Insights on Today's Trends


Subscribe to the Avaya Magazine

Learn from Avaya experts and industry thought leaders about advances and innovations in communications. Sign up to receive periodic information and updates from Avaya.

At Avaya, we care about the use and security of the information you provide.

Read our Privacy Statement and Terms of Use for details.

All fields marked with a '*' are required fields.

IMAGE Perspectives 01-02-13 8 Best Practices for Customer

8 Best Practices for Customer Experience Management Today

SafeAuto Insurance Company is known for its humorous ads and innovative promotions, but when it comes to customer service, there’s no joking around.
The company is intensely customer-focused and committed to delivering a high level of service and operational efficiencies. With no outside agents selling or servicing SafeAuto Insurance, the company relies on its multi-location contact center for sales, claims, and customer service.
By upgrading its Avaya Aura® Contact Center suite, SafeAuto garnered these results:
  • Agent occupancy (utilization) increased by 14 percent.
  • Maximum caller wait time reduced by 48 percent.
  • Shorter calls, handled more efficiently.
  • Cost savings of 10–15 percent.
Acquiring new customers is considerably more expensive than keeping those you already have. And satisfied customers are the ones that stick around. According to a 2011 survey by, 83 percent of respondents said they would buy more from a company that made it easier to do business with them.
But customer experience requirements are changing rapidly these days, with social media, analytics, and new devices and technologies reshaping the landscape. I’ve gathered stories from companies that consistently receive high rankings for the customer experience they provide, and identified eight best practices.
1. Build relationships.
Best-in-class companies know that it’s not just about solving problems—it’s about building a lasting relationship with your customers.
At its retail stores, Apple is in the business of making friends. Employees actually will try to “down-sell” you on the thing you came to buy in an effort to get you the lower-priced, least-complicated product that will do what you need.
Truly, we all like getting what we want for less than we expected to pay. Apple’s approach reportedly results in fewer product returns, higher sales rates on add-on services, less frequent support issues, and extremely low employee attrition.
Contact centers can emulate this approach by using analytics-based cross-sell marketing programs. These involve using historic and real-time data to proactively suggest to agents the products and services that individual customers might be interested in. Complete the loop by rewarding agents for selling the best-fitting solutions, rather than the most expensive.
2. Integrate your support channels.
New consumer technologies make delivering consistent customer support even more important. As you add SMS, text chat, video chat, and mobile platform channels to your quiver, it’s important to keep tabs on them all. Cross-channel integration tools can seem overwhelming—but the alternative is an inconsistent user experience, which can result in significant cost for your business.
Salmat, Australia’s largest provider of outsourced contact centers, is upgrading its 35 contact centers to Avaya technology to become an “omnichannel” customer service provider. Salmat, which manages more than 100 million incoming and outgoing phone calls a year, needed to engage with consumers whether they are on Twitter, Facebook, SMS, email, or phone, says Salmat CEO Grant Harrod.
“A consumer doesn’t select necessarily the channel you would like them to communicate with, they select the channel they would like communicate with you on,” he says. And every one of these channels “has to be absolutely consistent.”
3. Talk to your customers in real time.
According to a Frost & Sullivan 2012 report, consumers overwhelmingly end up trying to reach a live agent and are most satisfied after live interactions, either on the phone or via chat. Forcing customers into self-service channels may keep your costs down in the short term, but can cost you in retention and lost sales opportunities over the long haul when not used for the right purpose.
Palm Coast Data handles subscriptions and delivery for 500 magazines and 45 million subscribers. Upgrading to Avaya Aura Contact Center has empowered Palm Coast’s 200 on-site contact center agents and growing number of home-based agents with two key new features: the ability to Web chat with magazine subscribers (usually two at a time) and perform scheduled callbacks to customers when they are free.
That’s boosted the productivity of these “blended agents” between 86 percent and 98 percent and increased customer satisfaction, the company says.
4. Coach agents for performance.
Agent performance is the foundation of good customer service in a contact center. Coach your coaches, provide specific feedback, and invest in next-generation coaching tools to make sure you get the most from your people. Reward your best-performing agents. Help those that struggle to do better.
A division of HSBC bank in the U.K., first direct does not have a physical branch network. Customers access services online or by fixed or mobile app. It’s been voted number one in customer service in a national service for four years running. Agent training and support is central to the bank’s mission of “pioneering amazing support.”
Knowing that longtime employees provide better support in general, first direct aims to keep employees happy, and ongoing coaching is central to its approach. New recruits spend six weeks in training. 65 percent of that time is spent in a classroom environment designed to work for all learning styles, and 35 percent is spent taking calls in the call center with dedicated coaches.
Throughout their time with first direct, employees receive tailored coaching to help motivate them and develop them as individuals. All staff must regularly revisit training and are held accountable for their own personal service standards.
5. Empower and engage employees.
Create a culture where employees feel comfortable initiating conversations and listening to customers instead of just answering questions as fast as possible. It drives agent attrition down—and customer satisfaction up.

