How can you transform your contact centre operations to engage with your customers more effectively?
The Three Pillars of Customer Engagement Transformation
Before we look at what you can do to transform your customer engagement, there are three pillars of a customer engagement transformation strategy:
1. Know What You Have
There are things you do well and things you don’t. It’s often current problems or limitations that drive investment in transformation, so it’s important not to lose sight of what those are or the things you do well that customers appreciate and potentially rely on.
This means step one in any transformation to is have a full understanding of the current status quo, so what works can be built upon, expanded, incorporated and enriched. Furthermore, measuring improvement is only possible when you know the baseline.
2. Know What You Need
What are the most fundamental experiences your organization needs? This is the backbone of your customer services and the quality, efficiency, and flow of these are crucial.
Time needs to be taken to plan not just the overall effect, i.e. handle customer calls about renewals, quotes, amendments and cancellations efficiently, but also the details.
Remember CX is not about what services you provide but how the customers experience them! Once a core of quality experiences has been developed, the nice-to-haves that feed into or out of that can be mapped and planned.
3. Know How to Achieve It
People, process, and technology in this context not only refer to who, how and with what transformation will be affected but also the areas of knowledge needed to be successful.
You understand your customers, or you should, and if you don’t, perhaps now is not the right time for customer engagement transformation!
While technology providers understand their products, achieving a successful transformation is the result of pooling this knowledge through active collaboration to create a functional customer service process.
The wrong information from either side will affect the outcome, as will a lack of trust in the experience or insight coming from the other party. Trust, experience, and evidence make a strong foundation for a productive and successful working partnership.
Thanks to Agam Kohli at Odigo
With these three pillars in mind, let’s look at the steps to customer engagement transformation.
17 Steps to Customer Engagement Transformation
We’ve put together the best advice from our panel of experts on what you can do to transform your customer engagement:
1. Engage Employees First
Across the board, employee attitude and engagement are infectious. Whether internally or customer-facing, it’s great news for our companies and our management that prioritize employee engagement.
An engaged front line often creates great customer experiences; but disengaged agents and advisors will have the exact opposite effect.
Factors like management, technology, equipment and training to do your job, as well as co-worker relationships, directly influence employee engagement.
A workforce that is engaged, knowledgeable, confident and proficient serves more than the end user. They also serve as role models to peers, they boost morale and provide mentorship and resourcing for staff.
The new contact centre population is largely made up of young advisors, many of whom are still in search of purpose in their work; and engagement can help drive passion which drives successful people and teams.
Thanks to Ermelinda Procter at Alvaria
2. Focus on Developing Your Agents
Empathy is key to delivering exceptional customer engagement. Empathy means your customers will feel understood – in many ways, the first step to satisfaction. But how do you enhance empathy?
Time and again, research has shown that voice is the best way to convey emotion. Research from Yale University displayed that voice-only communication (cutting out any visual cues) delivers the most accurate empathic understanding between people. All this points to the importance of the interactions between your agents and customers.
Yes, chatbots and self-help tools are an essential part of the suite to ensure simple customer support can be achieved at scale. But, when it comes to customer engagement transformation, the agent at the end of the phone line is your most important asset.
Focus on supporting, empowering and developing your agents to deliver the best customer engagement.
Thanks to Caroline Leonard at Spearline
3. Rethink the Customer Advisor Role
Coping with difficult times often calls for radical thinking – and often in areas that we’ve regarded as ‘simply the way things are done’.
We’ve long accepted the role of self-serve in customer contact – to handle simple information queries and repetitive ‘predictable’ queries. Nothing has changed in that regard now that we’ve got sophisticated speech recognition and AI. We’ve just got better at it.
However, predicting that a greater percentage of customer queries will inevitably go to self-serve is only a starting point. What will happen to the customer advisor role? Because saying that advisors will handle ‘more complex queries’ is just too simple a prediction.
Will they become ‘super-agents? I’m not convinced. The term ‘super-agent’ has come to be synonymous with someone who can handle any customer query via any channel… with knowledge and empathy.
And while the idea of an all-knowledgeable advisor at the end of a broadband connection is every omnichannel tech vendor’s dream, is it what’s actually happening?
