Know Your Customers: Customer-Centric vs System-Driven

The success of a business is measured by its bottom-line profitability and the number of satisfied customers. Although these two factors seem contradictory at first glance, they are heavily interrelated.

While businesses often think that providing enhanced customer experiences requires a lot of financial resources, industry leaders like Amazon and Zappos have demonstrated that providing quality customer experience is the only long term option for achieving a stable market position in this fiercely competitive world.

This article originally appeared on Jacada and is reprinted with permission.

Why Focus on Customer-Centricity?

In the early 80’s, the belief was “it’s not personal, it’s business,” while today’s business motto is “it’s personal, it’s your business.”  That’s the importance of customer-centricity.

If you look at most industry leaders who have entered a recession-proof zone (for example Coke, Amazon, Starbucks), you will see that they are all customer-centric. There are two reasons for this.

First, customer expectation levels are constantly rising while their attention span and loyalty is fast dwindling. Secondly, consumer groups are splitting as customers grow more and more diverse with specific needs and stronger likes and dislikes.

As a business, you have to constantly train your front line to deliver superior customer experiences to regain loyalty and prevent “customer flight.” Customer flight or customer deflection is no longer limited to individual experiences but leads to user flights in groups because of negative word of mouth.

There can be no valid comparison between system-driven and customer-driven businesses simply because a system-centric approach is not sufficient anymore.

The strength of a brand is now directly reflected in its service value to consumers and vice versa. This explains why more and more businesses are designing customer centric business systems and interaction flows, tailor made to fit their target groups and gain long term brand loyalty.

Features of a Customer-Centric Approach

With the expansion of social media and mobile technology, customers take their business with them and inform themselves “on the fly”.

In simple terms, this means businesses need to be ready to answer their customer — anywhere; anytime. Customers expect to be served everywhere: at the call center, at the store, in social media channels or on their mobile phone. You would think this would suffice; but no.

With today’s technological advancements, your customers expect even more. It’s not just about being there — It’s about doing it right.

Related article: The 4 Things You Should Do (And the 4 You Should Avoid) When Delivering Omni-Channel Customer Support

Organizations should adopt the proper customer service technologies that are tailor made to fit to their business, transforming it into an agile customer-centric enterprise. The popularity of smartphone adoption across the globe is a great example for this.

Mobile Customer Service – Getting Customer-Centricity Right

Over 1 billion people in the world own a smartphone. This opens endless opportunities for organizations to adopt a customer-centric model. Properly designed, smartphones can be leveraged to enhance the customer experience:

1.      Visual IVR (Interactive Voice Response)

This allows your customers to avoid the dreadful IVR experience, which generally involves multiple questions and endless options designed to confuse the caller. With visual IVR, the customer helps himself by directly interacting with the in-built system. Customers can solve their queries faster, inbound call volumes are reduced and satisfaction levels are increased.

2.      Customer Centric Interactions

Adopt a simplified design mechanism that will enable you to maintain an agile environment. You want to be able to easily develop dynamic interactions that will enable your customer to leverage this self-service channel to its fullest. On the other hand, business dynamics, goals, and strategies quickly change these days, so business agility has become the expectation.

3.      Seamless Connection to the Call Center

Recent mobile technology enables a seamless connection from the phone to the agent at the call center. Customers don’t have to be bothered about repeated information queries such as account details and reasons for calling. They can also schedule call-backs at convenient time slots.

4.      Enhanced Consumer Experience

Allow your customers to leverage smartphone features (camera, GPS, etc.) when engaging with you. This allows users to solve harder questions and appreciate the interaction more.

5.      Real-Time Data

Enable real-time integration to your back-end systems. This means you are providing your customer a real-time experience with up-to-date data. This also means that your customer doesn’t have to wait for an agent to search through his database before accessing the required information.

6.      Channel Duplication

The optimal interactions you designed for your mobile app, should be easily duplicated across other channels such as the web, voice, chat and social media.

This not only saves costs for your organization but also enables your customers to enjoy a consistent customer experience, regardless of the channel they choose to start or finish their interactions in.

Related Articles:

Every Week is Customer Service Week for this Credit Union

It’s not easy for credit unions to compete these days. Many need to win against neighboring big banks, with nearby branches, billions in operating expenses, and national marketing campaigns. To compete against their larger banking competitors, the IT staff of one top 20 U.S. credit union with 500,000 members and fewer than 50 locations focuses on three strategies while being very mindful of the budget.

Three Strategies Ensure Credit Union’s Commitment to Superior Customer Service

“We’re very conscious of fees,” says the senior telecom and contact center engineer at the top-20 credit union. “When it comes to our credit union members, our motto is: ‘We never forget it’s your money!’”

Having a customer-centric culture during Customer Service Week (October 3-7) and beyond requires a persistent focus on providing a consistently strong contact center. To accomplish this day in and day out, choosing a partner with the same focus on proactive customer service goes a long way.

