Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

How to Really Improve Customer Experiences, REALLY!

May 23, 2013

In the last several weeks as a result of the Interactive Intelligence Interactions 13 event, and a variety of industry developments, I have been exposed to not just to the latest and greatest in contact center solutions. It has also been my good fortune to interact with some very knowledgeable people from across the broad spectrum of community stakeholders—customers, resellers, channel partners, industry analysts—literally from all over the world.   What they all have in common is an intense focus to improve/deliver an “improved customer experience.”

This means giving contact centers the best technology and tools available to streamline operations while simultaneously providing compelling customer interactions that engender loyalty and ultimately profits. In these discussions, what struck me was that the industry has a blind spot when it comes to what I as a customer really want that would generate the sustainable loyalty they desire already exists. It just has not been activated.

 I will explain.

True Transparency and Accountability are Key

So here is the thing. When I am contacting a contact center, whether by a phone call or increasingly via multiple channels through the Internet, I am doing so with intent. And, as part of my intent there are four things I want. They are:

  1. A chance to jump the line or know precisely when somebody will respond to me, according to my communications channel and device of choice. This includes e-mail, SMS, etc. by the way.
  2. An expectation that not only will I be interacting with someone who has the context of my account and the knowledge to solve my problem (or reach out immediately to someone or thing that can), but can solve it the first time and fast. This means they not only have all of my information, but also have visibility to get the answers I require wherever that may reside inside their company and the discretion to solve my problem without me having to say, “Supervisor!” 
  3. If you are providing a self-service capability to “deflect” my having to speak with an agent, it had best solve my problem and not waste my time. I happen to always ask for an agent because experience tells me that self-service is problematic. At least most agents can look at the multiple sources that when put together give a reasonable description of me and my issues at a level of granularity that goes beyond interactive FAQs.
  4. I want an audit trail of my interactions across all of the channels I use. I want to be able to hold those I interact with accountable and be able to find them if things continue to go wrong. There are few things more distressing to customers than in essence starting over with somebody.

The last one may be a surprise. It should not be though. 

Why is that I can go to my frequent flyer, frequent stayer and all of my financial services accounts and see in real-time or near real-time the history of my interactions, but when it comes to customer service interactions, only the agent can see my context and history? 

To be honest intuitively shielding this information from me makes no sense. In addition, providing me access to this information via a secure portal is easy to do. The information already exists. The benefits here is that if you are at good at pleasing customers as you claim to be than why not show it. Indeed, from a brand reputation standpoint such a portal would be a tangible way to demonstrate differentiated value.

I realize that “opening the kimono” in the way suggested has its risks. 

I would contend that in an age where the competition is only a click away— and the megaphones we all know as Facebook, Twitter, Angie’s List, Yelp, etc. — are going to mean bad experiences can go viral in a blink of an eye anyway, this is not as risky as it might seem. I would go a step further and say that this could be part of a strategy for providing what the industry calls “proactive customer care.” In this case, it is a matter of demonstrating that you care enough to allow the customer to hold you accountable.

Respect and loyalty are hard to earn, easy to lose and very difficult to get back. Not knowing is what frustrates customers the most. If I have an explanation and a time table for when things might be resolved, I can and will be patient. I might even become a brand advocate. It is when I am left in the dark that my entire experience colors my feelings about dealing with your company going forward. A little bit of sunshine could go a long way. It also is going to decrease the amount of time your agents spend dealing with irate people wanting status updates. The bottom line is that transparency really is good business. 

I will even issue a bit of a challenge with a reward attached. If you can provide me with a case study that proves the above, I promise to write about it.  

Edited by Jamie Epstein