6 Ways to Differentiate and Improve Customer Satisfaction Scores

What better way to mark a new year for service providers than by implementing best practices–in a world of self-healing IT equipment that will enhance their reputation and relationship with customers?

When we look at 2016, Avaya’s made several predictions about the future of customer service. Today, I want to focus on self-healing service tools. From our report:

Greater than 50 percent of support coming via unassisted support and self-healing systems means differentiation is now about relationships: As leading-edge vendors put more remediation and proactivity into tools and systems, the value-add of contracted support becomes less visible to the customer.

Vendors will have to develop strategies and underlying system intelligence to improve customer experience with offers that help increase adoption and full value realization. Vendors will need to fight against the depersonalization that increasingly autonomous solutions can drive by working intentionally to maintain the human factors of the service event by implementing things such as relationship-based routing and service deliverables, combined with high-satisfaction channels, most notably, video.

Self-service, fueled by self-healing, machine-to-machine proactive diagnostics, online forums, and other tools, continues to gain momentum. Invaluable personal customer relationships are starting to be eclipsed by new diagnostic tools that find and fix problems, enabling quick resolution. Online self-service tools save time and can help to reaffirm the customer’s satisfaction, but do so at the risk of dehumanizing service delivery and marginalizing service providers to the point of becoming just another commodity.

While forums, Web chats, and automated tools are definitely helpful, service providers can risk generating a value-erosion event by losing the full context of the targeted customer outcome. Sometimes, a well-intended outcome results in a value-erosion event. For example, imagine if a proactive system update helps you load the latest mobile operating system, without sharing the fact that for your particular tablet or smartphone, the new OS has been shown to drive significantly reduced battery life.

Instead, let’s examine a hypothetical value-creation event, based on a contextual customer outcome goal: A car owner receives a recall notice, asking them to visit a nearby dealer to fix their car’s seatbelts. After repairing the car, the dealership provides the customer a two-page document detailing everything else they’ve checked: Brakes, fluids, windshield wipers, etc. The report adds to the customer’s feeling of safety, alleviates their need to perform the inspections themselves and gives the dealership the data for future upsell opportunities. That’s value creation.

Goodwill can be lost to value erosion if the client’s needs aren’t adequately assessed before problems arise. Service providers must continue to find critical ways to keep that personal touch (whether via human or system) in play or risk being commoditized. That means finding new creative ways to maintain contact with customers through communications channels that are most convenient and effective to their needs and consider the context of their solution use.

Generation Y, born between 1982 and 1996, sees the traditional phone as “the fourth channel choice … behind electronic messaging, social media, and smartphone applications–and Generation X is not far behind,” according to a recent global contact center report from Dimension Data. “This trend signals the future shape of customer management.”

According to the report, “Web chat has become the top channel priority for 50.6 percent of contact centers, and the number of deployments that are planned has gone up 27.2 percent over the past 12 months.”

We have seen similar results. Nearly 90 percent of all Avaya customer questions now start on the Web, where customers have numerous ways to resolve issues: Web forums, voice-over-Web, and chat.

Among the technology trends that emerged in 2015, and will figure prominently in 2016, is the emergence of omnichannel, including Web forums, online tools, phone, Web chat, and now, video. Thanks to omnichannel routing technologies, service providers can communicate in the way that most helps an individual customer. Enhancements to omnichannel have led to avatars that can identify the customer, reference their last-identified session and act as a concierge to bring in a “swarm” of experts to resolve their problem.

It’s clear customer pull and vendor push is driving less-traditional voice interaction with customers. Without the rich communication spectrum a live conversation provides, developing new ways to ensure customer context is key to avoiding value erosion-events. Saving time in problem resolution, self-service and omnichannel have improved customer satisfaction scores, but reduce vendor differentiation. What can service providers do to improve/differentiate their customer relationship? Consider these 6 ways to differentiate in a self-service world:

#6: Get personal! Ensure the customer’s choice of omnichannel communication is recognized and completely integrated into their personalized customer access strategy.

#5: Enable customers to get the answers they need quickly: Offer easy-to-choose options for exiting out of the current communication channel choice as quickly as possible when it is not the most efficient to meet their needs.

#4: Data-driven, proactive support is key: Analyze the customer interaction and contact data, including tickets, tags and macros for trends, that can be quickly remedied either with online answers published by agents or forwarded directly to appropriate customers before a problem occurs.

#3: Lights, camera, action! Make sure agents are properly prepared and trained to quickly work with customers to resolve challenges by video, a channel that enhances relationship-building and rewards customers with quicker resolutions.

#2: Personalize and specialize: Route customers to self-service tools or agents that have personalized knowledge of their IT- or business environment.

#1: Gauge CSAT scores: Continually check the customer satisfaction scores for each communication channel to ensure that customers are getting what need from the process.

What are your New Year’s resolutions when it comes to delivering better and more relationship-oriented support? How do you plan to cut problem resolution times in 2016? What improvements will you make 2016 to improve customer satisfaction scores?

Follow me on Twitter at @Pat_Patterson_V

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