Fonolo Blog is Customer service and customer experience blog for call center professionals. Fonolo provides call-back solutions for the call center. Replace hold time with a call-back, regardless of the channel - web, mobile and phone.
It’s been a year since Apple announced “Business Chat”. The company staked out an audacious goal: to become the preferred channel for customer service communication. A year ago, Facebook, a competitor on this front, was reeling from weeks of bad press over privacy issues. But now, Facebook stock has hit a new all time high, with those transgressions seemingly forgotten by the market.
However, Facebook isn’t the main competitor, that title is still held by the phone call. On that front, there is still a steep hill to climb. Apple’s unique position as a vertically integrated provider of software, hardware, and services gives it both strengths and weaknesses in getting to the top of that hill.
Apple’s Strength: Fixing the Onboarding Challenge
Consumer behavior around customer service is hard to change. When you ask consumers, they strongly favor chat over phone calls. But at the same time, we don’t see the decrease in phone calls that you would expect (see here, here and here). So consumers prefer chat in theory, but when it’s time to engage in an actual transaction with an actual company it seems they end up reaching for the phone.
Apple made it a point to have onboarding points throughout the iOS experience: via Maps, Safari or Search. This tight integration is something only they can do.
Apple’s Weakness: Dependence on iOS.
To use Business Chat, you have to have either an iOS or MacOS device. That’s covers a lot of people, but it’s still a limitation. Remember, a majority of US residents are on Android (54% according to Statista). World-wide, the numbers are much worse for Apple.
Apple allows custom elements to be added to the chat experience, such as a seat-selection interface. However, these features are only available iOS.
The counter to this argument is that among affluent US residents, Apple is dominant, and this is the most important demographic for businesses that are considering Apple Business Chat.
Apple’s Strength: Privacy
The Business Chat launch page says prominently, “Control what you share… the company can’t see personal information, like your name or phone number, unless you choose to share it for appointments or deliveries.”
For Apple, this is the pay-off from years of investing in their credibility around privacy.
Apple’s advantage here is more than just “privacy” per se, it’s about being isolated from social media in general. I think consumers have a general wariness of social media. Even if Facebook or Twitter creates ways to communicate privately and securely with companies, there is a lack of trust to overcome. Moreover, this impacts the decision-making from the company’s perspective too. They may be more hesitant to blend customer service with the general marketing and communication that they are already doing on social media. For more on that see here and here.
Finally, a Word on Bots
When Business Chat was first announced, it seemed that Apple wanted to keep the service about connecting people with people. The launch page stated: “… your conversations will be with a live agent. You might get a fast, automated response for simple requests, but a real person will be available if needed.” More here.
This seemed to be prescient decision, when you look at Facebook suspending new bot additions to its Messenger app in March. (They said they need time to sorts out permissions and privacy settings.) after its recent political traumas.
We now know, from the recent deployment in the Cannes Lions festival, that Apple is more open to bots. According to Apple Insider, the festival’s chat response was “…manned by a mix of human representatives and bots… [offering] access to useful information… about event schedules, shopping and dining, parties, nearby places of interest, current goings-on and more.”
The question is, how much should we read into Apple’s wording that bots are for “simple requests” and that “…a real person will be available if needed”?
How quickly will a person be available?
Is there some penalty if companies do not live up to that promise?
Is Apple going to make sure that bots meet a minimum standard of competence?
If so, that’s a big burden on Apple and a scary loss-of-control for the company. If not, then there is a danger that bad automated response-bots will sour consumers on this channel. Remember the onboarding challenge: Consumers need to have confidence that this channel is a safe bet. Otherwise, they’ll keep picking up the phone.
It’s that special time of year. Put your hands together and give it up for the 2018 winners of Fonolo’s Customer Experience Excellence Awards!
Each year, Fonolo takes pause and looks at the big CX picture, studying the work of the best and brightest contact centers across all industries and regions. It awards those that shoot for the stars by significantly reducing hold times and thus winning the hearts of clients. We are honored to acknowledge two amazing businesses for their outstanding achievement in improving their customers’ experiences through the offering of call-backs. The recognized companies have optimized their agent experiences, reduced abandon rates, and made award-winning experiences for their customers. We are proud of them.
PFSweb (NASDAQ:PFSW) is a Global Commerce Operations Partner with solutions spanning branded fulfillment services, high-touch customer care, intensive fraud management offerings, and scalable WMS and OMS technologies. PFS is a business unit of PFSweb, Inc.
