These days, everyone from Google (News - Alert) to Coke is talking about customer experience. That’s because they’re realizing that as products and services become more commoditized, complex personal relationships with customers are now more important than ever.
However, despite this awareness, the vast majority of companies continue to fall behind in their ability to move the needle on delivering a truly differentiated customer experience. The Forrester (News - Alert) 2013 Customer Experience Index report shows that 61 percent of companies are rated OK, poor, or very poor by their customers, which is only a slight improvement of 2 percent compared to 2012.
It’s not that executives aren’t committed. They simply don’t realize how fast customer expectations have and will continue to change, nor do they understand what this means to their companies – and in particular, what it means for their customer experiences.
Although the customer experience challenge is one the entire company must own and address, the frontline contact center department bears a hefty burden. This is the place where customer service or sales agents directly interact with customers. Without the ability to know who they are or how best to connect with customers on an individual basis, contact center teams are not set up to do the best job possible.
As a rule, we’re just not there yet with personalizing frontline customer service and sales interactions to deliver a truly differentiated, highly satisfying customer experience.
Catching Up to Your Customers
We all know intuitively that today’s customers are continually connected, inherently better informed, and armed with the power to make a difference in a brand’s reputation based on their experiences with the company. Just take a look at what they’re doing when not being treated well or understood. According to an American Express (News - Alert) survey in 2012, one person with a bad customer service experience will directly tell 53 other people about the experience via social media, who pass it on to their friends and families. With so much at stake, isn’t it odd we’re still connecting with most of our customers in an outdated, one-size-fits-all service?
What happens when your customers have a question or issue? More likely than not, they get impersonal, inconsistent, and perhaps inaccurate responses. The sad reality is that a company’s most loyal customers often receive the same treatment as their least loyal. And chances are, a number of those loyal customers are looking for better experiences elsewhere.
In the age of smart customers who expect you to act like you know them, personalization is the future of experience, which makes it ever more imperative for your contact center to evolve faster and smarter in order to get there.
It All Starts With Data
Big data exploded onto the scene last year, and since then, nearly every department in the enterprise seems to be chasing new insights made possible by deep data analysis. But what about the contact center?
As the one place where companies get the often rare opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with customers, these departments should be a treasure trove of customer data. But too often that information is siloed across different systems, some of which the contact center has no control over. As a result, customer service agents have no single view of the customer and no rich insights to pull from big data.
Take health insurance companies for instance. They know more about us than almost any other organization, but are their contact centers using that vast information to deliver better, more personalized customer service? The answer is typically no. They’re not making the best use of the rich insights and customer information they have available to personalize the experience and create loyalty.
Putting Customer Intelligence to Better Use
The path to delivering a personalized customer service experience that separates your company from the competition starts with customer data, but it can’t end there. You need to be able to transform data into actionable information to drive positive change in the customer experience. Yet many companies don’t know where or how to begin.
For starters, try focusing on solving the following business challenges:
Treat different customers differently.
When was the last time you reevaluated your approach to the customer journey? Try separating your customers into groups based on your unique business objectives along with customer profiles. Then you can design personalized interaction scenarios that deliver the best experience for the customers in each group. You will improve customer satisfaction, while also balancing cost and revenue.
Anticipate customer needs and be proactive.
Analyze, model, and reach out to anticipate and proactively address the needs of your customers. By leveraging propensity-to-buy modeling, technology, training, and personalized sales processes to recommend complementary products or services, generating revenue within the contact center becomes seamlessly integrated within the customer experience. This approach can also help decrease customer effort by addressing an issue before customers even knew about it, building trusting and loyal customer relationships.
Enable your agents to personalize every interaction.
Many companies still provide their agents with disparate or antiquated systems for assisting customers. But by utilizing easy-to-deploy technology to integrate these systems into one 360-degree view of the customer, agents become empowered to personalize each customer interaction in a way that shows they care enough to really know their customers. And when you understand your customers well enough to deliver service tailored to their individual needs, not only do you improve satisfaction, loyalty, and long-term customer value, but you reduce contact center costs as well.
Personalization in the contact center helps resolve problems smarter and faster, while reducing the effort and number of interactions required to answer an inquiry. This can translate into very real operational savings – not to mention, happier agents, a better brand reputation, and ultimately, higher revenues. That’s just all the more reason to start catching up with your customers today.
Edited by Stefania Viscusi