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The Data Challenges to Improving Customer Experience

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Image: Feodora Chiosea - Alamy Stock Vector
Over the last two years, digital transformation in the enterprise has no doubt accelerated, with contact centers and customer experience particularly affected. And yet the most traditional channel — live phone support — saw one of the most notable gains in usage over the last 12 months, according to a recent survey from market research firm Omdia.
 
As part of Omdia’s 2022 Digital-First Customer Experience Survey, the research firm found that 72% of organizations saw an increase in live phone support, with over half of them saying usage of this channel increased “significantly.” Only web channels outpaced live phone support, with 76% of respondents citing an increase in web usage. However, just 33% of respondents said web usage increased “significantly,” versus 38% for live phone support.
 
Omdia principal analyst David Myron discussed some of the survey’s findings on an Enterprise Connect webinar this week. Overall, he said, email remains the most popular interaction channel, and its usage increased almost as much as phone support — 68% of respondents saw an increase in email usage, and 31% called the increase “significant.”
 
Still, the substantial increase in live phone support usage “suggests that organizations are struggling to meet customer expectations over digital channels,” Myron said. “Digital fatigue is setting in among customers.”
 
Myron ascribed customers’ frustration with digital channels to enterprises’ struggles to bring the best data to bear. “A big part of the problem that organizations have with digital interaction channels stems from data challenges,” he said. And when Omdia asked, “What are the biggest challenges to leveraging data within your organization today?” here were the top responses:
 
  • Too time-consuming to query omnichannel customer data or running AI/ML models to derive insights: 47%
  • Cannot personalize in real-time with existing data: 42%
  • Cannot identify the same customer across different channels and devices: 41%
  • Cannot understand the context of customers’ decisions and predict what they will need: 41%
 
These challenges highlight the importance of customer data platforms, according to Tim Richter, director of product marketing, cloud contact center at Twilio, who joined Myron on the webinar (which Twilio sponsored). As its name suggests, a CDP pulls together customer data from multiple platforms within the enterprise, and the CDP can be integrated with the contact center platform to surface the right information to agents at the right time, Richter explained.
 
Richter noted that the enterprise has to be smart about how it presents the integrated customer data to agents. The enterprise has to understand which data fields from different applications need to be surfaced to solve the most common challenges that agents will face and must then create a user interface that gives agents that relevant information.
 
“We’re not talking about taking a full ERP and iframing it into the contact center user interface,” he said.
 
So, the work goes on when it comes to bolstering contact centers’ ability to use digital channels and broader data sets to improve the customer experience. “There are very real barriers to change,” Richter said. He cited NTT survey data showing that 50% of companies “fully agreed that they are not ready and able to pivot as necessary” to adapt to customer demand. Richter also noted that Twilio estimates 60% of the contact center remain on-premises, even post-pandemic, when so many enterprise communications functions moved to the cloud.
 
How enterprises struggle to overcome these barriers is likely going to be one of the big contact center stories through this year and as we head into Enterprise Connect 2023 next March. I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out and what successful enterprises do to meet the challenge.

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