First Bank, a subsidiary of FB Corporation, is a family-owned business that offers the stability and experience with long-term planning that helps businesses and the communities in which they operate grown and thrive. With more than $66 billion in assets and 94 locations throughout California, Missouri and Illinois, First Bank has developed a relationship-driven approach to offer comprehensive solutions for clients in commercial and consumer banking, wealth management, mortgage banking and more.
A Word About this Year’s Winners:
“The awards season is always an exciting time for us. Each year we are thrilled to acknowledge eminent recipients for their commitment to outstanding CX. This year is no different” said Shai Berger, CEO, Fonolo. “With Fonolo’s pivotal cloud-based call-back technology, the 2018 recipients have gone above and beyond in eliminating hold time while giving precious time back to their customers. Join me us in applauding their exceptional work.”
Remarks from the Recipients:
We take great pride in providing a world-class customer experience through our global contact centers. Fonolo’s advanced technology gives us the flexibility needed during high-volume periods to improve service levels and give precious time back to customers. We are honored to receive this award and look forward to continued success with Fonolo in the future.
— Zach Thomann, SVP and PFS General Manager, PFSWeb
The client experience is one of our key performance indicators. Waiting on hold certainly creates a negative experience we prefer to avoid, but when it does happen we appreciate the safety net Fonolo provides. We have received positive feedback from our clients about this newly implemented alternative to waiting on hold.
— Jeff Yielding, Vice President of Client Contact Center, First Bank
How will technology change customer service? A common answer to this question is, “Improvements in automation and self-service will erode the importance for call centers and the human agents in them.” That answer gets reinforced every time you read an announcement from a company touting success of a new automation project. It also gets strengthened by the marketing efforts of all the vendors selling self-serve technology. However, if we adjust for recency bias and profit motive, can we still be sure this trend is real? It’s a question too important for casual conclusions.
Look Beyond the Headlines
“A Million People are Using Bank of America’s Chatbot” says the headline in American Banker. Impressive. But, the question to ask when you see a headline like this is, “Are these transactions that otherwise would have been done by phone calls? Or would they have been via, say, a web interface?” In other words, does this new channel replace what would have been a human interaction, or offer a different form of self-service?
That answer matters because if new forms of self-serve are primarily cannibalizing older forms of self-serve, than we can expect call volumes (and agent headcount) to stay the same. That doesn’t devalue this particular deployment — it may be providing an improved experience for the bank’s customers — or any deployment in general. But it does set a ceiling on the impact. Are we swapping out one kind of self-serve with another, or are we expanding the coverage of self-serve?
Is it possible that we are at or near a kind of saturation, where everything that can be “self-serv-ized” already has been? What then? We covered this topic, from a slightly different angle, here: What’s the Ceiling on Self-Service?
Another Way to Think About it
Consider the universe of all self-service technology. From mail-order catalogs to touch-tone IVR to chatbots. They are all answers to the question, “How do we let the customer do more, so that employees do less?” At the end of the day, that’s what “self-service” means, right?
[I know that phrasing sounds negative, but it is not necessarily so. If cost savings are passed on to the customer or if customers end up happier self-serving anyway, then everyone wins, as self-service gets better.]
The universe evolves: Mail-order catalogs are long gone. Faxing is on its way out. Chatbots are the new star on the horizon. Faxing an order was replaced by punching it in to an IVR, then replaced by a form on a website, and maybe now being replaced with a mobile app. But the task, i.e. “submit an order” has been in the self-serve universe this whole time. This is growth-by-substitution; a zero-sum game.
The universe expands: As the tools get better, the boundary between what can be self-served keeps getting pushed back. Agents handle a narrower scope of transactions, skewed to the difficult edge cases.
Growth-by-substitution is easier to measure. (Headlines like the one about Bank of America are easy to find.) Growth-by-expansion is harder.
There’s a Low Bar and a High Bar
With chatbots, we’re definitely seeing growth-by-substitution. That’s not surprising because the bar for this is not so high. Success requires your chatbot to:
1. handle transactions that your customers care about, and
2. provide a better experience than the alternatives, which are probably your website or IVR system.
The bar to actually replace agent-powered conversations is much higher. A lot of people read headlines and think this second, higher bar has been cleared, when it’s really the first one.
[It’s like in the early days of television. All you needed to be a hit show was to be better than the shows on the other 2 channels at the same time slot.]
