Simon Hunt, Director Customer Experience at business process management firm Firstsource Solutions, says we are in a new era of communications management and that 2016 is fast becoming the year of the Chief Customer Officer.
Asda, River Island and Notonthehighstreet are just a handful of the UK brands that have recently added the role of Chief Customer Officer to their management teams. The C-suite shake-up reflects the fact that many companies are facing increasing pressure to put customer experience at the heart of their businesses. In an era of increased competition, the empowered consumer can – and will – demand more from the brands that they engage with.
Adapting to this new brand battleground can be a challenge for many companies. But it is also a unique opportunity for businesses to increase customer satisfaction and gain the edge over competitors. What then, should customer-savvy brands bear in mind?
A digital balance
Customer experience has undergone a digital revolution, and consumers now have more ways to contact brands than ever before. Alongside the traditional phone call, online tools such as apps and web chat form an integral part of any consumer engagement strategy.
While digital channels are important to keep up with a growing online customer base, it is important that brands do not make digital the be all and end all.
A recent study conducted by Firstsource Solutions shows that consumers are still looking for a 360 approach when engaging with their telecoms providers. Web chat is gaining in popularity, with 15% of customers naming it their preferred method of contact, but telephone and email still lead with 43% and 17% respectively. The customer’s channel of choice is further affected by the query or action itself, as well as the severity of the problem.
The study shows the importance of providing a range of channels for customers to contact your business. For today’s time-poor consumer, it is all about convenience – and convenience is about giving customers options. Communication must now happen on the customer’s terms, whether that is by phone one hour or by web chat the next. To cater for this, brands should consider a balanced partnership between the human element of customer engagement and digital technology.
While the view that chat bots will soon replace contact centre agents is probably premature, there is certainly room for many brands today to further intertwine technology and human touch. Technology can help generate insight and automate processes, but only humans can provide the layer of authenticity that underpins all good customer experience.
The channel challenge
Just as crucial as opening up multiple routes for customer engagement is developing appropriate channel integration.
This can be a challenge for many companies, particularly those operating with legacy technologies and siloed functional teams. The problem can become particularly visible when trying to build seamless escalation paths for an omnichannel service. A poorly managed complaint, for example, often leads to ‘channel bouncing’, where the individual is shunted from one agent to another.
Working with a third party customer experience expert can help brands to create a seamless customer experience. The support can range from simplifying technology architecture and introducing automation processes through to optimising a workforce. By drawing on the expertise of strategic partners, retailers with even the most problematic systems can take decisive steps towards overall customer satisfaction.
Making the most of analytics
Analytics tools are a great example of the way technology and humans can work together to deliver the best customer experience. By methodically gathering insights from each of a brand’s touch points, they can provide an invaluable overview of customer trends.
At Firstsource, we know that until data is applied and trends are spotted, disjointed and untracked interactions give no indication of the steps a brand needs to take to move satisfaction and loyalty forwards. While the contact centre worker on the front line deals directly with the unhappy customer, a board of directors can be left wondering about a rising number of complaints with no idea how to reverse a worrying trend. To combat this, our analytics tools capture, measure and analyse the customer journey before we develop the insights needed to improve business results.
As brands race to provide the best experiences and win over customers old and new, there are certainly plenty of obstacles in their way.
However, outnumbering these obstacles are the opportunities to use customer experience to get ahead of the competition.
While digital channels give brands the chance to match up with changing consumer habits, it is the human element of customer communication that can help brands connect with shoppers on a very personal level. By combining the two and using analytics to measure the effectiveness of the way that they interact with customers, brands are one step closer to winning the battle.