Shoe retailer is a great example. Its mission statement declares that “Customer Service isn’t just a Department! ... We’ve aligned the entire organization around one mission: to provide the best customer service possible. Internally, we call this our WOW philosophy.”
The call center is at company headquarters, and all employees start their tenure at the company with four weeks of training as a customer service rep. Call center employees get another three weeks after that for a total of seven weeks.
After all that training, trusts its employees to do right by the customer. They don’t read from scripts and they aren’t encouraged to keep calls short. It may seem counterintuitive, but it works. Stories of people receiving condolence bouquets, products for free, and lifetime memberships in the VlP program go viral, and make fiercely loyal customers.

6. Focus metrics on your customer.
What’s your measure of success? Don’t just reward your agents for speed. Reward them for resolving customer issues in one contact (first contact resolution) and for high customer satisfaction scores.
Nordstrom department stores have long excelled at service, and customers go on about it. For many years, the Nordstrom Employee Handbook was a 5-by-8-inch gray card that
contained just 75 words spelling out the company’s short-and-sweet philosophy:
Welcome to Nordstrom. We’re glad to have you with our Company. Our number one goal is to provide outstanding customer service. Set both your personal and professional
goals high. We have great confidence in your ability to achieve them.
Nordstrom Rules: Rule #1: Use best judgment in all situations. There will be no additional rules. Please feel free to ask your department manager, store manager, or division general manager any question at any time.
One goal: Outstanding customer service. One rule: Use your best judgment.
You may not be able to reduce your contact center handbook to 75 words, but is there room for simplification? For focusing key performance indicators on customers? For respecting employees’ judgment?
7. Start at the top.
Customer experience starts with the CEO. A best-in-class customer experience comes from a company focused on delivering one, from senior management all the way to the agents on the front line. Link every metric to company initiatives to help agents understand how they fit into the big picture.

Amazon consistently receives accolades for its best-in-class customer service. Interestingly, it’s often the customer experience—personalized experience, painless purchasing, and fast shipping—that gets mentioned rather than how the company resolves problems.
CEO Jeff Bezos understands that it’s all related, and has organized the company so that “service,” or the contact center team you reach if something goes wrong, is part of the “experience” group. That’s an insight that Bezos or other top brass may have come up with on one of the two days per year every company employee spends working the service desk, answering emails from customers.
In fact, like Amazon, also requires all employees to work customer service for a few days every year. Since these two are often in the top three in ratings for best customer service, it seems like there’s something to it.
8. Deliver actionable data to decision-makers.
To ensure that the entire company is on the same page, share contact center and customer satisfaction reports with the entire company. After all, customer satisfaction should be everyone’s number one goal. Yet found in 2011 that while 95 percent of companies collect customer feedback, only 10 percent deploy it to improve service.
At SafeAuto Insurance Company, customer service data spreads far beyond the contact center. The marketing group uses it to map customer demographics. The company’s investigation unit uses it for research. Senior management has its own set of dashboard reports that provide regular updates on enterprise operations at a high level, with the ability to drill down to specific details.
While technology changes, and new generations bring different perspectives to the market, the foundation of customer experience management stays the same. If you want to provide standout service, it must be the top priority at every level of the company. It must be the focus of every initiative. And it must be the goal of every employee.
Laura Bassett is Director of Marketing for Customer Experience and Emerging Technologies at Avaya. She has more than 19 years of experience in applications consulting, development, and delivery.
Unearthing Your Big Data Goldmine
Avaya Connected

Unearthing Your Big Data Goldmine

  • Contact Centers
  • Customer Service
  • Mobile
  • Social Media
IMAGE 08-03-15 Why Midmarket Companies Must Compete
Avaya Connected

Why Midmarket Companies Must Compete in the Customer Engagement Big Leagues

  • Case Study
  • Contact Centers
  • Customer Service
IMAGE 08-04-15 Top 6 Communications Services Trends
Avaya Connected

Top 6 Communications Services Trends of 2015: Midyear Review

  • Contact Centers
  • Customer Service
  • Managed Services
  • Mobile
  • Open Environments
Avaya and Plantronics
Avaya Connected

Avaya and Plantronics: Customer Satisfaction, Smarter Customer Service

  • Contact Centers
  • Customer Service
Most Popular Articles

SlideShare View More