What will it take to succeed in the customer experience space in 2022?
Consumer expectations have been shifting steadily for decades. In the age of Amazon, Netflix and Uber, personalized, on-demand experiences have become the norm. By the end of the 2010s, we were already conditioned to expect that any information or service we desired would be available whenever and wherever we needed it.
Then the pandemic hit, and it throttled these expectations to another level. Demand for highly specified services ratcheted up as people required new options like contactless pickup, COVID safety protocols or flexible refund policies. The need for nimble, empathic and personalized customer service has never been greater, and this brings unique challenges for contact centers in the post-pandemic age.
“Customer service became the lifeline for many companies,” said Kate Leggett, vice president and principal analyst at Forrester. Many companies were already shifting their focus away from customer acquisition toward enhancing customer service, and the pandemic has reinforced these efforts.
In her session at Cyara’s latest XChange Summit, Leggett spoke to these challenges and how contact center CX is critical to success in 2022 and beyond. We’ve recapped her big ideas here, and you’ll find a link to the full talk at the end.
The Top-Line Value of Customer Service
The returns of investing in customer service are undeniable in today’s economy. High-quality service builds loyalty, and loyalty leads to customer advocacy for your brand.
Leggett and her team at Forrester have quantified these returns across numerous industries. In all, a one-point improvement in Forrester’s CX Index results in major revenue increases the likes of:
- $879 million for a company in the auto industry
- $339 million for an upscale hotel
- $285 million for a wireless service provider
“For every industry that we have data on, customer experience has a quantitative impact on top-line revenue,” said Leggett. That’s why investing in CX technology and improving customer service results is a clear priority for so many businesses.
3 Success Factors for Contact Centers in 2022
These trends make contact centers a vital nexus for business success in the post-pandemic era. Perhaps nowhere does the investment in CX technology and agent development matter as much as it does here.
Leggett highlighted three specific keys for contact center success that will prove critical in 2022 and beyond.
Great Customer Experiences Now Depend on AI and Automation
The human element will always be critical for delivering top-notch customer service. But that human element must be integrated with computerized support. It may sound counterintuitive, but effective CX must be built on artificial intelligence (AI) and automation.
AI-fueled digital experiences reduce friction and empower customers to solve many problems more easily and efficiently. When you employ it well, it lets customers take control in the areas where they want control — and connect with human customer service when they truly need it.
Forrester data shows that the majority of customers prefer digital, automated channels for services like order management, while they want in-person options to deal with increasingly complex issues. AI-driven automation is essential for seamlessly meeting these customer expectations.
Agents Need the Right Tools To Better Serve Customers
“Customers hold the power in today’s business relationships,” said Leggett. “And if customers don’t get the experience they expect, they’ll end up taking their business elsewhere.”
That’s why call centers must focus on delivering the best CX possible. To do that, they must focus on the three tenets of great customer experiences:
- Effectiveness: Customers get value from the experience.
- Ease: That value comes without difficulty and frustration.
- Emotion: Customers ultimately feel good about the experience.
Delivering on all three of those requires a consistent omnichannel experience that’s supported by agents who are empowered with the right tools for the job. Contact centers must move toward fully mature agent desktops that provide these tools.
In less mature desktop setups, agents have basic tools for customer identification, case management, inquiry capture and similar tasks. More mature applications, however, layer on features like robotic process automation, agent-facing chatbots, customer analytics and behavioral guidance. These more robust desktops empower agents for value-added, empathic interactions with customers.
Tech Can Build Resiliency and Agility in Customer Service
The pandemic put a spotlight on outdated customer service technology, and customers noticed. Forrester’s Predictions 2022 report noted the impatience many customers felt for companies to catch up and deliver pandemic-tuned customer experiences as the crisis wore on. And 58% of those customers think companies should have digital resources in place to be better prepared for the next big crisis.
Customers aren’t the only ones who noticed, either. Seventy-nine percent of organizations noted that updating, replacing or consolidating their legacy business systems was a moderate or high priority for the next 12 months. Other priorities included cloud migration, data analytics and digital experience technologies.
Updating and simplifying legacy CX systems with new technology can make businesses more agile to adapt to rapidly changing customer needs. It can also make them more resilient to face any future changes that may come.
Delivering the All-Digital Experience
If customer service is the lifeline for companies today, then contact centers are frequently responsible for holding out that lifeline. To continue delivering top-line value with top-notch customer experience, contact centers can’t delay implementing critical technology updates.
In 2022, Forrester predicts that 80% of consumers will see the world as all digital, with no divide. Companies must offer a CX that fits this perception.