As a contact center leader, you are used to making incremental improvements to your operations and the consumer experience. Maybe you've increased agent soft skills training or implemented new self-service solutions to make the support experience more convenient for customers.
Consistent improvement efforts are to be commended and are necessary to remain competitive in today's business environment. Making contact centers more cost-efficient while also improving quality is a recipe for increasing customer satisfaction and improving the bottom line.
But I would be curious if your contact center improvements are done as part of an enterprise-wide consumer experience management program, or if your organization leaves it up to the individual business functions to manage and improve their part of the consumer experience.
The latter approach can lead to business teams heading in opposite directions and ultimately creating disjointed customer journeys. To win in the experience economy, businesses need to have a CX strategy that aligns the entire organization and synchronizes improvement efforts. This level of alignment also requires effective consumer experience management.
This article will explore how contact centers can actively contribute to consumer experience management efforts to ensure organizational success.
What is consumer experience management?
Consumer experience management (CEM), also known as customer experience management and voice of the customer (VoC), is a disciplined approach to designing, managing, monitoring, and optimizing customer experiences and journeys. The approach consists of a set of processes and technologies that enable businesses to better understand their customers and deliver experiences that consistently meet their needs.
With the introduction of so many digital communication and support channels, customer journeys have become complex. And more touchpoints mean more can go wrong, creating a need to closely manage CX.
Understanding needs and expectations requires a deep, data-driven understanding of the customer. Consumer experience management develops this customer knowledge by collecting and analyzing piles of data from sources such as:
- Contact center interactions
- Customer surveys
- Product reviews
- Purchase history
- Social media comments
- Focus groups
Analyzing all this customer data provides information such as what customers like and don't like about the brand, product issues and enhancement ideas, and customer service shortcomings. Ultimately, these insights enable organizations to pinpoint ways to improve overall CX and the end-to-end customer journey.
Analysis is an ongoing process and so is improvement. A primary goal of consumer experience management is to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, and consistently listening to your customers is the best way to know how to do that. Customers will tell you what CX improvements will make them happy and loyal, then it's up to a cross-functional team to prioritize and execute.
Why cross-functional? Because another goal of consumer experience management is to make sure customers receive consistent experiences at every interaction touchpoint. If your storefronts, Facebook page, and promotional emails are all classy but a cheesy chatbot greets your website visitors, that's a disjointed experience that needs to be fixed. And in order to fix it, retail, social media, marketing, web, and customer service teams need to collaborate to ensure their touchpoints are all aligned with the brand image.
Collaborating with other business teams will also help secure the buy-in needed to ensure success. Consumer experience management efforts rely on every employee doing their part to improve CX. When their bosses are CX champions, employees are more likely to get on board.
Why is consumer experience management important for your business?
Most businesses now compete mostly on the basis of CX, and there are plenty of statistics that show that consumers value and will reward exceptional experiences. For example:
- Most consumers agree they are willing to buy more products (87%) and are willing to recommend a company to others (81%) if they have an exceptional customer service experience
This data shows that great CX is good for the bottom line because it influences spending behavior, but the ability to always deliver great experiences is elusive. Factors such as poorly designed websites, antiquated technology, and indifferent contact center agents are barriers to providing consistently superior CX in every channel.
This is why CX needs to be closely managed. Consumer experience management can reveal issues businesses may not even be aware of. Once everything is brought into the light, organizations can prioritize and fix issues, and also be more proactive about optimizing customer journeys.
How can contact centers contribute to consumer experience management efforts?
Effective consumer experience management requires teamwork. Every business function plays a role in managing and improving CX, especially contact centers. The following are some impactful ways contact centers can contribute to and influence CX management.
1. Openly collaborate
Sometimes the contact center is used as a scapegoat for everything that's wrong with the customer experience. A few bad, highly visible service failures can overshadow all the good work customer service teams do. If this is the case with your contact center, you might be understandably reluctant to sit in a conference room with all your detractors and be transparent about contact center issues that you know are negatively impacting CX.
But transparency is necessary for meaningful CX improvements. Contact centers need a place at the table so they can help identify and prioritize opportunities, contribute to design decisions, and represent the voice of the customer. And if having a seat at the table means providing a staff member to work full-time on the consumer experience management team, contact centers should send their very best. This would be a great development opportunity for a supervisor or manager.
2. Transform contact center data into insights and share with the organization
One of the most significant contributions a contact center can make to consumer experience management is sharing its customer insights. The foundation of CX management is understanding customer preferences, opinions, needs, and expectations, and contact centers have the data to provide these insights.
However, fully tapping into this mostly unstructured data is impossible without sophisticated analytics tools powered by artificial intelligence. Let's take a closer look at one of these solutions and the types of information it can provide.
