Three Ways Smart Companies Are Investing in Better Customer Experiences

4 min read

A look at what organizations are doing to retain (and attract) customers.

When was the last time you had a great customer experience (CX)? A bad one? I recently had one of each:

  • The good customer experience came after I ordered a new pair of skis (yes, winter is coming!) with an online retailer who didn’t take off the promised discount after I entered a sale code. When I saw it hadn’t been applied on my emailed receipt, I emailed the vendor, who replied in five minutes, apologized for the error and immediately credited my credit card for the relevant amount. When my skis arrived, they came with a nice piece of logo swag, too.
  • The bad experience came after I returned a defective jacket to a different online retailer, who took three weeks to agree to issue my refund — which still hadn’t appeared on my credit card account two weeks later. I emailed the company multiple times without a response, so I finally called and spoke to an agent, who told me to … email them. Finally, they replied that I needed to contact my bank and get a letter proving that the refund had not gone through. (Yes, I was as shocked as you.)

Guess which company has my loyalty — and which one I’ll never order from again?

Let’s face it, your scorecard with customers is only as good as your latest engagement — and you’re being compared not just to your direct competitors but to every other business they’ve recently interacted with.

What can you do to stay competitive?

There are three things smart companies are doing to retain (and attract) customers that are worth adopting – sooner rather than later.

1. Increase relevant self-service options

Frost & Sullivan research shows that today’s buyers are choosing self-service, automated channels because they want fast, easy results — and they expect them to be driven by advanced capabilities like artificial intelligence, machine learning and data analytics to deliver a customized, relevant experience.

At the same time, customer service agents are desperate to offload the tasks that lead to boredom and turnover — the ones that prevent them from serving customers as only humans can.

64% of companies have already deployed conversational AI and virtual assistants (bots) to enable self-service. Another 29% plan to do so in the coming year. (Source: Frost & Sullivan)

Not surprisingly, most companies looking to improve CX by offering more self-service start small, by automating the simple, repetitive processes that are the backbone of any contact center. AI helps these companies manage those tasks more effectively by using historical and real-time information to contextualize interactions and by using basic chatbots — pre-programmed with responses based on keywords — to answer simple questions.

That approach works up to a point. Anyone who’s struggled with a bot during an even moderately complicated interaction can tell you, it doesn’t go far enough. Basic AI tools can’t handle complex interactions, respond to customer emotions or effectively manage exceptions.

Which means you need something more.

2. Deploy enterprise-wide intelligent automation

Going further requires deploying intelligent automation across the organization, linking service and support with sales, marketing, product development and other experts to improve the customer experience.

End-to-end intelligent automation enables businesses to do things like the following:

  • Recognize that a high-value customer is searching a self-help site and offer live assistance earlier.
  • Analyze incoming calls to determine their importance, and then move them up in the queue.
  • Help agents by searching databases, GPS and other relevant sources to contextualize the interaction — say, by letting the agent know that the customer’s phone service is out but personnel are already in the field working to fix it.
  • Help contact centers be more proactive by using historic data to anticipate when a customer might be ready for service or an upgrade, and then reaching out ahead of time with a reminder or offer.

62% of companies saw an increase in the number of interactions handled by virtual agents in the past year. But those interactions rank far below others when it comes to customer satisfaction. Clearly, there is room for improvement. (Source: Frost & Sullivan)

3. Keep the focus on people

The goal isn’t to replace humans with machines. The objective is to make things run better for customers and agents alike by using technology like natural language processing (which makes it possible for computers to understand actual human speech – think of it as the voice recognition you always wanted) and machine learning (which enables applications to continuously improve their programming based on real-world interactions and data). When AI is integrated into the customer record, the system can provide intelligent, contextually relevant self- and agent-assisted service.

By recording calls and running them through a language processor with AI capabilities, enterprise intelligent automation can help managers improve training and agent performance. They can even use it to determine which satisfied customers are ripe for outreach from the sales team, based on the language and tone of recent interactions.

By deploying intelligent automation across lines of business, agents can use data to better service accounts over time. As soon as a customer contacts them for help, the agent gets a complete view of the relationship — including how much the customer spends with the organization, the value of that spend, where they spend it, how often they require support and how successful any given interaction has been. This helps the broader team prioritize care, identify the best personnel for each interaction and escalate to higher-level reps as needed.

Final thought

Everyone wants their needs met and their problems solved without waiting too long or working too hard for satisfaction or resolution. Frost & Sullivan research shows that pretty much every company has “improving CX” as one of its top strategic goals. But it’s the ones that have figured out how to actually run things better — by prioritizing operational excellence over tactical efficiencies — that are reporting increased customer satisfaction, more cross-selling and up-selling opportunities, stronger KPIs and higher revenues. Join them, and you can expect to see the same – well into the future.

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