The real question is can chatbots actually grow the self-serve universe? Can they take a larger share of tickets away from agents? That question still seems unanswered.
Full disclosure: I’ve been watching a lot of Star Trek: The Next Generation lately. And no, it’s not all about spaceship battles, alien encounters, and boldly-colored jumpsuits. It’s about the future (the year 2364 to be exact), and it gives anyone in the Customer Experience (CX) racket a lot to think about.
One of the more fascinating components of each episode is the “futuristic” technology weaved into the story lines. While many of the gadgets began as hair-brained offerings on the part of the writers, my generation has lived to see some of them realized, even mass produced: Medical scanners, FaceTime, 3D Printing, online communication networks, and iPads/digital tablets are a normalized part of our here-and-now. But while on Star Trek the technologies often aid in bringing humans and other diverse species closer together in a post-currency world, in reality it has arguably distanced humans from one another, wrenching their attention away from people and towards the flickering screens of their phones.
Because of their omnipresence in our lives, similar tools have been implemented into customer service experiences (and with varying degrees of success), but ‘technology in CX’ remains a moving target. While a few years ago there may have been more of a customer demand for chat bots, DIY online self-services, and service apps to improve the customer experience, this year brands are noting that they should be more customer-centric, personalized, customized, and humane.
The desire for ‘humanity’ in CX is certainly not a new concept; there have been ebbs and flows in what this has meant over the past few centuries. In this particularly pivotal moment in the CX trajectory, it’s good practice to look to the past before taking any steps forward. We thought it prudent to slide into the way-back machine and ask: What was customer service like before the emergence of automation, self-serve kiosks, online do-it-yourself services, and touch-tone automation? What did it mean to have a people-centric customer experience during the Golden Age in America? What experiences knocked it out of the park?
Experience the 1950s: America’s Golden Age of CX
The 1950s marked an industrial boom in America, a period of resilience and rebirth following a series of challenging years for the nation. With the Great Depression and World War II in its rear view mirror, the country now focused on thriving and growing. Be it department stores, restaurants, airplanes or movie theatres, the customer felt this wave of prosperity washing upon them at every turn. And, with the 1947 creation of The International Organization for Standardization in 1947 (an international body “which promotes worldwide proprietary, industrial, and commercial standards” for 162 countries), customers were king and their interests were protected in the decade to follow. Much of the success of the 1950s CX experience can be attributed to a few rules:
1. Be Polite (and Polished)
Part of the charm of successful 1950s customer interactions were the polite and attentive sales clerks and purveyors who learned customer names, offered suggestions on products without peddling, and believed deeply in the products they sold. In fact, they were product ambassadors with the knowledge and skill to make the experience seamless and sweet from start to finish. Part of a successful customer interaction is as simple as making it pleasant, a conversation between two people which happens to end with a sale. While customers today are more harried and taxed for time, we can drop a bit of sunshine into our speech when chatting with clients (a little goes a long way).
2. Be Special
We may have personal TV screens and wayward bags of free pretzels on airplanes in 2018, but this doesn’t mean that airlines have come a long way in their CX journey. In fact, it might be the opposite. In the 1950s, commercial flying was a special, beloved experience; guests dressed up in their finest duds, and reveled in the lap of luxury while aboard. As airline tickets were cost-prohibitive (a domestic flight could run you close to $1200 in today’s cash), those who could afford it expected all luxuries imaginable. With the extra legroom, more on-board ‘freebies’, and high-quality meals, customers felt not only human, but special. While modern brands may not be able to serve a lobster with each customer interaction, they may consider small ways of bringing the ‘special’ back into their service regimen.
3. Be Mobile
Engaging with customers in the 1950s was truly a two-way street: Businesses began incorporating cars into their customer experience offering, making use of the easiest means of travel in the lives of their targeted customers. Not only did restaurant services like White Spot, A&W, and Sonic make the drive-in model one of fast food and convenience, mobile businesses like Mr. Softee brought its sweet products within walking distance of customers’ doors. The moral of the story? Be present by making it easy for customers to reach you, and for you to reach them.
