In the ever-changing, continually complex world of customer support, it’s comforting to have unbiased information that provides actionable intel, such as CFI Group’s annual Contact Center Satisfaction Index (CCSI). The results for 2018 are encouraging in that the overall customer service satisfaction score is up 3 percent from 2017, based on results from 1,557 participants who had contact support in the previous 30 days. Of course, there are always difficulties to overcome, particularly in an industry that is focused on customer experience (CX).
The CCSI notes industry challenges in digital advances and developments in artificial intelligence. These changes both broaden the role of the contact center in providing customer service while also blurring the lines between digital channels, service automation and live person interaction. The report reviews the importance of measuring satisfaction across three primary channels that impact the customer journey as the most effective means to improve customer satisfaction. Also covered is the fact that many organizations currently do not have a true customer experience system.
It’s an interesting time for the contact center industry, particularly with the focus on customer experience. What are the lines between humans and machines? How do you strike the proper balance for your customers? Where do you begin? Humach CEO, Tim Houlne, and president, Sean Charnock, provide their insights on the results of the CCSI as well as tips to improve the customer journey within your organization.
Identify the Current State
According to the CCSI, contact center satisfaction requires measuring three channels across the customer service journey – digital properties, automated interactions and professional agents. In our recent consumer report, we suggest you begin by taking a step back and identifying the general state of your customers’ expectations to determine what will meet and then exceed them. There are plenty of good examples – Zappos and Amazon frequently come to mind. As does Tesla due to their recent move to provide escalation of support issues to an executive.
“The beauty of the Tesla motor club forum providing executive-level escalation is that they have visibility to the full spectrum of the customer journey,” says Houlne. “They will quickly and easily identify issues, provide proactive support to members and receive immediate customer feedback. This information will allow Tesla to exceed customer expectations.”
The reality is your customers don’t compare you only to your competitors. They compare you to anyone who has ever delivered a good experience, meaning your organization will be in competition with the Amazons and Teslas of the world when it comes to delivering good customer experience. Having a baseline is crucial to developing the customer journey within your own organization. Do you have visibility to all the channels or, at a minimum, the three channels outlined in the CCSI – digital properties, automated interactions and professional agents?
Focus on the Big Picture
The CCSI states that interaction with customer service agents drives the overall customer contact satisfaction score. However, companies must do more than simply measure and manage interactions with agents – they need to measure the entire customer journey.
“Customer journey management is not a set it and forget it strategy. It must be continuously monitored, creating audit trails and sharing information,” says Houlne. “It encompasses every area where a customer will interact with your brand, including, as the CCSI mentions, digital properties and automated interactions, as well as invoicing, shipping, returns and complaints.”
Utilizing the correct approach to measuring customer experience is crucial. It goes beyond typical contact center metrics to ensure open lines of communications between all departments. The CCSI report shows four stages of company measurement development, stating that many companies still have not updated their measurement approach to capture the full customer experience. These four stages are:
- Sans – no customer measurement in place.
- Solo – only measuring one channel.
- Silos – channels are measured independently.
- System – channels are integrated into a cohesive system.
“We often see organizations that place management of customer experience in a silo, and that silo drives the focus of the measurement,” says Charnock. “There is no clear ownership around customer experience. Coupled with a lack of cohesiveness of data, we see organizations not aligned around measurements and goals.”
As discussed in our consumer report, there are over 1,500 technology companies focused on customer experience, which provide a large number of options but can be overwhelming. The good news is that through our proprietary incubation program, Humach Labs, you will find the best solution for your business so you can then implement across the organization. Of course, doing so will require a deeper dive into operational policies and current CX interactions.
Drill Down to Understand Actual CX
According to the CCSI, 72 percent of customers will visit digital properties in an attempt to resolve their issue before contacting customer service. These properties can include websites, mobile apps or devices, such as a POS device. The best practice is to include these properties as part of the overall CX measurement and align them with the overall business strategy.
“It’s frustrating to make contact, provide account information to an automated system and then have to provide that information again to a live agent,” says Charnock. “The important information comes from the data that is gathered across the organization. Self-service is an expected part of that but can be annoying if I feel the self-service portal recognizes more of my account information than a live agent. The last thing I want to do is repeat myself.”
The flip side of focusing on digital properties is to understand what can be effectively placed in a self-service model and what is more appropriate in the hands of an educated, empathetic agent. For example, a major insurance company opted to automate their condolence greeting when customers called in regarding a life insurance policy, which was not well-received.
“The ideal scenarios for digital properties are simple decision trees where you know your total universe of variables. If there are unlimited variables or answers that require a decision based on the input, leave those with the qualified agents to handle,” says Houlne. “There is no technology to replace the ability and compassion of an educated, well-trained agent.”
Professional Agents are the Most Significant
In spite of the considerable focus and attention on technology, most customers find automated agents annoying and wish to speak with a live person. That is why it was not surprising for the CCSI to note that a voice phone call still dominates as the customer’s channel of choice, with 79 percent choosing this avenue to resolve issues.
“A human is faster, smarter and has a higher aptitude for learning,” says Houlne. “When you couple that with technology to provide calculations, summation of data and predictive information, you have combined the best of both worlds for a great customer experience.”
The Humach team has experience in combining humans plus machines to create the best balance. Additionally, through Humach Labs, clients can incubate ideas, policies and procedures to align with their customers so that you exceed their expectations.
Contact us today to learn how you can apply the CX channel methodology outlined in the CCSI to your organization.