Start the New Year Right with Can't-Miss Expert Advice on Self-Service Design

Achieving a strong ROI on your self-service systems–such as Interactive Voice Response and enterprise voice portals–depends on having customers use them. Whether that happens is due in large part to the effectiveness of self-service design.

To dig in a little further, we decided to speak with our experts and are sharing the results. Effective design is the topic of the first in a three-part podcast series featuring Judith Halperin, principal consultant in speech engineering at Avaya. Be sure to tune in to the podcast to hear the full conversation.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Here are some highlights that I took away from the conversation:

What’s the first step? Know your users! Designing a good self-service experience for your customers starts with knowing who your customers are. Information gathered from Web, phone and other interactions can be leveraged to create profiles and segmentations for your customer base. Automatic Number Identification (ANI), such as Caller ID, can even trigger data sources to personalize the experience.

It’s important to not only study who your customers are, but understand their preferences as well.

Preferences refer to preferred modes of contact and even what type of information customers need most. For example, with customers who usually call in for account balances, you might want to begin each call with balance information. If a customer has previously chosen Spanish as their preference, the interaction might start in that language. Self-service options can also be sequenced dynamically based on previous usage and caller information or entitlements.

Providing the right level of personalization is another important design consideration. Some customers prefer more hand-holding while others may prefer that you just get out of their way. You can leverage the frequency of a customer’s interactions, usage levels and other factors to assign a customer to “expert” or “novice” support application modes.

Why is it important? “ROI!” User-centric design is key to getting caller buy in.

Keep in mind that just basing your analysis on demographics may be dangerous. Recently, I was swapping stories with a contact center design specialist, and he shared a story about how a company he was working with had designed their self-service experience to drive customers of an older demographic to voice-centric service.

It turned out that the company’s older customers actually preferred to interact via mobile devices and to self-serve via mobile applications. This is a good example of why analyzing usage levels across all engagement points and understanding customer preferences is key. As you continue to learn more about the customer needs and preferences, you can continually adjust and drive improvements into which functionalities to automate.

Many people may not like interacting with machines. But they do it. Continually making self-service systems more user-centric and the experiences more user-friendly is key to customers wanting to use them to fulfill their needs without always needing human intervention.

What do you see as keys to good self-service design? Please share your thoughts. And be on the lookout for our next podcast recap, in which we explore how to capture the benefits of self-service while maintaining a personalized, satisfying customer experience.

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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.

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.

Winning the CX with Apps, Integrated Data Views, Custom Agent Desktops

An estimated $6 trillion in global revenue is up for grabs due to dissatisfied customers constantly switching providers, seeking a better customer experience—CX. From finance to retail to hospitality, it seems virtually every industry is grappling with above-average customer churn. Why? Technology has evolved to a point where there is now an inconceivable number of ways for customers to engage with brands, creating a communications environment that many companies simply aren’t set up to handle.

Think about it: if customers aren’t connecting with a brand using one of their three personal mobile devices, they’re leveraging a myriad of other channels and connected platforms to research, communicate and engage. Consider that 150 million emails and 2.4 million Google search queries were sent last year per minute. In that same 60 seconds, almost one million customers were logging into Facebook, and almost 350,000 new tweets were being posted. Over 50,000 apps were being downloaded per minute through the Apple App Store, and over 20 million messages were being sent via communication apps like WhatsApp.

If these statistics show us anything, it’s that experience is everything. The average consumer today uses a combination of the above channels to engage with his or her favorite brands. In fact, in 2014, over 40 % of customers were already using up to seven different service channels including live chat, email, social media, SMS and traditional phone.

The Entire Organization Contributes to the CX

In this next-generation communications environment, a series of unique interaction touch points are created to form a dynamic, inimitable customer journey, as Avaya’s Bernard Gutnick discusses in his blog “Customer Journey Maps Help Strengthen Relationships.” This journey extends across an entire organization, regardless of business line or function. It transcends the limitations of time and space. Conversations continue where they last left off and are routed to whoever is best fit to help, regardless of where that expert resides within the organization. As mentioned, however, many companies aren’t set up to handle this kind of environment from an architectural standpoint. Just consider companies in industries like government, where 71% of federal IT decision makers still use old operating systems to run important applications

Communications-Enabled Applications

To create this revolutionary environment, businesses must operate on open, agile infrastructure that enables them to build any communications-enabled application organization-wide. In today’s smart, digital world, companies need the speed and flexibility to design, build and run unique applications to meet constantly changing customer needs and business requirements. This open environment supports businesses with a contextual, 360-degree view of the customer journey—a view that seamlessly extends across all teams, processes and customer touch points to deliver unparalleled brand experiences.

These apps need to be easy for IT to create, deploy and manage, and they must be agile enough to serve multiple departments to improve ROI and TCO. Driven by the right tools and strategies, every employee must be empowered to do his or her job at maximum potential each day. As we’ve mentioned time and again, gaining a 360-degree view of the customer means serving both contact center and non-contact center environments within a company. This is exactly why best-in-class companies are 30% more likely to align their entire organization around the customer to ensure consistency and contextualization.

Integrated Data Views and Custom Agent Desktops

Here’s how this next-generation communications environment specifically works:

  • A full library of customer engagement capabilities for contact centers—plus team engagement APIs to build business apps for almost any computer environment (i.e., Mac, Windows, iOS, Android and Javascript)—enables businesses to continually reinvent the communications experience, thus reimagining CX possibilities and business outcomes. This is how any expert can be made available for any customer inquiry or issue regardless of their location within the organization.
  • Companies can build their own contact center apps, or embed specific functions into their existing apps, to customize the agent desktop for any unique customer configuration. This ability to instantly innovate customer communications enables organizations to anticipate and respond to the speed of the consumer. Keep in mind that virtually anyone should be able to oversee these customizations, be it the company’s development team, system integrators, or the provider’s professional services team.
  • To know where your customers want to go, you must first know where they’ve been. With CRM information directly integrated within its interface, a web-based application empowers agents with a single, integrated browser view. This enables employees to view all data—both historical and real-time—across every fathomable interaction channel. This means an agent seeing that a customer communicated with a chatbot twice over the last two days about a billing error, for example. Agents will never have to wonder what steps were taken prior to their interaction with a customer, and consumers will never have to repeat the same information or be transferred across multiple different agents. Also keep in mind that this move to a web-based application offers contact center operators more flexibility to leverage general purpose browsers on a range of computers such as Macs, PCs and Chromebooks. This not only eliminates the need to upgrade client apps, but allows companies to customize the layout of each contact center so that information matches the requirements of each individual operation.

As technology continually evolves, businesses will have no choice but to press forward if they wish to perform at the speed of the consumer. Experience is everything, and organizations need a new way to design, deliver and manage customer engagements. With customers now using more digital channels than ever to engage with the brands they love, it’s clear that customer-based business applications have won the war.

Interested in learning more or chatting about transforming your environment? We can help enable you to compete and win the hearts and minds of your employees and customers. Contact us. We’re here to help and would love to hear from you.