4. Be Generous
For some in the 1950s, going to a movie was akin to going to the symphony. Patrons dressed in their finery from head to toe, and considered it a momentous occasion perhaps due to the generosity of the experience. Movie theaters of yore were generous with patrons’ time: Pre-film features only showed news reels and cartoons, thus giving them time to enjoy an experience without being targeted by ads. Theaters were also generous with personal time, and offered intermission for patrons to refresh and restore. Added to this was a generosity with amenities and prices: Movie snacks were relatively inexpensive, which meant moviegoers weren’t spending much above and beyond what they had already paid for tickets. The lesson here: Every now and then, and whenever possible, and for no other reason than being respectful and thankful of your customers’ time (and money), be generous.
5. Be ‘Plugged In’
As businesses boomed in the post-war years, they were soon finding themselves unable to cope with the growing number of customers and their support needs. But those who were ‘plugged in’ to technological advances and incorporated call centers into their customer culture made life easier for all involved. Although it crystallized in the 1960s and beyond, the first Automatic Call Distributor (ACD) emerged in the 1950s and helped streamline customer service functions across large businesses. From this humble starting point, businesses were able to grow their call center offerings to include things like touch-tone, hold technology, and in more contemporary times, call-back solutions.
Even though populations, prices, and circumstances have changed, there is something to glean from how CX was approached so many years ago. These tried, tested, and true 1950s rules of thumb would serve any brand well in reimaging its CX journey in 2018.
Even the mere mention of the acronym is enough to make one cringe. We’ve all had less-than-stellar experiences interacting with a robotic, impersonal interactive voice response. Be it the endless menus, the hunting and pecking for options on the keypad, and worst of all, the failure of the system to understand your request, is enough to drive even the calmest person crazy.
The truth is, when someone contacts your call center, they demand (and deserve) time and attention, and if these expectations are not met efficiently it can be costly. Despite this, call centers continue to use IVR technology, as it is widely considered to be a necessary evil. It can drastically improve the efficiency of call routing and thus putting callers in contact with the right agents, a critical piece of the customer experience.
Although an IVR is highly praised from a call center perspective, it doesn’t change the fact that callers strongly dislike interacting with them. Luckily, the modern call center is changing as technology improves and becomes easier to use. Just look at call-back solutions, a once desired, nice-to-have is now absolutely mandatory in the call center realm. So, rather than completely roasting IVRs, below we discuss warning signs that it might be time for an upgrade.
Losing Customers in an IVR Abyss
An IVR system that’s difficult to navigate is a recipe for failure. Placing the caller in no man’s land after lengthy prompts can irritate the caller to the point where they’ll just hang up and bring up their issues on social media instead. Spend some time experiencing the IVR prompts for yourself; if they seem too long, work to reduce. If your archaic system has too many restrictions, then you’re clearly due for an upgrade. Tip from the top: Be sure to include the IVR experience in any of your VOC programs so you can monitor and admire your improvement.
Zeroing Out – Because it’s the Easy Thing to Do
You can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken. If customers are “zeroing out” so they can speak to an agent, it’s likely due to a problem with your IVR. A clear sign of zeroing out will be based on your containment rate – the amount of customers who abandoned or transferred out of the IVR to speak with an agent. An upgraded IVR will provide visibility and analytics so you can see where your containment is suffering.
Agent Fatigue and Low Morale
Your front-line staff are just as important as your callers. Perhaps you’re not lucky enough to hear directly from your customers, but you can at least get feedback from your CSRs. If agents are telling you that customers are complaining about the interaction with your IVR, an issue with routing, or the amount of prompts contained in the message, don’t take it lightly; take it to heart and let that propel you into action. Your agents get the brunt of IVR-related complaints, among others, and can be a huge resource for customer feedback. Use their feedback as a way of gauging whether you should bring change to your current IVR infrastructure.
Lacking Critical Features
There are all sorts of features and capabilities that the modern IVR can offer. So, if you’re butting heads at a boardroom table over a problem and find yourself answering, “our IVR can’t do that”, it’s likely a sign that you need to upgrade. For example, machine learning capabilities allow you to predict why a customer is calling, and analytic capabilities let you identify telephony-based fraud. These are just a few examples of some of some of the features that might be critical to your call center. If it makes a difference to the experience and your overall performance, consider the upgrade.
As the weather warms up in the West and many take off for their summer holidays, customers are increasingly dealing with big-brand companies in the business of travel: Airlines. Modern airline customer service (CS) is a far cry from the days when Don Draper-like marketers were designing prime service experiences for anyone who could afford to climb aboard (as marketed in this 1954 ad for American Airlines).
