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

In our last blog, we disclosed the 8 key questions that mid-market should ask when picking a services partner.

Just as important these days is finding the best way to meet the needs of ever-demanding customers looking for answers in the fastest possible time with the least amount of effort.

A recent survey showed that 93% of business managers recognize that failing to provide a holistic, personalized, proactive customer experience could lead to lost customers, missed sales opportunities, lower revenue, and reduced loyalty.

The Harvard Business Review article, “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers“–based on a survey of 75,000 customer interactions–identified five loyalty-building tactics:

  1. Reduce the need for repeat calls by anticipating and dealing with related downstream issues.
  2. Arm reps to address the emotional side of customer interactions.
  3. Minimize the need for customers to switch service channels.
  4. Elicit and use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers.
  5. Focus on problem solving, not speed.

The same article goes on to state that “most customers encounter loyalty eroding problems when they engage with customer service,” including these reported problems:

  • 56% of those surveyed said that they have to re-explain an issue
  • 57% had to switch from the Web to the phone
  • 59% expended moderate-to-high effort to resolve an issue
  • 59% were transferred
  • 62% repeatedly contacted the company to resolve an issue

So what can IT managers do to help overcome these obstacles aggravating customers, while coming up with cost-effective solutions? Let’s take a look back at our December 2013 white paper, The Top 7 Communications Trends for 2014:

Businesses everywhere are experimenting with different communication modes for customer support. For example, Avaya Global Support Services has significantly shortened issue resolution times by escalating up and down in various modes – voice alone is often inadequate; voice-plus-Web is only marginally better; so voice-plus-Web-plus-chat-plus-video can put customers and support resources on the same page.

However, businesses deploying multiple modes will need to monitor and measure customer experience to determine when switching across modes becomes frustrating for customers – recent research indicates customer effort is becoming as important as customer satisfaction. With this realization, companies will seek help to orchestrate their different modes and to coordinate contextual information and analytics capabilities so they can monitor and measure customer effort.

Consider these 4 dos and 4 don’ts around minimizing customer effort in a multi-channel support environment:

  • Do minimize clicks: An extra click or two to test microphone and headset compatibility before an audio or video conversation can be the difference between 10% and 90% customer effort
  • Do go mobile! The customer is not chained to the desktop anymore. With the huge growth and proliferation of mobile devices, the channel and the interaction can vary significantly depending on location. Consider mobility when designing the omni-channel experience. Quick interactions are necessary. Develop a mobile application!
  • Do decide if multi-tasking is needed: Some channels enable agent multitasking better than others. Chat is great for multi-tasking; the video environment is not. One bad customer support experience can destroy personal brand equity and the customer relationship.
  • Do know your customer’s preferences, by industry or personal attributes: Some industries lean more toward specific channel communication preferences–high tech companies may gravitate to video while traditional manufacturing may want the asynchronicity of chat. While Baby Boomers still prefer phone and in-person contact, Generation X has shifted from the phone to e-mail and text while Generation Y turns to video and text as the first channel of communication.

For every do, there are don’ts that should not be avoided:

  • Don’t underestimate today’s customer! Empowered and fluent in a variety of technologies, today’s customer is more interactive, collaborative, knowledgeable, and time-sensitive than ever before. Make sure your channels can match your ever-demanding customer’s needs.
  • Don’t let your support personnel become complacent: Forever challenge your support agents to keep them on their toes. Are support agents answering the same questions over and over again? A survey of 3,000 agents at Avaya found that 85% of the time spent by agents was answering the same questions over and over again. At most, the agents said that they tackled new problems only 10-15% of the time. Avaya changed the paradigm by using applications that are much better than people at serving up existing solutions and then challenging the humans to solve new problems 85%+ of the time
  • Don’t assume that the customer knows your business: Develop channels with the novice customer in mind. Setting up a site assuming they know your business only creates friction for the customer. Avoid acronyms. Not all acronyms or customers are the same. While speaking to the lowest common denominator, enable power users and developers alike to quickly scale, while allowing others to stay with the most basic of information.
  • Don’t let your support agents be knowledge consumers, make them be knowledge generators: Agents should be trained and incentivized to publish their findings to the Web for all other customers to see in 30 minutes or less. At Avaya, the goal of posting new knowledge in 30 minutes or less is being achieved 85 to 90% of the time.

What communication channel do you expect to grow fastest this year?

When will your company rollout video in the contact center?

What questions are you asking of your omni-channel vendors?

