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:

5 Ways to Become an Omnichannel Customer Experience Pro

Consider how much has changed over the last decade in terms of technology and the customer experience (CX). About 10 years ago, the first iPhone would be hitting the U.S. market soon. Social media platforms like Snapchat and Instagram wouldn’t be released until three or four years later. At the time, sophisticated interaction channels like social media, web chat and presence were available to enhance the CX. But, for the most part, businesses weren’t adopting them. And the concept of a platform that seamlessly integrated various channels and devices to deliver consistent, contextual, end-to-end experiences? Not so much.

Looking ahead, one can only imagine how technology will further drive the CX. Gartner’s Chief of Research, Daryl Plummer, seems to have an idea. By 2021, he predicts that:

  • 1 million consumers will be shopping in virtual reality
  • 30% of web browsing sessions will be done without a screen
  • 20% of all activities will involve at least one digital giant (i.e., Apple, Google, Facebook)

Companies are now competing in an era of endless customer touchpoints and possibilities. They’re tasked with matching today’s rapid pace of innovation and also constantly anticipating customers’ evolving needs. This has made the concept of an omnichannel customer experience integral for success. Research shows, however, that companies across the board are still struggling to get omnichannel right. A 2017 study of the retail industry, for example, found that 44% of companies struggle to provide a seamless, omnichannel customer experience. In industries like finance and utilities, this number can be as high as 90%.

At this point, organizations surely know that competitiveness and revenue are driven by an unparalleled omnichannel strategy. So why do we continue to see brands fraught with indecision? Why are so many still challenged in this area? It’s clear that one question remains: what does an effective omnichannel strategy really look like? The way we see it, and the data supports it, there are five ways companies can become omnichannel pros to deliver extraordinary customer experiences:

  1. Create a corporate culture: Arguably, successful transformation goes beyond technology. It is the enterprise’s approach to customer service, a customer culture so to speak. One that begins with understanding the customer journey and that ends with everyone across the business having a priority of exceeding expectations at every point on that journey. A strong corporate culture must be an organizational commitment from the top down.
  2. Eliminate channel silos: 60% of channels today are managed in silos, and nearly 40% of companies have no consistency in how their channels are configured. Most companies believe silo elimination is too difficult to accomplish, yet are still heavily investing in digital communication tools that require complete integration to deliver optimal value. It’s easy to see the problem here.
  3. Integrate systems and processes: The customer relationship is shaped by experiences across all lines of business. Therefore companies need a single view of the customer across all contact points, events, interactions and timelines. Currently, only 42% of companies share customer data organization-wide, and only 38% have integrated disparate systems. While contact center transformation is a must, an omnichannel customer experience should go beyond this one line of business. Consider, for instance, how various back-office applications can be leveraged to deliver truly personalized interactions.
  4. Move at customer speed: 30% of companies admit their service functions don’t meet user needs. Just how many are offering interaction channels that satisfy the needs of their target audience? Better yet, how many can easily and quickly build custom communication apps that meet exact customer needs and continually improve outcomes? When building an omnichannel strategy, application development is just as important as application integration. And customer behaviors change as quickly as a new social media app can emerge.
  5. Take action on data analytics: By “data analytics,” we mean customer journey analytics: data collected across all lines of business to support a powerful, real-time visualization of the customer journey. Almost 60% of companies agree that analytics improves the customer journey, yet 64% have no big data analysis capability that combines data from all knowledge sources (from across the entire enterprise, not just inside the contact center). Customer journey analytics enables organizations to quickly locate and alleviate problem hotspots that impact the CX (something that only 24% of companies today can do) and empowers them with an inherent understanding of how customers are using a combination of channels.

Ten years ago, the concept of an open, integrated, future-proof platform—one that was inherently secure and built to support customers’ continually evolving needs—was nearly inconceivable. Today, this kind of platform is a necessity thanks to technologies like IoT, AI and automation. These technologies have thrust enterprises into a smart, digital world of seemingly limitless CX capabilities … one that’s just getting started.

So, how will your organization measure up 10 years from now? Your level of success will be largely determined by your omnichannel abilities, starting with the contact center. To keep up and stay ahead, check out our conversation with Nancy Jamison Frost & Sullivan Principal Analyst and a new whitepaper “Are You Enabling Extraordinary Customer Journeys?” Take your Contact Center to the Next Level. We’d love to hear what you think.

Be Ready! Six Steps to Take Before a Natural Disaster Hits Your Communications

In what’s shaping up to be an unprecedented hurricane season for the U.S., Avaya wants to ensure that we all review our plans to keep communication systems running at peak performance and stabilized when disaster strikes. Keeping communication systems running often includes a great partner with a deep bench of experts who have experience in many complex situations. Particularly invaluable are battle-tested IT experts who can help rebuild and stabilize communications when disaster strikes. Avaya can engage in a proactive support dialogue to help you avoid complexity from the outset.

Before the Storm

Hurricanes like Harvey and Irma can be catastrophic to businesses. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy caused $65 billion in damage in the U.S., making it the second-costliest weather disaster in American history behind only Hurricane Katrina, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). During the storm, 8,204,220 Americans and thousands of businesses lost power.