Not long ago, the credit union launched a new internet banking service, which resulted in a significant uptick in call volumes to the call center. Some members calling in were not hearing the correct recorded announcements.

To fix the problems like this, and minimize the impact to the customer, the credit union IT staff selected a managed services provider that offers 24/7 support for its service center, corporate headquarters, and disaster recovery location. Three strategies help the credit union maintain their customer centric culture:

  1. Resolve problems quickly:

    The managed service provider used its extensive toolbox of innovative diagnostics and expertise to trace the problem to a Local Access Carrier issue and an internal server not rebooted in 900 days. The remote technical support specialist found the root cause and quickly fixed the issue. “Usually when you open a ticket, you feel like the first tier person is going to be just a ticket-taker. I was expecting to wait,” added the engineer. “But the gentleman I spoke to was able to stay on the phone, get another engineer on the line, and stay on the whole time. Both engineers on this case were solid,” she adds, “but I was most impressed that the first support engineer who took the initial call didn’t just hand us off, he stayed engaged throughout the resolution process.”

  2. Don’t repeat the same mistakes:

    The software specialist flagged the server reboot issue and recommended rebooting at regular intervals along with a recent software patch to further promote stability in the credit union’s environment. Receiving proactive guidance on how to avoid the same problem in the future helped the credit union once again to deliver consistent strong customer service. “The fact that our partner is so open and willing to integrate with other vendors is huge for us,” said the engineer. “The platforms that were offered—and the support I get—are top notch.”

  3. Use automated diagnostics:

    The IT staff is small but very efficient. During the day, they focus on projects that will drive customer satisfaction and at night—they sleep! “We’ll get alarms on our system on occasion. When I get in in the morning, I can see that our managed services partner’s automated diagnostic systems have been in at night, testing things and resolving those alarms,” says the IT manager. “It’s nice that you don’t have to be woken up in the middle of the night for those little things. We focus on being very efficient, so that we can turn around and give our members better dividends and rates.”

How is your contact center running these days? What helps you keep the focus on your customer service? What emerging trends are you watching in 2017?

How Workforce Optimization Tools Positively Impact Your Business, Clients, and Bottom Line

Founded in 1962, Common has been delivering best-in-class accounts receivable management programs throughout Canada for decades. With an unwavering commitment to excellence, Common’s leadership team is always looking for new ways to deliver exceptional service to our clients.

In pursuit of this goal, Common has been a long-time user of Avaya IP Office™ with Avaya Contact Center Select. Common recently became a beta user of Avaya Workforce Optimization Select, an easy-to-implement, easy-to-use, security-oriented solution that gives contact center managers and representatives access to scalable and flexible tools. Tools include recording, quality management, call monitoring, coaching, e-learning, and full reporting services. Workforce Optimization Select has upped the ante when it comes to workforce optimization tools.

Common is currently using Workforce Optimization Select to record incoming and outgoing calls and capture desktop screens for 80 agents, and has a total of five agents dedicated to the Quality Management program. This has eliminated our previous manual quality assurance paper audit process, which was often cumbersome, unreliable and difficult to manage.

If you’re a medium-sized business and you want a workforce optimization solution that delivers enterprise-like workforce optimization capabilities at a price point that will not break your budget, then you should choose Avaya Workforce Optimization Select.

From Common’s standpoint, the minimal deployment costs and fast rollout—resulting in a quick return on investment—have made it easy to welcome Avaya Workforce Optimization Select into its business. Other benefits that Common is enjoying thanks to Workforce Optimization Select include:

  • 100% call recording reliability, real-time availability and uptime—empowering Common to quickly and easily review calls for dispute resolution, fraud prevention and more.
  • Adherence to PCI security and compliance standards, ensuring Common maintains call quality compliance with the five major financial regulations in Canada and two in the U.S.–supporting our long-term focus on regulatory compliance and business security.
  • The best in privacy and data security—no paper trails—via encryption, Secure HTTP, digital signatures, screen masking, system-level audit trails and protected access with user-level feature permission options.
  • The option for QA analysts and supervisors to view entire customer interactions from start to finish—with screen recordings—to gain a complete view and deep understanding of interactions when evaluating agent performance.
  • A significant time and cost savings by eliminating the management of QA via pen and paper—no administrative time is wasted scanning, copying or filing.

Workforce Optimization Select thinks about your bottom line too, delivering capabilities that allows businesses to develop the operational intelligence needed to improve agent performance and customer interactions. With low hardware and storage costs, flexible seat-based pricing, and minimal installation and training requirements, Workforce Optimization Select deploys quickly and easily, and lets customers preserve their investment over time.

