an agent’s screen what customers are saying as they speak to real-time context and sentiment.
Many of these solutions are simple and target some of today’s biggest CX issues like customers having to repeat themselves and agents feeling like their hands are tied. What kind of technology are your agents using?
2. Agents Are Buried Beneath Organizational Silos
Different business units solve for different parts of a customer problem, and all play a crucial role in the end-to-end customer journey. These units often use different tools that prevent communication and data insight from freely flowing across the organization.
Multiple units must seamlessly work together to resolve what customers see as a single issue. Organizational silos are roadblocks and potholes in what should be a smooth end-to-end service journey.
3. Agents Aren’t Given the Freedom to Autonomously Work
We don’t want agent anarchy, but we also don’t want agents feeling trapped by restrictive language or stifled by an inability to act. Customer service workers are capable of skillfully and creatively solving problems, but they need the freedom to do so.
Reevaluate training in line with CX-centric measures (re: point 2 above) and empower agents to take ownership as the CX stakeholders they are. To create real human connections, we must let agents be real and human.
Here are my best recommendations:
- Identify your low hanging fruit. What else is there that you can do with a product you own to start improving the agent experience?
- Observe different areas of your business. Just like you followed a customer scenario, follow an agent scenario. How easy is it for your agents to access information across the organization or reach an expert outside the contact center?
- Use your data. You already have it—start using automated tools to analyze it and gain key insights.
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