The customer experience (CX) is a chief objective of most boardrooms. Executives’ compensation ties to some form of customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Score (NPS). Most large enterprises have dedicated or assigned a C-level executive to oversee the experience provided to customers across departments. According to IDC
, companies will spend over one trillion dollars in 2020 on technology to improve CX. However, customer satisfaction hasn’t followed suit. Instead, it’s showing alarming signs of erosion, according to the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI).
Three issues are hindering businesses. First, investments in customer service and support remain skewed towards cost-containment. Second, the CX discipline has been slow to penetrate the other customer-facing departments. Third, enterprises are facing challenges to remove functional silos. In particular, sales and services activities aren’t often visible to one another.
COVID-19 and its aftermath are creating two other powerful forces that are challenging business' CX efforts. By accelerating the transition to digital, it’s creating novel ways of doing business and changing consumption models such as telehealth or with contactless delivery. Frontline organizations must support these new models and adjust to evolving consumer behaviors without crossing departmental boundaries. Service-like assistance is becoming a requirement for selling and customer service interactions trigger upsells or generate referrals. Before COVID, the world was delineated between sales and service. Now, there’s no longer rigid boundaries between the two roles.
COVID is also resetting brand affinities and preferences. The interactions brands are having in these distressing times, are reestablishing how consumers feel about every business. Whether a company is unable to create a compelling experience for a new business model or fails to respond to a challenging moment, will negatively impact CX.
Customer service departments must find a better balance between meeting cost objectives and customer expectations. The latter could mean seizing an opportunity to help create a long-lasting impression. Many organizations are increasing their use of self-service and digital channels to cope with cost-reduction objectives and the growth of inquiry volume. They must offset these automation strategies with human contacts, either by providing easy access to agents or through proactive engagement. Agent empowerment is critical to handle these moments and conduct empathetic conversations.
Sales departments must adopt the CX discipline while transitioning to virtual interactions. Personalized interactions are instinctive to sales reps when they meet customers in-person or welcome them to a branch or store. It is harder when interactions are virtual. COVID is fast-tracking the shift of sales to virtual selling. In the B2B space, the transition started after the 2008 downturn but remained in the technology sector. The pandemic is having other industries adopt inside and digital selling. In the B2C space, Ecommerce is expanding its scope and hinges on being able to provide human assistance. Whether B2B or B2C, organizations must modernize their customer engagement and interaction technology infrastructure.
Organizations must also treat collections as a customer-facing function. Its belonging to finance has too often left the subject out of customer initiatives, but debt collection has evolved tremendously. Historically phone-centric, it already adjusted to the mobile world with text SMS and voice drops. In several industries, such as lending or healthcare, there’s a well-established link between the collection experience and loyalty. Enterprises in these sectors have been adopting analytics to segment, and best engage their customers. Today, both the collection effectiveness and experience hinge on smart workflows that tailor engagement to collectability, offer flexible terms or refinancing options. Layering the analytic foundation and enabling these workflows require renewing the systems used.
New customer-facing processes are becoming more programmatically controlled. Onboarding, for example, plays a fundamental role in helping customers use the product they bought or service to which they subscribed, effectively. Customer success helps consumers make the most of their purchase, driving loyalty or upsell. In healthcare, it can be wellness programs. Specific software handles these everchanging processes. They entail a fair amount of communications that must be managed within the same discipline of the contact center. Engagement should be deliberate, driven by the desired workflow, and a 360-degree customer context.
These different motions are intertwined in the customer journey, often spanning across sales and service. The flourishing of these customer processes makes the consolidation and sharing of customers’ context critical, which is another challenge for most enterprises. Each of these segments of the CX is managed by a specific team using different applications. In a market adjacency, customer experience management (CEM) software, Medallia reports that, on average, it’s pulling information from 25 different systems to provide holistic customer feedback. The number of applications specialized for these “micro-journeys” is soaring, spurred by the cloud. It’s making the consolidation of the customer context using a single CRM system elusive.
A new paradigm is also emerging, inspired by marketing customer data platforms
(CDPs). CDPs consolidate in-house and third-party party information to find the most relevant ad to serve. By focusing on a specific set of actions, these solutions are simpler to implement. They also leverage easier cloud integrations and APIs to assemble consolidated views from multiple applications. This model is emerging in other parts of the organization, pulling the relevant information to customer engagement in a given context.
COVID and the resulting digital world are forcing businesses to one-up their CX game at all customer touchpoints and inevitably re-architect their systems to bring to frontline employees actionable, holistic customer contexts.
This post is written on behalf of BCStrategies, an industry resource for enterprises, vendors, system integrators, and anyone interested in the growing business communications arena. A supplier of objective information on business communications, BCStrategies is supported by an alliance of leading communication industry advisors, analysts, and consultants who have worked in the various segments of the dynamic business communications market.