Not sure it is… and mainly because it’s virtually impossible to create teams of people that can easily take contacts from everyone, have knowledge of everything, and be equally skilled in the spoken and written word.
Technology may help, but we’re not there yet. And besides, becoming an all-conquering super-agent requires time and experience, and that’s going to be very tricky in today’s environment where, for many businesses, attrition is through the roof.
Thanks to Michael Gray at Sensée
4. Reposition Your Contact Centre as a Brand Guardian
Since the rise of the Millennial, we’ve been focused on creating a flexible environment for employees – and rightly so. But now we need to do more.
Our research shows consumers and contact centre managers see agents as critical in protecting the brand of an organization.
But there are gaps in perceptions. 90% of managers think they are treating agents as brand guardians, but only 1 in 3 consumers think they are effective brand guardians.
So what can we do?
Firstly, don’t lose focus on the employee.
Managers know that agent stress impacts the customer experience. To reduce stress, stay focused on providing flexibility in when and where agents work, flexible and personalized training and ensure the desktop tools you provide to agents makes their life easier.
Secondly, break down the data silos that are stopping organizations from analysing the brand effectively.
Collect all your omnichannel interactions in one cloud platform and enrich it with attributes of the customer journey. Then apply AI to 100% of these contacts, but don’t forget you need to train your people to ask the right questions.
Such data-driven decisioning is the future of customer engagement transformation.
Thanks to Ed Creasey at Calabrio
5. Have Specialists to Understand Customers
Surely the contact centre industry can learn lessons from the management consultancy/advertising world.
Nobody expects management consultants to be experts in everything. More commonly they are sector specialists valued for their knowledge and problem-solving skills.
In much the same way as online businesses in the B2C space have adopted ‘tribal marketing’ techniques (treating their customer customers/prospects as distinct target groups defined by their shared beliefs, interests, behaviours and values), so sector specialization is something we’re starting to see more and more of in the contact centre space.
Rather than deal with everyone, specialists (not ‘agents’) are being tasked with gaining a deep understanding of their customers, thinking outside the box, and delivering high-quality service.
Where this approach has been adopted the results have often been felt in terms of massively improved employee satisfaction too.
Thanks to Michael Gray at Sensée
6. Implement Proactive Deflections (Survey and Act)
Although voice will still be vitally important, by design contact centre organizations must free up valuable knowledge base colleagues to speak to frustrated customers and help design that superior CX.
The key to this?
Survey, Act, Survey, Act: plan a continuous loop where you ensure your business has absolute visibility of why a customer contacted you and automate a proactive approach to that interaction.
Proactive deflections will be the very foundation of success.
Thanks to David Rowlands at 8×8
7. Connect Sales and Support
In the past, the internal lines of communication in contact centres were frequently barricaded. Sales and support didn’t know what each other were doing.
Supervisors couldn’t get a clear picture of agent performance without listening to countless call recordings. IT and operations were siloed in their own worlds.
With today’s technological advances, these silos are breaking down. Data and analytics are readily accessible, making it easy for sales and support to share customer insights and improve the customer experience.
With a DevOps mindset and automated testing tools, IT and operations can work together throughout software development to ensure better releases and fewer service outages.
And advanced voice analysis tools allow supervisors to quickly and easily assess agent performance and provide relevant feedback.
When a contact centre embraces these tools, it becomes a more integrated operation that’s able to deliver high-quality CX.
Thanks to Cyara
8. Get Customers Involved
Evolving your customers’ experience with your business is going to be a cultural shift for many.
Historically, many companies have done what they think will help their customers rather than what they actually want.
Asking for feedback and getting customers involved needs to be carried out on a regular basis. This can be after you have completed a change or pre-emptive feedback aimed at something you are looking to implement.
Not all feedback will be immediately actionable, but you need to start somewhere. Jump in and start improving what is painful for the customer. This will make them feel heard and increase your brand loyalty.
When you are innovating, make your customers part of the conversation.
This both ensures what you are delivering is going to add value and work for them, and will also strengthen the relationship, making them feel part of the bigger picture.
Thanks to Drew Naylor at MaxContact
9. Understand How to Engage With Your Customers
Being able to understand how to engage with your customers in the right way is something that’s often overlooked.