Interaction analytics software
Interaction analytics software mines customer service data by analyzing 100% of interactions from all channels. Natural language processing (NLP) enables the solution to understand voice and digital conversations, and machine learning makes it smarter and more effective over time.
Interaction analytics can produce information such as:
- Customer sentiment
- Contact drivers
- Trending topics
- Emerging issues
- Root causes of problems
Not only do these insights enable much better problem management, but they also spotlight opportunities to improve CX across the enterprise. Customers usually contact customer service regarding issues that other business teams are responsible for. Sharing these insights formally within the consumer experience management structure can ensure they're documented, prioritized, and acted upon.
In addition to mining customer service interactions for useful information, the surveys that contact centers frequently administer can provide further insights about what makes customers happy or frustrated.
Contributing all these insights to consumer experience management efforts will help the organization paint a more complete portrait of customers and identify ways to improve their experiences.
3. Use a modern contact center platform
The contact center also needs to contribute to consumer experience management by improving the support experiences it provides, which may not be possible without a modern contact center platform. Antiquated technology can't handle consumer demands for seamless, digital-first customer service experiences.
Analysis of customer information will likely show that customers want the following in their support experiences.
With all the digital channel choices these days - email, chat, SMS, and messaging, to name a few - customers have a multitude of ways they can communicate with a business, and they frequently use more than one channel within the same transaction. For instance, a customer may begin their resolution journey by interacting with a chatbot in WhatsApp and then switch to chatting with a live agent.
The moment they switch channels introduces an opportunity for friction. Do they have to repeat the information they already shared with the chatbot, or does the agent have access to the transcript, enabling a seamless transition?
Consumer experience management efforts need to examine the handoffs between touchpoints as part of end-to-end journey analysis. If there is friction when customers move from one support channel to the next, contact centers may need to invest in technology capable of omnichannel orchestration, such as:
- Automatic contact distributor (ACD) capable of omnichannel routing of voice and digital interactions
- Integrated voice and digital channels that work together seamlessly
- A unified agent desktop that organizes all interactions for omnichannel agents
Contact center solutions that are capable of providing omnichannel experiences will help organizations move the needle on the consumer experience.
Another opportunity the CX analysis might unearth is a need for more or better self-service options. Self-service can provide the speed and convenience customers want in a support experience. Plus, effective self-service can influence loyalty and distinguish a brand from competitors. In fact, our research revealed that 84% of consumers are more willing to do business with companies that offer self-service options. However, as the graphic below reveals, there's some work to be done to make self-service options easy and convenient.
When you look at what your customers are saying, they, too, might be telling you to improve your self-service. Again, modern contact center platforms can provide effective self-service options that are beyond the capabilities of antiquated systems.
As an example, smart, AI-powered virtual agents can help voice, web, app, and messaging users perform structured tasks such as scheduling appointments and opening insurance claims. Because virtual agents use natural language processing, they aren't confined to a rule-based menu like an average chatbot. Customers just need to use normal language to say what they need, and the virtual agent will walk them through the steps of the resolution. And if the virtual agent doesn't understand a customer, it can seamlessly transfer them to a live agent.
Optimize agent performance with the best technical solutions
Even though self-service adoption is increasing, agent-assisted channels like phone and chat are still widely used. Agents are essential for providing fast, accurate, and empathetic CX. An agent can save the day or wreck a relationship, and everything in between. No consumer experience management initiative would be complete without analyzing and optimizing agent performance.
The right modern contact center technology can make agents more effective and efficient while also improving engagement and work-life balance.
While serving customers, here are some of the tools that can help agents be more effective:
- Automation. Some agents' days are filled with repetitive tasks that can be automated. Automation adds 100% accuracy to these tasks while enriching agents' jobs by allowing them to spend more time building relationships with customers. Good for the customer and good for the agent!
- Smart knowledge base. Even the most experienced agent forgets things from time to time, and, really, agents shouldn't have to rely on their memories for answers anyway. A top-notch knowledge base makes it quick and easy to find the right answers so that customers get speedy and accurate resolutions and agents look like geniuses.
- Unified agent desktop. Not only does a unified agent desktop facilitate omnichannel, but it streamlines all interactions by putting all the applications agents use, including the smart knowledge base we just discussed, in a single user interface.
Using up-to-date systems will, in itself, improve the agent experience. But the experience can be further improved if the contact center solution offers flexible scheduling, seamless work from home abilities, and other features that enhance work-life balance.
The contact center has a lot to offer to consumer experience management efforts, including collaboration and leadership, customer insights, and technology-driven improvements to customer service experiences. Full participation is vital for the business's CX success.
To learn more about the basics of establishing a consumer experience management program, read "Guide to designing and implementing a Customer Experience Management (CEM) program."