No matter the weather (and because the average cost of downtime is $2,700 per minute), it is best to avoid outages by knowing what is most likely to cause communication system outages. According to the research report The Essential Guide to Avoiding Networking Outages, power outages are the leading cause of communications outages. This white paper features an analysis of the top five causes of outages with the percentage of those outages that could potentially have been prevented had leading practices been followed. The top five causes of outages are:

  • Power outages – 74%
  • Lack of routine maintenance – 73%
  • Software bug – 69%
  • Hardware failure – 39%
  • Network issue – 35%

The analysis shows that outages can be avoided by using industry-leading outage prevention practices. Leveraging resources now and on an ongoing basis to determine if facilities can meet power demands and ward off problems is essential. Also, make sure to:

  • Schedule maintenance of systems to avoid what is the high percentage of remediable outages (73%) attributed to poor maintenance and underutilized upkeep.
  • Watch for telltale signs from equipment that a problem is approaching. Proactive health checks, disciplined system monitoring, and observed maintenance schedules can aid in hearing the signal, helping improve the reliability of communications assets.
  • Upgrade equipment approaching end of manufacturing support (EoMS), avoiding the fallout from the over-sweating of assets.
  • Verify system redundancy, system health checks, and failover strategies for critical systems.
  • Patch whenever possible to eliminate software bugs or software-related outages. Some choose to let others occupy the upgrade frontlines and endure potential rollout hiccups, then follow along at a safe interval. This strategy breaks down disastrously when an organization suffers an outage that would have been avoided with a fix that it voluntarily chose to postpone.
  • Draw a network diagram to isolate an outage, speed resolution by illustrating the relationships among pieces of equipment, and isolate that outage!

As a hurricane or other natural disaster approaches, try not to depend on local team members who could be facing challenges of their own at home. Instead, move team members to locations where they can work with clients. When assembling a team, pull from across the organization and leverage readouts at defined intervals.

Pre-Event Checklist

Follow these six steps to prepare before a hurricane—or other disasters—strike:

  1. Save translations before an emergency event impacts the site. This will help ensure that recent changes are not lost and speed restoration in the advent of damage to the system.
  2. Review safety procedures with all employees prior to the emergency event, if possible, and make certain to have an updated contact list to keep in touch.
  3. Secure back-up media so that translations won’t be lost or damaged, thereby delaying restoration of your service. Take a copy of back-ups and any other information off site.
  4. Print and store a current list configuration of key solutions. If a new system is necessary, this simple precaution will save time in starting the process.
  5. Consider powering your system down before the emergency event impacts the site. Electrical power surges both before and after an emergency event can pose the greatest threat to your system.
  6. Contemplate moving switch/applications if the site is located in an area that may be exposed to damage from the emergency.

Taking the above actions can limit risk and help ensure your communications systems make it through a challenging, tough time. Learn more at our Help Center. And if you do have an outage on your Avaya equipment, report it at Support.Avaya.com. Or call 800-242-2121.

In Digital Transformation, Initial Business Discovery is Key

We’ve all heard the saying: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well, we’d like to put a new-age spin on this: “If an organization implements a digital transformation plan without a strategic plan, does it have an impact?”

The answer: No.

Here’s why this is so concerning: nearly 80% of businesses identified digital transformation as their top strategic priority last year, yet only a fraction have implemented an enterprise-wide digital strategy. Nearly half of CIOs plan to spend 50% or more of their time in digital activities by 2021, yet only 5% feel they’ve mastered digital to a point of competitive differentiation.

It is clear that businesses understand the importance of digital transformation, yet they’re struggling to go from vision to execution. They’re challenged with evolving from legacy hardware to a services-based ecosystem that supports digital drivers like cloud, mobile, big data analytics, and social.

In our experience, the reason for this is because an initial business discovery process was not sufficiently performed to put a strategic execution roadmap in place. Perhaps customer-specific strategies were not as well-defined as intended, or there was a misalignment between business outcomes and technology implementation. Digitization consists of many moving parts, technology, people, processes, etc., making it all too easy for companies to get stuck or lost in the process.

The Impact of Doing Digital Right

Without question, digitization represents massive customer experience, operational, and revenue opportunities. Seizing this opportunity, however, requires transitioning to a services-based approach that targets customer- and vertical-specific needs, especially those related to communications.

I recently spoke with Richard English, Avaya Professional Services Managing Director. English explained how enterprises can bridge a digital gap by engaging in a Discovery Workshop. As an undisputed leader of enterprise communications, Avaya helps countless organizations enhance their operational strategies and customer relationships through this innovative, one-day workshop. He explained how:

A successful discovery uncovers new revenue and CX opportunities by ensuring engagement with and incorporation of executive strategy and goals, operational status, technical assessment and potential economic value. Learning how collaboratively building and delivering a compelling digital business case/roadmap—leveraging Avaya’s knowledge and expertise with you and your business leaders—contributes to overall project success.

English said, “It’s easy to say, ‘Here’s where we’re at today in our current state, and here’s where we want to be in our future state’ … but you need to understand the level of effort [and] the level of cost required to achieve that future state.”

A digital roadmap must be created with an inherent understanding of customer, revenue, technical, people, processes and operational drivers. The initial business discovery process is vital for successfully executing digital transformation, making an exercise like a Discovery Workshop instrumental for organizations today.

Interested in not just creating but executing a successful digital transformation? Check out our eBook, Fundamentals of Digital Transformation. We’re here to help. Let’s make it happen together.