Author: Sreedhar Venkatraman, Director –Systems Engineering, Avaya India and SAARC
Making a strong connection with customers has never been easier or more important. Certainly, there are more channels than ever to make connections, including Web sites, instant messages, email, social networks and mobile devices, not to mention using a plain old telephone or visiting the store. Organizations can benefit from this transformation by extending and enhancing their level of customer engagement by implementing end-to-end customer experience management solutions
Companies need to plan for changes in interaction behaviour and evolve to offer a consistent and satisfying experience across various communication channels. This is what is meant by customer experience management.
Customer service expectations and gaps
The importance of customer service has long been recognized; its value in driving sales through competitive differentiation, customer retention and overall brand advocacy has clearly been established. Given the near universal acknowledgement of its importance, many might be surprised to discover that instead of growing smaller and less significant, the gap between customers’ service expectations and the ability of companies to fulfil them is currently widening. While 80% of companies believe they deliver a good or superior customer experience, only 20% of their customers agree.
With all of the resources devoted to customer service, this situation may seem paradoxical. In reality, it is familiar: Customer service is a dynamic business function; like the nature of business itself, it continually evolves. In fact, we believe that enterprises must now recognize and adapt to a major paradigm shift in customer service brought about by changing demographics, new technologies and new forms of communication and interaction—including the powerful impact of social media. Enterprises need to provide ways and means for customers to reach out to them using devices and mode of communication as per their choice.
In a 2010 survey, contact centre professionals reported that they expect the next two years to bring strong growth in non-voice interactions which today are a reality as we all experience the new wave of digital experience.
The greatest increases are expected to occur in Web self-service, Web chat and social media. Social media has become a prominent communications channel for people to seek information and express their opinions about a company and its offerings.
It is quite relevant in India and let us understand why. The current generation which we all know as Generation Y is a major driving force. This generation has grown around internet, IM, mails, Facebook etc. They are quite comfortable and prefer online collaboration. Given this experience, they expect instantaneous service and are puzzled when it is not available anywhere, anytime through any medium. Not only is their tolerance for failure limited (73% of Generation Y will leave after one bad experience), they have no hesitation to go public with their dissatisfaction: 85% will tell others about their poor experience including posting messages, photos, videos and more online, an experience that many major brands have experienced first-hand, not always to their liking. You only need perform an Internet search on “poor customer service” to find the evidence.
Understanding your customer
Many contact centres are still just call centres: voice-only systems designed for an era when the only real option for the customer seeking service was to pick up the phone.
Adding non-voice capabilities is critical as new generations of customers expect it. In addition to increasing access, multimedia leads to improvements in contact centre productivity by making it easier for agents to switch to online service when call volume drops.
However, having multiple channels in itself is not effective as a strategy. When not backed up by streamlined processes and careful attention to channel integration, it can actually frustrate customers by providing service that is discontinuous and inconsistent with what a live agent typically can provide by voice alone.
A well-integrated, multimedia capability not only recognizes the customer, but also understands the context and intelligently selects the resources required to address the customer’s issue. By context, we mean all relevant information about a customer including his/her profile, demographics, presence, preferences, immediate activity, behaviour and past interactions. Such information often resides in databases, business applications and processes outside the reach of the contact centre. When agents do not have immediate access to information, for instance, the information to recognize that a customer call is actually a follow up to an e-mail, it impedes an agent’s ability to serve customers. Customer satisfaction plummets.
A contact centre application that preserves all of this contextual information across all media and has it available for all agents, as well as experts or supervisors who may be added to the interaction, not only increases customer satisfaction, but saves time and expense by reducing the time needed to serve the customer. In addition, past context is provided when the customer subsequently contacts the enterprise again— minutes, hours, days or months later.
Providing consistent experience across all channels and linking all channels to provide a persistent customer experience is omni channel.
Short term and long term benefits
Adopting an Omni Channel strategy for your customers helps realizing
- More effective use and allocation of customer support resources, potentially leading to lower support costs.
- Higher rates of first-contact resolution—critical for customer satisfaction and lowering costs.
- Effectively empowering agents to cross-sell and up-sell products and services.
- More flexibility and scalability for adapting to changing market conditions.
- On a long terms basis, business differentiating customer service leads to converting satisfied customers to loyal customers.