This month, some of the top global airlines have been criticized on social media for their insufferably poor customer service, including established companies like American Airlines, British Airways, Norwegian Airlines, Aer Lingus, Thomas Cook, Lufthansa, and Air Canada. The hold times, lack of response, poor multi-channel infrastructure, and even poor in-cabin experiences have now conflated bad CS with the airline industry, so much so that it has become something The Onion has parodied many times, including here, here, and here.
But customers who experience bad CS at any moment in their airline journey have discovered a very loud, very public, very useful tool in spilling the dirt on bad airline CS: Twitter. And luckily, for everyone involved, we have been on top of monitoring it all.
Powered by Fonolo, OnHoldWith.com is a community-driven, Fonolo-powered website that aims to end hold-times for good. The data-gathering hub does this by pulling all social mentions of customers experiencing long hold times, as well as their visceral, off-the-cuff, and sometimes hilarious repartee. As much as these make for an entertaining read, they offer a lesson for contemporary businesses: Be mindful of social media as a new customer service channel, and have social media agents on hand to monitor burns against your brand. More and more, social media is a place where the customer feels they have a voice, but when being put on hold they have none.
Among the many Tweets we read, some trends emerged:
No customer wants to be put on hold,
When put on hold for so long, customers begin to think “They Don’t C-Air About Us”,
Most would prefer a call-back option, and
If you still have a hold time problem, do your customers a solid and play decent music.
Read on as we highlight some of the top hold-time offenders for June, featuring companies which span the globe. Through these candid, sometimes amusing, social media shout-outs, companies can learn a lot about how to get their contact centers to rise up to any customer challenge.
It looks like Air Canada provides a memorable customer experience, but unfortunately that experience includes long hold times and a faulty omni-channel network:
I even called @aircanada for help (after being on hold for 30+ minutes) and they said the only way is to try to contact on the website
Playing one song on repeat for a customer service hold is a bold move for any company intending to keep their customers on a 20 wait @AerLingus most companies don’t try to bait already annoyed customers, unless your tactic is just defeat by audio exhaustion.
It’s not all fun and jokes. The reality is, making hard-working people wait on the line is taking precious minutes off their lives and stealing it away from quality time with their loved ones. It’s no way to treat a customer who invests in your brand:
@united I’ve been on hold (with your 800 number) for 63 minutes now, and I’m still waiting. This is so very frustrating. I’m sure you understand how difficult it is for a working parent to find 63 minutes in their busy work week to go through this. Please make this better.
Please respond to my DM, I’m not available to sit on hold for hours at a time. So much for being a loyal customer!? I get being busy but telling me to call customer service who cannot be reached versus responding to my concern is a joke…
Most people don’t realize the impressive scale of the contact center industry. Collectively, we spent 190 billion minutes calling a company for help. On the other side of those calls were 3.6 million people working as agents (and those numbers are just for the US).
Companies spend roughly $22 billion on the technology enabling all of these interactions, and with the market undergoing a massive change in the last decade, that number will continue to grow. The idea of the call center as a cloud-based service has switched from being impractical, to now almost inevitable.
How Far Along Are We?
If you listen to the vendors of cloud call centers, and the general chatter in the industry, you might get the feeling that everyone has switched to cloud, except for a few laggards. For example, one report claims an impressive 24% compound annual growth rate, projecting an increase from $5.43 billion in 2016 to $15.67 billion by 2021. Another report predicts 18% CAGR out to 2022 (see image below, but note the odd horizontal axis).
So the growth is impressive, but when you look at the whole picture, you can see that cloud remains the minority of call center deployments out there. Some reports say 95% of all agent seats are still premise-based. In a recent interview, Avaya CEO, Jim Chirico speculated that the cloud-conversion is about 10% done.
Switching Ain’t Easy
The number is low partly because of the long replacement cycles for existing call centers, but even new deployments are not all cloud. In May, Genesys said, “While on-premises deployments continues to represent the majority of [our] business, more than half of the 700 new customers (roughly 400), including notable brands such as Coca-Cola, selected a cloud model.” Doing the math… 300 of the 700 new deployments were for on-premise equipment, so there’s still life left for on-premise call centers.
Another reason companies hesitate to switch their call center to cloud is the sunk cost they have in their existing equipment. If the call center is functioning well, and the purchase price was long-ago amortized, it’s hard to justify new spend. Cisco has many clients in this situation, which they’re trying to address in a new program.
