I recently attended the 2017 MoNage conference, which focused on the Age of Messaging over the Net—a phrase coined by the founder Jeff Pulver. Jeff was a pioneer in the VoIP industry, having created the Voice over the Net conference, co-founding Vonage. He extends his vision that messaging is at the center of the digital transformation era. I wanted to explore some of the observations from the conference—especially those about contact center operators leveraging customer journey maps for serving customers effectively via chat, SMS and other messaging communiques.
Digital transformation has made the mobile device the preferred method for contacting businesses. The accessibility of compact smart phones has made them readily available to communicate at any time. Whether it is checking email during a TV commercial or when a player goes offside at a hockey game, we’re obsessed with interactions, many of which impact our relationships with companies.
The accessibility of devices has led to a preference for human-less customer services, including web commerce applications, chatbots for addressing basic questions like order status, and electronic updates via SMS for transactions like shipping notifications. Research shows that humans still prefer to communicate with humans for more complex transactions. According to Accenture’s 2016 study “Digital Disconnect in Customer Engagement” in 2016, 83% of customers prefer dealing with human beings over digital channels to solve customer services issues. Experienced travelers know using a friendly tone on a call to an airline representative is the most likely way to get an issue resolved.
The challenge for customers is they often must interact with a business’s numerous touch points before they finally can speak to a live agent. As Avaya’s Laura Bassett highlights in her blog “Winning the CX with Apps, Integrated Data Views, Custom Agent Desktops”—over 40 % of customers were already using up to seven different service channels including live chat, email, social media, SMS and traditional phone to engage with companies.
Imagine if the agent who answered your call had telepathic powers. Imagine that instead of hearing, “How can I help you?” you were given an answer before you even asked your question. The use of text chat is creating an expectation of immediate gratification with answers in seconds, not days—compared to the old-school way of sending an email knowing it will sit in a company for hours or days. When a customer contacts a company, they are contacting a company, not an agent. If they have sent an email, the last thing they want to do is to repeat what they have already told the company. To the customer, the agent is the company.
Technologies have evolved—business can now route interactions to agents with the best-matched attributes to serve individual customers’ needs. Agent selection criteria can include gender, age, location, language—tailored as needed for different industries. It’s not surprising to find a female agent is more successful upselling to a male customer buying flowers. But how do you empower the agent to serve that customer as if they are the only customer that matters? It starts by examining why customers contact a business in the first place.
Is Calling a Contact Center an Admission of Failure: Many People Believe It is
Many businesses often view a call to a contact center as a failure. It’s a failure because the customer could not serve themselves, and had to incur the most expensive resource in the company—human agents. If you examine the reasons people call a contact center, the most common reason is due to a previous event. In many cases, there is an attempt to resolve an issue by going on a website and trying to find information, or using a chatbot to get an update, or sending an SMS requesting an account status. Knowing what a customer has done prior to the agent receiving the transaction is the secret sauce of the customer journey.
Maintaining a View of the Customer Experience with Customer Journey Maps
Customer journey maps lay out a view of the entire customer experience so agents can add value to previous transactions and steps. By knowing what a customer has done, or what the customer tried to do, the agent can be one step ahead of them with a response. It’s like being a detective. If a customer chatted yesterday with an agent about an order and today places a phone call, it is likely to be about the same transaction. By presenting the history of most-recent transactions, the agent is able to have a full 360-degree view of the customer journey. A representative can know what information was exchanged with the last agent, so they can continue with the customer journey as if the journey never stopped. It’s a great way to reduce agent time requirements, while making the customer experience more personalized than ever before.
Avaya can help with the formulation of customer journey maps that capture all forms of communication, including SMS, email, website activity tracking, and more. For example, just last evening I booked a hotel for a trip. Early this morning, I received a message indicating my reservation had just changed, with an offer to chat with an agent. The agent informed me via chat that my preference for a high floor had been confirmed. The neat part was the agent knew I had used the college discount code on the web and wrote “enjoy visiting Arizona State University.” They totally know me. That’s what making a great customer experience is all about. The more you know about the journey your customer takes, the more you are likely to keep that customer on a journey with you for the long term. That customer might even tell their friends about the experience. I’ll definitely tweet about mine!