15 January 2014
Steve Briggs, Managing Director of Jasco Enterprise
In increasingly commoditised markets, the
most important way for an organisation to distinguish itself from the pack – in
a sustainable way – is through providing customers with a quality customer
experience, and adding value to customers’ lives wherever possible.
Because of this, the discipline of customer
experience management (CEM) has risen to the fore in recent years as
organisations re-imagine the meaning of customer service. Once seen as a
cost-centre and an operational headache, customer relationships are now being
defined as one of the most important assets a company can have – intangible as
they may be on the balance sheet.
Today’s customer is a fickle being: they can
turn against you based on just one poor customer service interaction, or they
can hold the potential to become fiercely loyal brand advocates.
However, the hard-won process of naturally
converting people to becoming brand advocates cannot happen without providing
consistently excellent customer experience, and drawing key insights from each
There are many ways in which customer-facing
and back-office technologies can play a pivotal role in executing an effective
The first step is to ensure your organisation
is available to customers via whatever channel of communication they prefer. Moving to a multichannel environment involves
augmenting the traditional voice and email channels with things like
web-based instant messaging, video chat, SMS, ‘call me back’ buttons, and
The beauty of the multichannel environment is
that each of the touch-points has its own advantages. Video may be useful for
complex tasks such as providing technical assistance to customers, or
discussing high-value product purchases. A simple text-based web chat may be
appropriate as a pop-up invitation when it becomes clear a customer is
struggling with something like an online payment gateway for instance.
Essentially, with a multichannel contact
centre, there is a communication medium that suits every type of organisation,
every customer preference, and every point in the enquiry, sales and support processes.
This also improves the chances for
‘first-time resolution’ – which is something all contact centre managers are
constantly striving towards. Being able to facilitate first-time resolution via
the customers’ channel of preference could be regarded as a further enhancement
on this – something of a ‘holy grail’ in the world of customer experience.
resolution via the channel of choice is the ultimate goal at the front-end,
then at the back-end the most critical activity would be consolidating all the
rich data from the interactions across the various channels, into unique
Stored centrally – and preferably hosted as a
Cloud-based solution – this data should update instantly as agents capture new
information immediately following a customer interaction. The system should
detect certain patterns and common themes, to be relayed back to business
decision-makers in an understandable format.
Having this clear and comprehensive view of
the customer paves the way for another key facet of successful CEM: personalisation.
This concept goes beyond simply adding a customer name to the top of an email –
it involves a deeper understanding of the customers’ lives and preferences in
order to serve up tailored offers and specials, with text and imagery that
speaks to the customer’s identity.
Sometimes, achieving the goal of providing
superior customer experience means being able to give the customer the
opportunity to assist themselves without ever needing to speak to an agent.
Many customers will only revert to the contact centre as a last-resort – after
firstly trying the self-help tools at their disposal.
More often than not, this process of
self-service begins on the organisation’s website. An effective self-service
customer support centre includes relevant, up-to-date information, intuitive
navigation, and excellent search capabilities – for example, keyword searches.
Self-service content can be in the form of frequently asked questions,
community forums, manuals, videos, and interactive web-based decision trees or
Finally, for an organisation to retain its
competitive edge in the field of customer experience, it needs to keep a close
hand on emerging technologies and the ways in which they can further enhance
the customers’ interactions. New waves of innovation in the areas of big data
and biometrics – for instance – will rapidly alter CEM.
Big data is the term loosely describing the
process of structuring and using the massive volumes of contextual information
contained within customer emails, phone calls, web chats, instant messaging
sessions, and any other channel. Today, most companies let this information
slip away without recording it and utilising it for better understanding their customers.
Voice biometrics, on the other hand, is an
innovation with a far more specific application in the multichannel contact
centre. For voice interactions, this technology is useful at the authentication
layer – where a customer simply repeats a pre-selected sentence. This avoids
the customer having to answer authentication questions, or punch in numbers,
Ultimately, the degree to which an
organisation embraces all of these technologies, and how well they are
integrated into the back-office workflows, will determine the success of its
customer experience management strategy.
There are already a number of exciting tools
available to optimise the customer experience – and many more on the horizon.