Other Friction-Causing Factors
Beyond financial factors, companies may be reluctant for other reasons to move their call center away from the tried-and-true premise-based equipment model. Even as more and more parts of the enterprise software were being converted to cloud, the call center has always lagged.
People thought the real-time, mission-critical nature of the call center meant it wasn’t a good candidate to be a cloud service.
The high-bandwidth needs of voice, which are unique to the call center, made people worry about audio quality, dropped calls, and impact on bandwidth available for other applications in the business.
Security and privacy concerns have played a big role. There are a number of regulations that apply different standards to voice, as opposed to data. On an intuitive level, the idea of a customer’s call being intercepted and recorded by a nefarious 3rd party seems much scarier than a regular data breach.
We Know the Direction, But Not the Pace
No one doubts that cloud deployments are going to grow. The big question is whether the current pace will continue so that we end up with an all-cloud world, or if it will plateau and reach a steady-state with some percentage of call centers remaining on-premise indefinitely.
We’re here today to talk to you about *cringe* peak times.
Peak times tend to be a touchy topic for call centers. Almost every center experiences them, and most don’t know how to handle the volume without adding more agents.
Every contact center is different, which means that peak times can take on various forms. Some experience the surge on certain days of the week (typically Mondays), others surge during specific times pf the day, and some only experience surges on holidays. It really comes down to the type of business your contact center is supporting; but, regardless of the variety of industries, the solution to the problem remains consistent – and it has nothing to do with workforce management (WFM).
As luck would have it, we’re speaking about this normally cringe-worthy topic next week, and have invited in a special guest speaker who conquered the mountain that is the peak-time challenge. You’ll hear from Ricardo Mejia, Vice President Centralized Services, First Service Credit Union, who will discuss how his contact center reduced abandon rates, improved the calling experience for customers and agents, and seized the opportunity to better manage spikes in call volume.
Shai is the Co-Founder and CEO of Fonolo, a leading provider of cloud-based call-back solutions. As an innovator in the space, Shai is on a clear mission to educate the call center industry on how to improve the customer experience.
Ricardo Mejia, VP Centralized Services, First Service Credit Union
Ricardo is the VP of Centralized Services for First Service Credit Union, a financial cooperative providing financial services that enhance members’ lives. As an experienced lending executive, he offers knowledge in regulatory compliance, staff development, and meeting customer needs.
National CU Call Center Conference
Whether your client-facing business is a long-standing institution or the brand new kid on the block, you ought to keep this one fact in mind. In the midst of an increasingly digital space, where human interactions and considerations have the potential to get lost in the mix, it’s easy to forget that most of us are in the business of people; consumers are the heartbeat of our companies, and their feedback and acknowledgement of our good work can keep us chugging along.
Our greatest challenge in an increasingly competitive marketplace? Being memorable. More and more, a way of standing out from the crowd and winning over customers is by ensuring a top-notch, personal experience from start to finish. Customer experience (CX) continues to be one of the top competitive differentiators this year, and as a result, can no longer be ignored. If ramping up your CX is a new consideration for you and seems an insurmountable task, fear not: Our quick cheats (and handy infographic) are invaluable resources when reconsidering your CX in 2018, and will keep you on a steady course to a photo finish this year.
Ready Player One?
1. Make the customer experience as personalized as possible.
2. Give something away for free – and for no reason.
3. Be proactive! Fix problems before they happen.
4. Be grateful for every customer complaint you receive. Each piece can better your business.
5. Celebrate your greatest customers, both publicly and personally.
6. Give the gift of omni-channel.
7. Minimize your response times to maximize your customer experience.
8. Listen and learn: Read every single review of your business.
9. Respond to customer requests in real time.
10. Be more available on mobile.
11. Crown the customer as your brand ambassador.
12. Grow stronger with surveys: Make customer feedback surveys a bigger deal.
13. Easy does it: Make the customer journey easy as pie.
14. Get personal: Get to know your customers by asking them questions, big and small.
15. Keep your eye on calls: Take note of peak times, call spikes, and other trends. Provide the tools to improve them.
16. Whenever possible, never put a customer on hold.
17. Build smarter AI: Invest in the growing, ever-changing AI technology that younger customers love.
18. Change things up with chatbots.
19. Say “Thank You”.
20. #SpringTraining: Educated, fast-acting agents make for repeat customers.
21. Engage your agents: Provide support staff with a mutually supportive environment.
22. Happiness is contagious.
23. #CoffeeTalk: Improve internal communication.