It’s important to gain insights into how your customer prefers to communicate, whether that be by SMS, email, online chat or phone.
Technology like conversation intelligence can help organizations gain these insights by looking at 100% of customer interactions, on all channels.
Organizations that limit themselves to only one single communication channel will experience challenges in identifying and understanding their customers’ needs, with heightened risk of delivering a disjointed, frustrating customer experience.
Those who choose to utilize an omnichannel customer engagement approach will be able to identify customers who would normally go under the radar, and provide the right information at the right time, in the right way.
Thanks to Frank Sherlock at CallMiner
10. Change the Question
Communication is at the heart of every customer experience, and this is the key to ensuring customer loyalty.
As automation continues to grow in contact centres, it has never been more important for companies to adapt their strategies to demonstrate that customer satisfaction is the top priority.
Companies must stop asking “how do we make our customers more loyal?” and start asking “how can we be more loyal to our customers?”. For instance, many loyalty schemes serve to benefit the company, when they should really serve to benefit the customer.
In order to achieve this, businesses can utilize conversational AI to track which customers are engaged with the business, and note their individual preferences to enhance personalized reward systems.
Thanks to Chris Mina at Vonage
11. Utilize and Mine Feedback
Digital multichannel is at the centre of the call centre communications and marketing strategy; but customer feedback is more valuable than ever because there more channels and tools available for customers to respond, rate and recommend their experiences.
Multiple opportunities are now available for you to build a comprehensive view of the customer experience.
It’s important to design your feedback platforms and requests not just to capture immediate interactions, but with the goal of assessing and quantifying the value of your customers over time.
Allowing your users to participate in the evaluation process is an easy way to facilitate buy-in and identify what your end-user thinks of your goods, services, employees and of their relationship to your product.
Moving forward, call centres must maintain the ability to adapt and adopt emerging technologies, engage employees, and utilize feedback opportunities in order to achieve continued success in our global economy.
Engaged employees and customers make sales, communications, and marketing fun. Improving customer engagement is the key to customer loyalty and continual return on investment.
Thanks to Ermelinda Procter at Alvaria
12. Focus on the First Interaction Experience
CX professionals have traditionally focused on generational differences and their unique communication preferences – Millennial vs. Gen Z vs. Boomer. But the pandemic has transformed us all into digital natives.
In fact, less than 20% of customer service requests begin with traditional inbound flow. Instead, the first interaction – for more than 8 in 10 customers – is digital.
Therefore, a traditional approach to CX often fails to meet customer needs. Customers want self-service that actually works, but self-service tools frequently create friction and frustration instead.
AI-powered CX transforms your contact centre operations with data-driven interactions that automatically assess customer intents and resolve their needs in real time, freeing live agents to handle only the most nuanced and complex service issues as part of a more fluent, seamless customer journey.
Thanks to Andrea Matsuda at NICE
13. Allow Customers to Self-Serve
Chatbots, once seen as a quirky and limited choice for customer engagement, are now becoming a mainstay on the front lines of sales and service.
Today’s customers prefer to handle many basic issues with self-service.
According to Fortune Business Insights, the chatbot market is expected to see an annual growth rate of 22.5% from 2020 to 2027, ballooning from $396.2 million in 2019 to $1,953.3 million in 2027.
This growth is fuelled by rapid improvements in the conversational AI that powers chatbots. Whilst clunky interactions still happen, they’re far less common than they used to be – so much so that the average satisfaction rate for bot-only interactions exceeds 87.5%.
Today’s customers prefer to handle many basic issues with self-service, and chatbots allow them to do just that.
Contact centres that continue to lag in adopting this important technology will soon find they’re falling behind in more significant ways.
Thanks to Cyara
14. Identify Customer Pain Points
Benchmark the performance of your contact centre with test automation. Today’s end-to-end automated testing can simulate thousands of customer calls into your contact centre, to validate each step of the customer journey.
Dependent upon the interoperability of multiple systems, customer journeys have multiple points of possible failure: from the point where a call is received from a carrier network, through IVR prompting to successful routing, agent look-ups and screen pops, all the way through to capturing feedback via a voice survey after the call.
