High quality customer service has always been the unsung hero of driving company profits, and the contact center experience often plays a key role in how that service is delivered and received.
Back in 1990, a Harvard Business School and Bain & Company study revealed what is still one of the most quoted customer service insights: "In industry after industry… increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%," reported Harvard Business Review.
And while the world has changed a lot since 1990, at least one thing remained the same. According to Forrester's US 2020 Customer Experience Index Report, "even a minor improvement to a brand's customer experience quality can add tens of millions of dollars of revenue."
The survey analyzed in the US report was part of a large global study—200,000 customers across 500 brands—which revealed the anatomy of a contact center experience that actually delivers these results.
In her presentation at Cyara’s Xchange 2020 Virtual Summit, Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, principal analyst at Forrester, shared some of the study's findings. There were so many goodies in her presentation—data, practical advice, and real life B2C and B2B case studies—we highly recommend watching her entire 26 minute presentation, free on demand.
Meanwhile, today, we'll share some of the most exciting lessons she taught at the Xchange conference, mix in additional research data from across the industry, and recommend different aspects to include in your contact center testing and monitoring, so you can be the one to provide a truly excellent customer experience—the kind that turns your contact center into a profit center.
Provide Effectiveness and Ease in Both Contact Center Applications and Services
To get started, you must make it easy for customers to do business with you. The contact center experience you provide needs to be effective—"the experience needs to deliver some value," Schmidt-Subramanian said—and it needs to do that easily.
Customers have been asking companies to simplify contact center applications and services for years now. In 2017, for example, 62% of 5,000 consumers surveyed by Microsoft across the world said it takes some effort on their own part to resolve customer service issues. Additionally, 56% said they stopped doing business with a brand due to a poor customer service experience.
Part of providing an effective, easy experience is adopting data-driven contact center applications that reduce the need to request the same information from a customer over and over. Or smart applications that recognize efficient call or chat routing, so the customer reaches the agent who is most equipped to resolve her issue efficiently.
Another big part is automating customer experience testing, so you can discover and fix glitches before they escalate into serious contact center experience issues. Sometimes before customers even discover them.
When you automate, you can test so many aspects of the customer journey at a much greater scale, including end-to-end interactions and call flows, routing, data passing, global in-country dialing and integration with other service platforms—just to give you a few examples.
With the right automation solution, you can set up real time alerts. If an automated test reveals that a tool you use accidentally disconnects customers that you put on hold, you can discover the source of the problem quickly, sometimes within minutes, and get it fixed.
And that's just the beginning. For more ways companies benefit from introducing automated testing into their contact center development process, we invite you to explore our customers' presentations at the recent Xchange conference. They took attendees behind the scenes and shared how they improved the customer experiences they provide.
You'll get access to these presentations when you sign up to watch Schmidt-Subramanian's presentation, so no need to do anything else besides that (and yes, it's all free. You can get access here).
Deliver Positive Emotional Experiences (Especially These 3)
"Emotion is a really important piece. A customer experience needs to create an emotional connection between a customer and a company. This has the biggest impact on loyalty," Schmidt-Subramanian said.
When you've made sure your technology does what it's supposed to do, and when you keep proactively improving the experience you provide, it's easier for your contact center to become an operation that truly focuses on the customer's needs. Therefore, it's easier to make sure customers feel appreciated, happy and valued—the three most important factors here, according to Schmidt-Subramanian.
And it's easy for them to notice your efforts, given that most companies provide poor emotional experiences, according to a Temkin Group study across 20 industries.
Once you do prioritize creative positive emotional experiences in your contact center applications and services, customers become "more than 12 times as likely to recommend the company, and more than five times as likely to forgive the company's mistakes," compared to customers who have a negative emotional experience, revealed Temkin Group's data.
Empower Your Customer Service Agents
The foundation of a contact center experience that focuses on the customer is one that also focuses on employees' needs. According to the 2019 ICMI and NICE inContact report, 58-77% of contact center employees experience psychological and emotional strain in their jobs, depending on the contact center size.
When testing customer journeys, do some CX testing from the agents' perspective as well, to explore the pitfalls that don't set your agents up for success. Where are your current contact center applications unnecessarily complicating their work? How are they slowing them down, requiring them to solve tech issues on the spot, and keeping them from giving customers their full empathetic attention?
Practice empathy toward agents, and they'll carry it forward to customers. Make them feel appreciated, and they'll make your customers feel appreciated, too. Show them you care about them, and they'll be open to helping you provide the type of service that focuses on the customer and lets her or him know, with both words and actions, that your company truly does care.
As Schmidt-Subramanian explained at the recent Xchange conference, how your agents show up with customers makes all the difference. They need to "answer all of the customers' questions" and resolve "problems quickly," she said.
And they need to go through enough training, and be trusted enough, to "have the authority to solve problems themselves without a supervisor," she said. This makes it easier to do business with your company, and significantly reduces customer frustration.
It comes down to a company culture of service, Schmidt-Subramanian explained to Xchange conference attendees. "That's the one that holds everything together… This is the system of shared values and behaviors that focuses employees on delivering great customer experiences," she said.
Holistically Measure Customer Journeys
Common advice will tell you to measure KPIs, such as first contact resolution rate, average handling times and hold times. All these are really important, yet Schmidt-Subramanian encouraged Xchange conference attendees to "quantify the quality of experiences and their link to your organization's overall metrics" as well.
Specifically, she recommended you measure:
- "What customers feel about their experience (satisfaction, ease)"
- "What happens during customer experiences (call wait times, transfers)"
- "What customers do as a result of the experience (NPS, churn, product holdings)"
Then, "the trick is to link them," she said. She gave the example of a company that succeeded in reducing call time and increasing orders. But then it needed to send out more trucks, which ended up being more expensive than longer call times. So it was back to the drawing board, to shift the strategy.
If you experience a similar situation, automate some testing and explore different potential solutions with actionable analytics. The more you test and measure the contact center experience you provide, including both contact center applications and services, the more you, too, will be able to "measure the effects of a channel on the full customer journey," she said.
Create a Contact Center Experience that Focuses on the Customer, and Stand Out from the Crowd
With so many companies getting customer service wrong, a contact center that truly focuses on the customer, on what they truly value and need, will easily stand out.
The easiest place to start is to watch Schmidt-Subramanian's entire presentation at the recent Xchange conference. It's only 26 minutes, it's free, and when you sign up here to watch it, you'll also get access to presentations by many other contact center leaders who are driving exciting innovation in the industry (and we're not just saying that because they partner with us to automate their CX testing. We just feel fortunate to work with such smart and creative people, and value their partnership).
Remember that, as Schmidt-Subramanian emphasized, you can't "just accidentally get customer experience right." Make it a priority to learn from these experts, mix up their strategies to build a game plan that's perfect for you, and take action.