This article originally appeared in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of CUSTOMER magazine.
Although I’m not one to make personal New Year’s resolutions, I’ve found that beginning the year with some goals in mind for my professional life often helps focus my efforts and priorities. Here are my top customer-focused priorities for 2013.
Pick one or all – each of them can truly make a difference in your customers’ experiences and help build loyal relationships.
Get back to basics
So often, I see people running after new and shiny things, but neglecting the basics and the foundations of customer service. Let’s make sure that we’re tending to things like regularly tuning voice applications, usability testing Web changes and updating agent skills and associated quality controls. Getting back to basics also means ensuring that technology is serving you well, providing you with the reports you need for key customer analytics, and that it’s configured in ways that streamline management and reduce complexity for multi-channel development and administration.
Walk in your customers’ shoes
To truly understand the voice of the customer, understand your customers’ journeys. Regularly attempt to perform the top four to five customer interaction on every channel and across channels. Use the data to reproduce great experiences and eliminate bad ones; to identify and fix inconsistent cross channel experiences; and to increase personalization across all channels. And see where you are missing opportunities, where there are channel gaps, and where customer contact channels should be beefed up.
Measure the right things
When it comes to customer experience, not many of us are measuring it well. In a world of multiple channels and changing expectations, traditional measures aren’t enough. Develop key metrics that support your strategy. If your goal is to build customer relationships, concentrate less on average handle time and more on the quality of the contact; measure success based on the level of visitor involvement with your website – not the number of hits. Your metrics should resonate with senior management. They should be customer centric, strategic and make a difference in how the business operates.
Understand customer lifecycles and moments of truth – and measure how well you are meeting customer expectations at key moments of truth. Also make sure that you quality monitor the customer experience across all channels, and not just live contacts.
Empower your agents
Empowering agents is more than giving them the ability to waive a $25 late fee. It’s empowering them with the right tools and knowledge to create a great customer experience. Create a culture of knowledge management to support them and streamline interactions. Make sure agents know what other channels the customer used before they reached for the phone. Provide them with ways to anticipate customer needs based on patterns, history and memory. For many, a call to the contact center is the last resort, so it’s critical that we get it right!
If you haven’t implemented mobile applications in 2011, or if your mobile apps are cobbled together in ways that mean reentering data or impossible reporting, get to work. Mobile is important in nearly all industries, but is required in retail, banking, insurance, transportation, and more today.
Start by making mobile part of your contact strategy. Create goals, understand customers and requirements and ensure that it fits into a comprehensive multichannel strategy that provides a consistent, compelling customer experience. Some of the keys to successful mobile deployment are apps that address all the mobile devices your customers use, apps that leverage mobile device functionality like video and location-based services, and apps that are multimodal in nature, enabling users to communicate in the mode that’s right for them at that moment.
Finally, resolve to get closer to your customers in 2013 to truly understand their needs. I don’t necessarily mean more surveys or focus groups. You can do it by analyzing the data you have at hand: evaluate customer behavior, analyze customer journeys, understand level of effort, evaluate how you can provide the best experience at key moments of truth. What’s important to your customers – speed? Handholding? Intimacy? Collaboration? They may want all of them but at different moments in the relationship. This complexity is what makes the customer experience so important and so dynamic.
Happy New Year! I’d love to hear about your resolutions.
Elaine Cascio is a vice president at Vanguard Communications Corp., a consulting firm specializing in customer experience, self service, contact center processes, operations and technology.
Edited by Braden Becker