Follow me on Twitter @Pat_Patterson_V

Related Articles:

3 Predictions about The Future of Customer Experience

Sometimes I know what the fictional Rip Van Winkle must have felt like when he woke up from his 20-year slumber. It seems like only yesterday that we in the communications world were marveling at the benefits of integrating voice and data. Now it’s all about the multi-touch customer experience and mobile everything. The speed at which communications in general—and customer engagement specifically—are advancing is nothing short of astonishing.

This prompted some thinking around what the next few years might bring. So we gathered insights from a variety of Avaya customers, visionaries within our own organization, and industry analysts to piece together a picture of what the future of customer experience will be in, for example, 2025. A few key themes emerged:

The nature of service will change. In the future, we won’t be talking about a device or media type. It will be all about what smarter consumers expect as outcomes—it starts with WHAT they want to do, followed by HOW they want to take action. It’s all about a customer being able to initiate contact in any number of ways and seamlessly move from one action to the next, in pursuit of resolution, knowing that a business will instantly know who they are, what they purchased (or anticipate what they want to purchase), what previous interactions they’ve had, what the outcomes of those interactions were, and then respond or, better yet, proactively address their needs. Everything is integrated at the point of interaction for the particular desired outcome at that moment.

And, it’s not just smarter consumers. Because the customer of tomorrow has done their own research, attempted to fix their own issues, etc. they require smarter, better equipped and, frankly, happier customer service agents and experts. To meet customers’ increasing expectations for fast, effortless and personal service, employees need to be empowered, be more knowledgeable, have the right tools, and—this is a bit subtler—better motivation. Increasingly, employees expect better work-life balance, more flexible scheduling, the latitude to work from home and the freedom to use their own devices. All of this—on both the consumer and agent side of the equation—means having seamless, adaptable, integrated, and responsive contact center infrastructure and applications. Organizations will be required to have an even smarter enterprise.

Extreme analytics will power customer experience. What is Extreme Analytics? It is analytics driven by context, supported by workflow automation, working with machine learning, and feeding artificial intelligence, just as a start. These are what will be needed to drive highly customized personal experiences. Natural language processing with analytics running in the background will make consumers feel that they are receiving a unique personalized experience, even though they may talk voice-to-voice or face-to-face with anyone from the company. No matter what means—digital or otherwise—the customer uses to initiate contact, the technology will be in place to translate, interpret, understand behaviors, anticipates needs, even if it’s a first contact between the customer and the business. If a customer chooses to visit a store or other location in person, there are still means by which—using GPS, geo-targeting, Internet of Things and other technologies—a highly personalized experience can be sculpted in real time. It will no longer be a digital interface alone. It will be about enabling interaction and personalization no matter where a customer wants to conduct business.

Loyalty is dead. As the post-digital world unfolds, the only loyalty customers will have is to whoever can make it easiest for them to do what they need to do. It will no longer be cognizant or mindful loyalty. Instead—whether it’s retail, banking, cab service, travel, prescription drugs, whatever—tomorrow’s consumers will certainly derive some level of comfort from knowing they’ve interacted with a business before, but that won’t be enough to keep them coming back. The next company that comes along and makes it faster, easier and (maybe, but maybe not) cheaper will get their business.

Here, extreme analytics come into play again. Driving in-the-moment loyalty will require customer segmentation that goes far beyond age groups and other demographics and customer profiles. It will include behavior analysis and an up-to-the-minute understanding of what a customer is doing (or anticipating next) so their experience can be personalized. It doesn’t matter that I fit into a certain age bracket or that I am a platinum customer of this financial institution or of that hotel chain. I have different “care abouts,” and a company needs to know those about me so they can create “anticipatory engagement.” The company anticipates what a customer will need, perhaps even from adjacent industry analysis, which drives knowledge of next best action, and drives proactive outreach—product and service offers that meet an expectation that is only now materializing.

Are these themes the things dreams are made of? Absolutely not. Consumer expectations are already headed in the direction suggested above, as are the technologies that are beginning to enable those capabilities. It’s only a matter of time, the future is now.

Curious to hear more about how we envision the Future of Customer Experience? How are customer expectations changing in your business? I’d love to hear from you.

Transform the Customer Experience with an Intelligent Contact Center

The evolving demands of digital-savvy customers have a deep impact on the contact center. In today’s highly connected society, customers are relying on other people around them to find information to solve issues. They consult online resources, form online communities, and look to endorsements from total strangers to form opinions on products and services. While these channels provide customers with the information they need, the contact center remains a predominant channel for customers to seek support when they truly need something done.

