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.

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Call it what you will: Multi-channel, Omnichannel—It isn’t about the Contact Center!

At this point, we know that most companies are competing exclusively on the customer experience (83%, according to Dimension Data). McKinsey Insights shows that effective customer journeys are impactful: increase revenue by up to 15%, boost customer satisfaction by up to 20%, and turn predictive insight into customers’ needs by up to 30%. The issue isn’t that companies fail to understand the importance of the customer experience (CX). The problem is that over half of companies today fail to grasp what is arguably the single most important driver of a successful CX strategy: organizational alignment.

This isn’t to say that companies aren’t taking the necessary steps to strengthen their CX strategies. Looking back five years ago, 92% of organizations were already working to integrate multiple interaction channels—call it multi-channel, omnichannel, digital transformation—to deliver more consistent, contextualized experiences. The needle is moving in the right direction. However, companies will find themselves in a stalemate if they limit the customer experience to the contact center.

Customer Experience is the Entire Brand Journey

That’s right, the customer experience is NOT about the contact center. In fact, it never was. The customer experience is instead about seamlessly supporting consumers across their entire brand journey regardless of where, when, how and with whom it happens. This means supporting not just one business area (i.e., the contact center), but the entire organization as one living, breathing entity. This means supporting not just one single interaction, but the entire experience a customer has with a company from start to—well, forever. After all, the customer journey never truly ends.

Are companies ready for this future of the customer experience? Perhaps not: 52% of companies currently don’t share customer intelligence outside of the contact center, according to Deloitte.

Executives are planning for not only contact channels to expand but most are expecting these interaction journeys to grow in complexity. It’s clear that a contact-center-only structure doesn’t cut it anymore. At today’s rate of growth and change, it’s easy to see how a CX strategy can miss the mark when the entire customer journey is being limited to the contact center. Imagine how much stronger a company would perform if it supported the customer experience as the natural enterprise-wide journey it is? A journey where interactions take place across multiple channels and devices, unfolding across multiple key areas of business (i.e., sales, HR, billing, marketing)?

Imagine, for instance, a hospital immediately routing an outpatient to the travel nurse who cared for him last week, although she is now on the road to her next location. Imagine a bank being able to automatically route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine a salesperson knowing that a customer attended a webinar last week on a new product launch and had submitted three questions—all before picking up the phone. Imagine a retail store associate knowing you walked in and that you were searching online for formal attire.

Contextual Awareness is Critical

Today’s CX strategy is no longer about asking the right questions: it’s about having the right information at the right time to drive anticipatory engagement. It’s no longer about being able to resolve a customer issue quickly. It’s about building an authentic, organization-wide relationship based on contextual awareness. In short, this means companies being able to openly track, measure, and share customer data across all teams, processes, and customer touch points. This ability either makes or breaks the CX today.

So, are you near the breaking point? Consider that nearly 40% of executives say their agents’ top frustration is that they can’t access all of the information they need. Less than 25% of contact centers today enjoy full collaboration on process design with their entire enterprise. Connected customer journeys and the overall CX are now top areas of focus as most organizations support up to nine channel options. CX will encounter a dramatic shift of reimagined customer engagements that will be able to incorporate technologies such as artificial intelligence, IoT, analytics, and augmented reality and virtual reality.

The bottom line is this: organizations must support an enterprise-wide customer journey to support the future of the CX now! They must share contextual data inside and outside of the contact center, and they need seamless and immediate access to that data anytime, anywhere, under any given circumstance. Above all, organizations need the right architectural foundation to support this anytime, anywhere ecosystem—otherwise, even their best moves will always result in a draw.

Get out of the Queue: Drive Your CX with Attribute Matching

At this point, nearly every company is working overtime to realign around two simple words: customer experience (CX). So much so that nearly 90% of companies now compete solely on CX—a drastic increase from 36 % in 2010—and 50 % of consumer product investments are expected to be redirected to CX innovations—like attribute matching—by the end of this year.

But what exactly does the CX consist of, especially in today’s new world of digital business innovation? This next-generation CX is supported by several advanced technologies—big data analytics, omnichannel, automation—however, these investments are all aimed at driving one thing: contextualization.

The rise of contextualized service—the ability for companies to not only gain insightful information about their customers but also deliver information in a way that is relevant and meaningful to customers based on individual circumstances to improve their experience—has evolved the CX to a point where it looks virtually nothing like it did as recently as 10 years ago. Whereas consumers once primarily focused on the act of purchasing, driven by such things as product quality and price, they now focus on the richness of brand relationships, driven by the personal value that companies deliver throughout the customer journey. Just consider that 70% of buying experiences are now based on how customers feel they are being treated. This is the key factor that sets apart market leaders like Amazon, Trader Joe’s, and Apple from the competition.

According to Accenture, there is an estimated $6 trillion in global revenue up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers. The ability for companies to offer contextualized service is vital for operating at the speed of the consumer and capturing more of this market share. There’s just one thing preventing companies from seizing this limitless potential: the traditional call queue.

Every customer is familiar with the call queue. This is the place where statements like, “Your call is important to us. Please continue to hold,” and “Let me transfer you to a specialized team who can help you with that” perpetually live. It’s where exhaustive efforts to route customers to the correct service rep become lost, or where consumers must repeat the same information to multiple agents across different teams. It’s the greatest barrier preventing companies from being more dynamically connected to their consumers, and one of the greatest reasons why customers reduce their commitment to a brand.

Driving Contextualization with Attribute Matching

In a world where customers demand a profound level of connection and transparency, organizations can no longer support a contact center environment in which calls are distributed among agents who are organized by function (i.e., sales, service, support). In today’s smart, digital world, companies must transform the traditional call center into an integrated, digital communications hub. This means moving away from a siloed, metric-driven queue and instead working to put customers in touch with the best organizational resource depending on their exact need or circumstance as immediately as possible. The most effective way to achieve this is to migrate from archaic infrastructure towards an integrated, agile, next-generation platform built on open communications architecture.

Open communications architecture allows organizations to seamlessly collect, track and share contextual data across various teams, processes, and customer touch points. This integrated environment supports a real-time data repository from which businesses can pull from to route customers based on needs beyond traditional characteristics (like language preference). Rather, the technology allows companies to build customized learning algorithms that drive anticipatory engagement, enabling them to match customers based on next-level variables like personality, emotion and relatability.

Imagine, for example, a hotel routing a customer directly to an IT staffer after seeing that the person tweeted about a poor in-room Wi-Fi connection. Imagine a bank being able to route a customer to a money management expert after seeing that the last five questions asked via live chat were about account spending. Imagine an athletic apparel company matching a customer with an agent who is an avid runner after noticing that the individual recently signed up for a 5K.

The future of the CX means creating and continually building a contextualized view of customers throughout their entire brand journey. It means going beyond customer service to establish unparalleled, organization-wide relationships. It means transforming peoples’ lives, verses simply answering questions. This is what companies must work to align themselves with. The good news is that technology has evolved to a point where they can now easily, effectively and cost-efficiently do so.

Interested in learning more or getting beyond the queue to Redefine Your Customer and Employee Experiences? Contact us. We’d love to hear from you.

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?