24. It comes from the top: Get CEOs on board with a customer-first culture.
25. Learn from complaints.
26. Be memorable.
27. Faces and places: Remember the personal parts of your customers.
28. Dig into the data. Collect customer information from all channels.
29. Read and hear customer feedback. Take it to heart. Take it personally.
30. Mine customer data for gold.
31. Be the change your customers want to see in the world: Implement their feedback.
32. Follow through – keep promises.
33. Customer complaints on repeat? Get on the ground and look for the root of the problem.
34. Treat every day as an educational moment.
35. Create communities: Invite customers in via webinars and interactive journeys.
36. Adapt (or perish): Keep up to date with CX technology.
37. Never rush a customer off the phone.
38. Empathize with upset customers: Say you’re sorry.
39. Never be afraid to ask for help, or advice.
40. Give your customers the option to design or customize their experience with your brand.
41. Every employee should be on the same page of what your brand stands for.
42. Get rid of jargon: Speak plainly to the customer.
43. Provide the option for online self-service.
44. Hire people who live to serve.
45. Use technologies that support both the customer and the agent.
46. Calm customers with call-backs.
48. Create a quotable company mandate that everyone can get behind.
49. Keep your standards high.
50. Role models: Study up on the companies who are knocking CX out of the park, and learn from their successes.
Keep these tips in your back pocket, and use them as your CX cheat sheet. If you require a deeper dive into ramping up your CX regimen, be sure to check out our recent white paper which gives a play-by-play of the CX trends for the year.
2018 is game time. It’s time to look at your customers as teammates rather than as opponents. It’s time to reboot your customer experience game. And: It’s time for you to win.
Here is the reality: A poor (or even worse, unmemorable) customer experience (CX) has led to a resounding “Game Over” for many businesses in the last few years. In 2018, becoming a winning company with a devoted fan base is no easy feat. With a crowded online marketplace and so many variables at work (be they social media, evolving digital tools, emerging AI, employee turnover, cutbacks, or the increasingly discerning consumers in the global market), developing a workable strategy to engage with – and win over – the hearts of customers can seem impossible. No need to feel defeated, though: Certain trends are emerging that businesses should set a course to follow this year to vie for the number one spot. Achieving a top CX strategy is an integral part of this journey, and remains the number one priority for companies across the globe. Many are already wise to this fact: According to Forbes, as of last year, 75% of companies suggested that their prime objective was to cultivate an outstanding customer experience game plan in the future.
Put your hands firmly on the controls and press ‘Start’ on the top CX trends you need to be watching in 2018. Among them, one thing is certain: It’s time to invite your customers onto your team, and win.
1. Adapt or Perish: Be Agile with Your CX Offerings
Any professional team knows that every game is different, and winning is never a sure bet: Each comes with its own surprises, curveballs, and setbacks. In these scenarios, success is possible where players are deeply prepared; where the movements of the opponents are predicted; and where players remain agile and adaptable under pressure. In the CX game, similar principles apply. But instead of opponents, companies must increasingly consider the customer as the pivotal point for the success or failure of their business in 2018 and beyond. In fact, brands should be focusing less on their logos and products as the crux of their identities; the customer should be the number one brand ambassador instead. Some are already on top of their game: “50% percent of organizations have already adapted their business model around the customer experience.”
‘Adaptability’ in ensuring stellar CX is multifaceted, and applies to multiple parts of a business model. This year, companies must consider the following questions to set their CX levels high:
1) What is the best possible experience we can provide for our customers?
2) What kind of technology can we implement to ensure the best possible CX?
3) What technologies are hindering us and complicating the lives of both agents and clients?
4) How can we adapt to the customer, now and going forward?
Businesses are remaining quick on their feet and answering the above questions through several key CX solutions this year:
Providing a diverse customer experience by offering digital solutions and interactions with live agents: both serve different purposes, as well as different age groups and lifestyles. According to Medallia, “Companies that embrace the digital customer experience are 50% more likely to perform in the top quartile on CX”.
Overhauling company infrastructure to provide a more ‘personal’, intimate customer experience: Companies who have seen success in both online and in-store sales continue to reach the customer at every turn, via pop-up shops, alerts, and other innovative means.
Offering technology that eases the lives of customers, and acknowledges their increasingly mobile, digital lives: Providing online self-service; the ability to review your business efficiently via short online surveys; and offering chatbots for Q&As are a handful of ways to adapt your business to emerging digital channels.