Automated testing will ensure that each component of the customer journey is working as it should. Testing will determine with total accuracy not only if key events are happening as they were designed to, but also whether each event took place as quickly as needed to satisfy customer expectations and with the quality that is desired.
And vitally, by reproducing the conditions of when, where, and how these customer pain points take place, your teams can take rapid action to eliminate them, thus minimizing customer impact and improving quality.
15. Don’t Forget Your IVR
When it comes to first impressions, IVR or IVA is a make-or-break function. It can enable frictionless customer service, or it can be a source of service dysfunction that prompts users to seek better experiences elsewhere.
If designed well, it can not only orchestrate successful customer journeys but also use internal resources more efficiently.
It can provide speedy routing to the right customer service representative and enable successful self-service. Yet in spite of this, IVR is all too often overlooked by quality teams in the contact centre.
Frequent updates often take place without any testing to ensure that customer journeys are happening as designed.
By using the latest automated testing technology, it is possible to identify and eliminate possible sources of customer frustration – before your customers point them out to you!
Thanks to Kurt Dahlstrand at Hammer
16. Keep Up With Technology
At the heart of today’s evolving contact centres is the swiftly changing technology that’s enabling entirely new ways of interaction between brands and customers.
Broadly speaking, this is driving digital transformation (DX), the wholesale shift from analogue to digital service delivery.
This process accelerated to light speed during the pandemic, when many companies sped their service digitization by three to four years in just a few months.
There are many tools driving this digital transformation, but perhaps none is more important than AI and its counterpart, machine learning (ML).
This technology has come quite far in recent years, allowing brands to offer more self-service options that customers want. It also enables powerful processes such as voice and sentiment analysis or next best action recommendations for agents.
When you also consider that contact centres can now automate various processes, from basic service requests to IVR testing, today’s technology is rapidly changing what contact centres are capable of.
Thanks to Cyara
17. Use Technology to Drive Engagement
Your technology is customized to connect your users to your product, but it can also foster and build that connection through digital channels.
With an omnichannel strategy, technical improvements can create quality touchpoints, which make marked differences in your bottom line. By providing your end-users with an always-on, thoughtful way to connect to your business, access increases bandwidth and opportunity.
Your digital strategy should be predicated on the idea that the more your customer interacts with your business, the more they like it.
When the customer happy path is fluid and the sales path is carefully funnelled, they can both be driven by technology. Watch out for marketing and sales platforms and tools that are reductive and transaction-based instead of relationship-based.
Thanks to Ermelinda Procter at Alvaria
Additional Advice for Successful Customer Engagement Transformation
Reduce the Impact of Outages
We recently commissioned some independent research which showed that contact centre outages are on the increase.
Yet just three out of ten contact centre leaders said they were very confident in their ability to handle unexpected surges around seasonal peaks.
The average cost of downtime depends upon the industry, the time of day, and many other factors, but losses can be significantly higher for businesses such as banks and online retailers which rely on very large agent populations to service thousands of transactions per hour.
An unplanned outage during peak traffic time can lead not only to lost revenue and agent churn, but also to reputational damage.
Back in 2014, Gartner predicted the average cost of IT downtime at $5,600 per minute; some businesses say an hour of downtime can cost them $1-5 billion. Of course, some outages are unavoidable, but many aren’t. By deploying load testing you can ensure your contact centre is leaving nothing to chance.
Thanks to Kurt Dahlstrand at Hammer
Know Where You Are Heading
Customer service delivery has changed rapidly over the past decade, speeding to a blur in recent years.
The COVID-19 pandemic may have forever altered how customers prefer to interact with companies, and this has put contact centres at the forefront of this changing relationship.
The straightforward lines of phone communication between one customer and one human agent have been replaced by an intricate and interconnected web that weaves humans and technology across an array of service channels.
This complex new network opens a host of fresh possibilities for how brands engage prospects and customers, but contact centres must embrace and implement the technology that drives it.
For leaders to do that, they need to know where contact centres are headed. From artificial intelligence (AI) to omnichannel service.
Thanks to Cyara
For more great insights and advice from our panel of experts, read these articles next: