Customer experience has, for decades, been the domain of the customer service reps tasked with resolving customer problems when they dial into a call center. That’s changing, though. The modern contact center is still the leader in a mission to deliver a positive customer experience, but the evolution of communications technology and the emergence of unified communications have provided agents the support of their entire organizations.
In building a truly customer-centric operation, businesses are flipping the traditional model on its head. Instead of the contact center supporting the rest of the organization, customer service agents are leading the charge with the resources of the entire business at their disposal. By combining process optimization, automation and AI, enhanced communications and collaboration, and of course contact centers, an all-hands-on-deck mindset can transform traditionally siloed business into unified enterprises.
The right automation and artificial intelligence tools allow many tasks to be simplified or even eliminated thanks to predictive and proactive response capabilities, self-service features, and more intelligent routing. The result is a reduction in overall call volumes, an increase in agent productivity, and higher customer satisfaction.
But, not all customer problems are easily solved through automated tools or simple interactions; many require agents to leverage all the tools at their disposal. This all comes together by understanding how each constituency within an organization beyond the contact center can positively impact customers – sales and marketing, field service, knowledge workers, IT, and even management. Depending on the customer and the circumstances, any part of an organization may be able to not only help reach resolution, but reduce the time to get there.
But, it all starts with the most important constituency – the customer. Today’s customers have so many more engagement options to choose from: web, messaging, chat, social media, video, in-person, and of course the good old telephone. A large percentage of engagements, regardless of medium, take place via mobile devices, because customers tend to seek resolution to their problems in the most convenient way possible for them. Often, that also means they have limited time to spend, which makes it all the more important that businesses have developed finely tuned strategies across all these communications channels.
To turn a unified customer service strategy into practice – where contact center agents or field employees can call upon additional resources for information, advice, or approval – requires an integrated business-wide communications platform, including connections into CRM and contact center platforms. Agents need to be able to bring the most appropriate team members into engagements quickly and easily, using whatever channels customers have chosen – and they must be able to seamlessly switch between channels as needed to more effectively provide service.
If a customer engages via chat, for instance, it may be useful to be able to share that chat with a technical expert or even add them into the chat. Or, in a highly complex situation, it may be helpful to move the entire engagement to a voice call easier explanations. Or, there may be cases where customers or field techs are have trouble explaining what they are experiencing and a video chat would allow them to show exactly what’s happening in order to expedite resolution. Even with a traditional phone call, an agent may find it necessary to include a sales rep or manager to help satisfy a particularly irate customer.
A key to making a business-wide customer service strategy work is knowing who is available and on what channels, which is why presence information is critical. In order to efficiently bring the right experts into a conversation, agents need to know who is in the office and not otherwise engaged. Having to place a customer on hold to track down colleagues works against speedy resolution.
Of course, the final piece is customer data. All information about customers should be part of their file and be sharable with anyone within the organization who may be called upon to assist. Understanding context is crucial to resolution – particularly the circumstances of the current engagement. With all engagement information readily available, less time is spent re-explaining issues, allowing problems to be solved faster.
The bottom line is that you never know what – or who – might be required to quickly assist a customer and ensure they remain loyal to your brand. It’s crucial to have an ability to engage with all areas of expertise as needed, which means making full use of unified communications capabilities and extending them to all areas of business. But, it also means a full-blown customer service strategy has to be implemented across organizations. Everyone has to buy in, which means not only must the strategy be effectively communicated, all employees must be shown how to use the tools to which they have access.
It’s no secret customers already have a low tolerance for anything but quick resolution and positive experiences over the course of their interactions with you as a supplier. Now that they are, themselves, realizing always-on multimodal communications in their personal lives, they are becoming even less tolerant, which makes it all the more important that your staff have the tools to respond appropriately. That means ensuring:
- Multimodal communications, based on presence and availability,
- Automated processes to reduce workload and time to completion,
- Visibility into complete customer histories,
- Communications integrated into business processes
- Corporate strategy to that embraces an omnichannel and cross-departmental collaboration.
By leveraging both technology and human assets, a unified business driven by a customer-centric approach to success will result in a customer experience never before imagined.
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