Most customer service operations are on a relentless march towards omnichannel. Although digital is the way forward, no business should roll out new digital channels for their own sake. Any implementation needs to be in the context of the customer journey, with a focus on continuous improvement. In other words, a business should concentrate on the whole experience a customer has, encompassing all interactions across all channels, devices and touchpoints throughout every stage of the lifecycle – from awareness to loyalty. In this way, organisations can achieve enhanced customer retention and also drive competitive advantage. Here, we outline some top tips to make this happen.
Think about what the different stages of your customers’ interaction with you are and what needs they have in each stage. That will then help you decide what blend of channels, touchpoints and devices is best at giving your customers what they want. By segmenting customers into groups and working out what channels are best suited for each type, organisations can focus on providing the fastest journey time, with the least amount of effort and highest reliability. It is critical however that the map they draw is from their customer’s point of view.
Too often in the past, we have seen businesses layering as many new channels as they can. Typically, as a result, they fall short of maintaining the quality and consistency of the service they offer across all of them. It can be very damaging, for example, for a business to add a raft of new social media channels but then fail to put in place trained staff to manage them and respond to comments in a timely manner. Instead, the priority should be to get backbone customer interaction channels working to a high standard – those channels will generally include voice and email, but they may also encompass web chat, web self-service, and capability within their own applications, for example.
It’s key that as channels are brought on stream, they are integrated to ensure customers get a seamless experience whatever channel they are interacting over, and critically, when switching from one channel to another. Otherwise, businesses run the risk of building customer frustration. Organisations should make sure that by fully integrating their channels, they capture all the necessary context and present it to the agent at the point of interaction.
As customers become more accustomed to digital technologies, artificial intelligence and advanced automation will gain importance in customer journeys. As early as 2011, Gartner was stating that by 2020, customers will manage 85% of their relationship with the enterprise without interacting with a human.
Machine learning will be crucial in the future. Systems that can learn from data, identify patterns and make decisions with minimal human intervention are likely to have an important role to play in customer service in the future. In the context of the contact centre, chatbots can be key in helping to transform the customer experience. First, they can help minimise the effort it takes for a customer to resolve an issue.
Second, they can be easily integrated in a website or with an app, enabling people to interact with them directly, as though communicating with a human.
Even with optimum planning of the customer journey, there will always be engagements complex enough to require human involvement, including what McKinsey terms “moments of truth: those interactions – for instance, a lost credit card or a cancelled flight – when customers invest a high amount of emotional energy in the outcome.” It’s important that organisations put skilled resources in place to manage these interactions. After all, these ‘moments of truth’ give organisations a great opportunity to turn a stressed, angry or unhappy customer into a loyal advocate for their brand.
Organisations can also help improve the customer journey by making use of outbound notifications, including reminders and confirmations. By sending a text, for example, GPs or dentists could update patients about an appointment or remind them to renew their prescription. This will also help to reduce the volume of calls going into the contact centre and reduce the level of traffic and demand being placed on the website.
By providing self-service options, and thereby giving customers greater flexibility, organisations can further enhance the customer journey, making it easier for them to purchase or receive service from the business.
Harness all the relevant data at your disposal from reporting to AI-driven machine learning and the ability to access a 360 degree view of the customer’s contact history to further streamline the journey turning it in an effortless and happy experience for customers.
Ultimately, we may be living in an omnichannel world with benefits to customers and the businesses that supply them but if businesses are to get the most from their interactions with customers, they need to understand what their customers are looking for from the engagement and start mapping those customer journeys today.
For a deeper understanding of the industry download the latest Contact Babel UK Contact Centre Decision Makers Guide for an insightful look at all aspects of contact centre operations.
Organizations with Contact Centers are in an enviable position – each and every day, they gather customer data that is constantly refreshed and upgraded. When you think about it, they are getting a steady stream of new information from an unbiased focus group.