Despite playing such a crucial role in customer engagement, contact centers don’t always get the attention they deserve. Customer experience today is often discussed in a marketing or branding context—through the events and promotions driven by marketing as well as spaces and packages defined by branding. In reality, the last mile that makes or breaks the customer experience lies in the contact center. More importantly, most unhappy customers will simply give up after failed attempts at getting through to a contact center or an unhappy experience speaking with an uninformed customer service agent.

The age of social has promoted the behavior of instant gratification. Customers today want an always available service and they want their calls answered quickly, by an informed representative who can help solve their issues. With so many devices on their hands, and so many channels to engage with brands, customers also expect agents to know the history of their past interaction, regardless of whether it is an email, a phone call, or a visit to a branch or store. Most customers also understand that there may be periods of high service calls, but they expect to have alternatives, in the form of call backs or self-service options. In short, the contact center of today must be demand based and software driven.

All of this points to a future contact center that must be a lot more integrated to the business, intelligent in anticipating and sieving out customer needs, and channeling the right customer to the right platform to shorten call queues. Avaya has a full suite of award-winning customer experience solutions that help businesses transform their contact center in the era of digital.

We have been working with our customers across the Asia Pacific to provide cost-effective, integrated, personalized customer experiences with our world-class contact center and unified communications technologies and services.

Recently, Frost & Sullivan put the spotlight on Avaya’s focus on innovation and supporting our customers’ business needs in enabling an omnichannel approach to customer service and experience with a slew of awards at Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Best Practices Awards 2016.

We were named leader in 5 categories including:

  • Asia Pacific Inbound Contact Routing Systems Market Share Leadership Award
  • Indonesia Contact Centre Market Share Leadership Award
  • Philippines Contact Centre Applications Vendor of the Year
  • Southeast Asia Contact Centre Applications Vendor of the Year
  • Thailand Contact Centre Applications Vendor of the Year

The Awards spotlight our focus in providing a seamless, omnichannel customer engagement platform that enable our customers to achieve their business objectives.

The way in which we use contact centers today is changing. Technology has essentially given it a facelift and elevated its importance in the customer relationship journey. From the realms of large businesses, where contact centers are meant to handle the highest number of calls at the lowest cost, contact center technology today is sought after for the intelligence it can provide. This can be in the form of client-drive routing, automation, tracking responsiveness, call routing, screen pop-ups, workforce collaboration, speech analysis—the list goes on.

As technology continues to advance, expect more features powering the call center, perhaps even robots that can literally access all the information customers need at their fingertips.


Artificial Intelligence in 2017: the Next Step for Enterprises?

Next week is IP Expo, one of the UK’s main business technology events. One of the key themes of the show is Artificial Intelligence, something that shouldn’t really be a surprise considering the technology is fast becoming a reality in the enterprise, with chatbots, predictive intelligence and robot PAs. In fact, according to a new research commissioned by the organisers of IP Expo, 37% of respondents believe that AI will be a main technology focus for businesses in 2017.

At Avaya we’re also taking a step into the AI arena and are working on a SaaS self-learning chatbot that businesses can use with all types of social media platforms to improve the customer service they offer. Part of our Avaya Oceana™ solution, it will be capable of holding intelligent conversations with customers, answering their queries, and resolving customer service issues. It works by leveraging self-learning artificial intelligence technologies to model customer language and dialogue interactions. As such it’s able to predict customer preferences and resolve problems—almost before the customer knows they have one.

One stat that really caught my eye in the IP Expo survey was the rise in concern around AI—32% of respondents claimed they are worried about AI replacing human jobs overall, with 19% admitting that they are more concerned about their own jobs being overtaken by a robot than they were a year ago.

Personally, I think these fears are largely unfounded. Yes, the AI revolution may potentially result in the loss of some jobs. However, the increasing use of AI will give way to new jobs, and most certainly new industries. What is more, there is one aspect in which AI will undeniably prove useful—freeing up our precious time.

Don’t believe me? Well let’s look at the Avaya chatbot as an example. It provides automation and analysis of customer interactions, delivering efficient self-service. This functionality isn’t making agents redundant—quite the opposite: it’s making them more valuable. Chatbots are increasingly being used to take away the menial tasks from agents, allowing them to focus on the human element that is so crucial to driving customer satisfaction and enabling them to provide better and warmer collaboration with their customers.

Ultimately though, there is one key element that will never change regardless of technological advancements: the customer. I believe AI will support this continued focus on the customer because it will enable agents to spend more time assisting customers in the best possible way—the personal way.

If you’d like to find out more about the impact of AI on businesses, or hear more about our new chatbot, please visit our stand at IP Expo on the 5th and 6th of October at London ExCEL.