The keynote on the second day two of Cisco's Webex 2022 virtual event focused on why and how chief information officers (CIOs) should rethink their customer experience (CX) approaches and how to get started on leveling up. Geoff Huang
, VP, of collaboration products and solutions marketing, at Cisco, was joined by No Jitter contributors Sheila McGee-Smith
, founder of McGee-Smith analytics, and Zeus Kerravala
, founder and principal analyst of ZK Research. We cover the highlights of the discussion below.
Driving Factors: Staffing and Pandemic Lessons Learned
McGee-Smith attributed staffing as “one of the big driving factors” for businesses rethinking their CX approach, pointing out that “at least in the U.S., we’re still seeing 4 million people a month
quitting their jobs.” Subsequently, businesses are faced with trying to run a customer experience with brand new people and trying to hire constantly. McGee-Smith says it's natural to start thinking about the possibilities for automation.
From the consumer perspective, McGee-Smith added, the pandemic was a giant proof of concept because every age group discovered they could do much more with their digital apps. McGee-Smith cited her nonagenarian in-laws, who quickly grew familiar with ordering groceries and pizza delivery through their digital devices. The driving factors are a combination of two drivers, McGee-Smith explained. First, internal drivers—how does a CX leader deliver CX well and automate more of it, and second—how do I meet the needs of consumers who’ve gotten used to digital experiences and want smooth interactions?
Kerravala described how as the pandemic unfolded, customer experience became a top brand differentiator. He explained that the ability to drive a great customer experience outweighed price, product quality, etc., because for the 90-year-olds—like McGee-Smith’s relatives who had to do things digitally—a bad experience ultimately leads to a failed experience. Kerravala cited factoids from his 2021 research, where two-thirds of millennials admitted to changing loyalties to a brand because of a single bad [customer] experience. “When it comes to CX, you get one chance to do this, and you have to do it right because the momentum behind digital transformation is huge.”
Kerravala says that if businesses thought about customer experience factors in different silos and different initiatives, it creates a dysfunctional customer experience. Customers don’t care about marketing, customer success, contact center, or inside sales, Kerravala explained. “They want a seamless experience, and that’s what’s driving CIOs to rethink their CX approach.”
Importance of Re-Evaluating the Customer Experience
As organizations reconsider their CX approach, they’re likely to face challenges such as agent retention. But Kerravala explained why The Great Resignation
doesn’t have to be a bad thing. The positive spin around so many people quitting their jobs each month is now employers have the opportunity to acquire new talent. Kerravala said that people only want to work for companies where they know they’ll be successful, and that requires supporting the path to success. He said, “You must give agents and salespeople marketing tools required to be successful because no agent wants to get yelled at by a customer.”
Another issue Kerravala mentioned is the various data silos within an organization that has created CX as separate initiatives, resulting in separate silos. “Good data leads to good insights, but the corollary is that silos of data lead to fragmented insights.” What can happen, Kerravala said, is the marketing team can examine the data their suite of services generates and infer something, but the contact center can look at its own data silo and infer something completely different. He said, “Unless you can unify your data, you’re going to wind up in a situation where you have fragmented insights and confused customers.”
Kerravala said the magic happens when these companies can synthesize that data, analyze it, and turn it into a highly-personalized experience. “That helps you become a market leader and sustain [your CX] for the long term.”
As enterprises explore new CX initiatives, Kerravala says, leaders will want to bring internal stakeholders together; they'll have different perceptions of how to improve CX and help the operation break out of a siloed perspective. “You want to have everybody on the same page, and this can have a big impact on prioritizing your business goals.” Kerravala added what’s more important is you’re able to personalize interactions much better [through digital channels].
McGee-Smith also shared her thoughts on challenges organizations will likely face as they reassess their CX approach. “We’re still in a world where 70% of agents are working behind on-premises-based solutions.” That translates to much less innovation overall. As business leaders look to change that, McGee-Smith said they think of the cloud as a magic bullet when it’s not necessarily a magic bullet. “It’s certainly not a magic bullet if your mindset is ‘I only want to replace what I have on-premises in the cloud.’” She advised why business leaders must stop and take a moment of reflection and re-evaluate the possibilities technologies deliver that weren’t available 20 years ago. McGee-Smith added that during this reevaluation, tech leaders should be mindful to avoid thinking in terms of a like-for-like replacement.
As an example of how not to fall into the like-for-like fallacy—McGee-Smith cited the increased capabilities of interactive voice responses (IVR). McGee-Smith explained when IVRs arrived on the scene, business leaders thought they could automate 5% of customer interactions. “What we’re finding with chatbots, text-bots, and voice bots is, we can take that 5% to 15%, 20%, and 30%.” It’s less rule-based,” she added. You can also add some artificial intelligence (AI) that learns and gets better over time.” A benefit to that, Kerravala says, is automating those tasks so that agents don’t have to help customers reset their passwords constantly. He added, “By offloading those tasks from the agent, you’re also improving agent satisfaction.”
Another industry trend to be mindful of when beginning to assess how to update and improve CX is a tendency to take new technology and make it look like the old standard, Kerravala explained. “We need to start with new [technology] and not try to replicate the old.” McGee-Smith agreed that “you’re not going to meet consumer needs with a siloed application” and prompted event attendees to think about how many companies need chat capabilities on their website and send that request to business process outsourcing.
The right answer, McGee-Smith says, is to ask how to connect those capabilities with existing technology infrastructure, which allows the company to add innovation and replace the underlying platform over time. “It has to be a holistic look,” McGee-Smith said. “You have to step back and say, ‘what’s the five-year plan?’”
Apply These Best Practices to Improve Your Customer Experience
The leader of a customer experience organization needs to be the voice of the customer, Kerravala advised. It's also important to assess the different strengths and weaknesses of the channels available to customers, such as voice, video, chat data, etc., “they all have different strengths and weaknesses.” When a customer has complicated interactions, they must talk to an agent. From that perspective, you want to move to the cloud. “You want to bring in all these digital channels, but you must use them properly.”
Kerravala emphasized how important it is to evaluate your contact center as a service (CCaaS) vendor on its platform capabilities to help meet quickly-unfolding business needs on a short turnaround. He said, “When it comes to clouds, there are many different flavors—but we’re in this era of cloud-native—and if there’s anything the pandemic taught us, it’s you don’t know what’s coming down the road, and you must be able to add new capabilities quickly.”
Things are going to change, McGee-Smith emphasized. By moving to the cloud, she explained, you’re enabling agility—the ability the move quickly and make changes when necessary. “Think about moving to the cloud as a first step, not a final step …It’s going to open up a brand new world.”