With Workforce Optimization Select, we are now able to record 100% of our voice and agent desktop screen interactions and then use these recordings to isolate and improve agent performance as part of a quality management and coaching program. And, Common’s call center managers are excited about the audio quality and security of call recordings, and the agents are enjoying the intuitive interface.

Scott Wyatt, CISA, Common’s Programming and Support consultant who oversaw the Workforce Optimization Select beta deployment, says, “Common has been using Avaya solutions for a long time and hasn’t been disappointed yet. The Workforce Optimization Select call recordings are crisp and reliable, and by adding in QA, we have the perfect combination of solutions.

“Beyond that, the agent deployment was effortless and working with the team at Avaya has been an exceptional experience. From the IT to support to development, everyone provided excellent service without fail.”

Moving forward, Common plans to phase in additional aspects of Workforce Optimization Select—ensuring our staff and clients benefit from all the solution has to offer.


New Age, New Requirements, More Innovation: 3 Ways to Keep Up (Part 1)

When we talk about what has changed within the last 25 years in technology, communications and business, it feels only possible to scratch the surface.

25 years ago, the World Wide Web became publicly available. The first iPhone would be brought to market 16 years later, bringing to extinction dozens of devices that took decades to invent. If you really want to see the stark difference a quarter century can make, take a look at this Radio Shack ad from 1991: portable CD players, PCs, handheld cassette tape recorders … man, those were the days.

Today, we live in a new age filled with new business requirements—the greatest being to effectively keep up with today’s rapid pace of innovation. How rapid? The fact that it took 75 years for the telephone to reach 50 million users and Angry Birds just 35 days should say it all.

The bottom line is that today’s businesses are operating in a more complex and changing environment than ever before. People are interacting with one another in exciting new ways. New platforms are being created every day for customers to uniquely engage with the brands they love. Regardless of what industry you operate in, I can tell you right now that it has changed—and your company needs to substantially change if it wants to keep up.

So, where do you start? This series will explore three distinct ways that business is evolving in this new age of innovation and how leaders can stay ahead of the curve. Let’s start with what many businesses consider the beating heart of their CX strategy: the contact center.

The Call Center vs. The Contact Center

96% of businesses surveyed last year by Deloitte are expecting call center growth within the next two years in order to support new CX demands. At the same time, 85% view CX provided through the contact center as a competitive differentiator.

Customers today have greater autonomy and higher expectations than ever regarding their service experience. To keep up with these demands, we’ve been seeing call centers across the globe evolving into more comprehensive contact centers. The former depends on a single channel of communication to service customers: audio. In this environment, customers are required to dial an 800 number and navigate through an IVR. Usually they are transferred among multiple service reps and must repeat specific information or re-explain their inquiry or issue.

The latter offers customers a more 360-degree service approach, which promotes a multi-channel environment. In this environment, it’s not uncommon for a customer interaction to begin in one place and end in another. For example, a customer interaction may begin with a Web interface and elevate to live chat and then elevate to a live agent if the problem hasn’t been resolved. This can be taken even further by moving the interaction from a live agent to a co-browsing experience, where subject matter experts can show customers in a more interactive way how to handle problems or answer questions. Finally, this can elevate to a one- or two-way video conferencing experience, similar to what Amazon’s Kindle Fire “Mayday” button is intended for.

With the rapid adoption of advanced channels like video, chat and mobile, it’s not surprising that 72% of businesses plan to transform their call centers into new contact centers within the next two years.

The Key to Mastering New CX Demands

Leading technology will give you the contact center of your dreams, but the whistles and bells alone won’t get you anywhere. Winning companies understand the need to pair their technology with personal best practices in order to keep the customer experience contextual, relevant and consistent. In fact, 96% of business leaders believe that personalization is key for increasing revenue flow and improving long-term customer relationships.

So, what do we mean by “contextual information?” Imagine Rob has been visiting Tesla’s website contemplating investing in either a new Model S or Model X. In the past, he’s engaged in live chat (interacting with artificial intelligence) and has asked a few questions. Finally, he one day requests to be transferred to a live agent for further assistance.

At this stage, Tesla should have every piece of relevant, meaningful information about Rob in order to provide him with the most contextual and personalized experience possible. Once Rob is transferred the agent can say, “I noticed you’ve been hopping between the S and X models. Which one are you leaning towards?” If for any reason Rob needs to be transferred, the next agent he speaks with should pick up right where he and the last agent left off. This kind of engagement is game-changing.

There’s no doubt that contextual information combined with real-time analytics will drive the customer experience to new levels. Over the last 40 or 50 years, the market has evolved from basic call centers to multi-faceted contact centers that offer full transparency into customers’ preferences, behaviors and habits. Companies must embrace change within the contact center to ensure the heart of their CX strategy is pumping strong.

Coming up: Part 2 of this series explores the evolution of networking. Learn how business leaders can ensure their networking infrastructure—the backbone of their organization—stays up to par.