Incorporating a CX cloud system as part of the business infrastructure: These systems synthesize every step of the customer interaction journey, taking into account all relevant channels. Not only does this lessen the chance of customers having to repeat themselves, it also provides rich consumer data to agents ahead of time. Customer experience clouds, which amalgamate rich customer data and make for a seamless digital experience, are the “pinnacle for businesses trying to achieve the ultimate, contextual customer experiences across the total buyer journey.”
One key factor in staying at the top of your customer experience game is remaining nimble in an increasingly demanding consumer marketplace, and ensuring that customers are able to positively experience your brand using the controls and platforms relevant to
them. Remember: How agile and adaptable you are will determine whether your brand wins or loses.
2. Say “Hi!” to A.I.: Bots Shake Hands with Brands
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is certainly not a new player in the CX strategy game. In 2018, AI will continue to be a viable tool for improving CX and engaging with customers on a deeper, faster, and winning level. AI is useful on many levels. It:
Frees up agents’ time by resolving minor inquiries that may not require human interference
Provides a quick’n’dirty form of outreach for mobile users who may balk at the idea of placing a call, and
Offers valuable data on the customer experience including FAQs, peak times, complaint resolution timelines, and even purchasing habits.
These uses certainly apply to chatbots, which brands have embraced at a dizzying speed. In the past, few customers knew of their existence, but according to Marketingland.com, chatbots will become a major focal point due to a significant investment in improving them for customers and market researchers alike. In a discussion on Facebook Messengers’ 100,000+ chatbots, Facebook VP of Messenger David Marcus says the social media giant and advertising tool has focused on ways “for people to bring bots into conversations with friends and the ability … to invoke bots when making recommendations to people.” Adding to this personalization, chatbots can also field frequently asked questions.
Working to improve chatbot technology is a trend to consider this year. In addition to providing customers with another channel for resolving product issues, it also delivers useful data that, if listened to and analyzed, could have a tremendous impact on the restructuring of a CX strategy. According to a study by Customer Think, AI and machine learning will become vital to a business’s success or failure in the marketplace. In fact, 94% of respondents suggested that “advanced technology” like AI is already a monumental factor in “helping their organization to overcome complex CX challenges.”
3. Maximum Velocity: The Need for Speed
The critical aspect to any ‘race to the top’ is speed. However, speed must be applied with skill and experience, while knowing the nuances of the journey one is taking. Whether your gaze is firmly fixed on customer service or the overarching customer journey, timeliness combined with efficiency is one of the most important, universal, and constant pieces of a good client experience. Your business depends on it.
But as AI, digital offerings, and business models begin to expand and grow, speed is a much more complex business than in the 1-800-only days. Speed and stealth on all channels is an absolute must for ensuring that customers are receiving the ideal experience at all times and in all mediums. Especially for businesses trying to corner competitive markets, speed remains a serious competitive differentiator.
The studies continue to do the talking on this well-discussed trend: For instance, Dynatrace conducted a global study revealing that “73% of retail organisations say the need for speed in digital innovation is putting customer experience at risk.” The study also highlights that the increased speed desired in a customer experience has meant an immense pressure on businesses to improve how often they update their own technologies, as they attempt to reach the high bar set by “soaring consumer expectations”. But this increase in speed on an organizational level comes at a cost: Almost 60% of those surveyed “admitted they are forced to compromise between faster innovation” and the need to provide a winning customer experience.
In 2018, companies must take a step back and examine the landscape and the way to navigate it using both stealth and speed, carefully rethinking their own journeys as well as the customers’. To put the pedal to the metal and accelerate speed (and CX) on all levels, they may consider:
Investing in more agents to support all the channels a business has in place
Implementing AI technologies to offset case volumes for those working in customer support
Making optimal use of all customer data collected by multiple channels. Organizations are making a concerted effort to address the massive customer insight data that often goes unanalyzed. According to Customer Think: “One of the biggest roadblocks to exceptional CX is dealing with customer data. Around one in three respondents highlight a lack of real-time customer insights as something holding them back from CX optimization, making it the most frequently experienced CX challenge”
Growing product development teams and analysts who can carefully review the rich information about customer experience that can be mined from the data collected from all channels, and
Considering the use of products (like call-back software, messaging, and chat-based tools) that minimize case volume, improve customer experience, and prevent agent-burnout.