Contact Center Solutions Featured Article

Why Context is Key to a Personalized Customer Experience

March 25, 2019

In today’s digital age, where just about anything can be accomplished online, customers have taken to self-service options as a first step in problem resolution or locating information.  They are able to do it at their convenience, on the device of their choosing, and typically faster than if they were to engage a contact center representative. 

That said, not all situations can be fully resolved through self-service, and many customers find themselves having to fall back to the contact center at some point.  It can start by looking for solutions to questions or problems on their own, or it can be a simple informational gathering exercise – but many times, they end up needing help from a live agent.  That’s where the experience can go awry. 

When customers switch engagement channels, they do not expect to have to start their search for answer over.  Quite the opposite, in fact – they expect context from previous engagements to be carried over to new channels.  That includes IVR, web self-service, email, chat, or any other interactions.  The last thing they want is to have to repeat information they have already provided.  In fact, lack of contextual continuity has long been a major complaint for customers, including when they are simply being escalated to a more capable agent or supervisor for an ongoing issue. 

Take, for instance, a customer trying to use a web-based self-service portal to resolve a problem with a new cable set-top-box without success.  That same customer then calls his provider to seek assistance and is put into an interactive IVY system, which he hopes will guide him to resolution.    But, it does not.  Instead, he is then put into a queue to speak to a live agent, at which point, he has to repeat account information and the problem, which he has already entered online, and also spoken into the IVR system.  By the time that customer actually speaks with an agent, his frustration level has increased and even the best agent may not be able make him feel satisfied by resolving the problem.

The problem is that each engagement is siloed and the data is not carried across the engagement system to provide context with each ensuing interaction.  With today’s technology, it becomes imperative that details of every interaction be recorded and passed through to the next channel.  For instance, continuity of engagement data can provide critical information that can help automated systems bypass redundant collection of information, and can even be passed to live agents to provide an exact accounting of the customer’s activity regarding the issue. 

In fact, a well-designed AI-based platform can even understand that the customer has moved from a web portal to a voice IVR for the same issue and skip the IVR altogether by prioritizing his place in the live queue.  This allows them to get a live engagement faster and enables the agent to provide a personalized experience based on the recorded customer journey.  Not only is the customer’s issue able to be resolved more quickly, but he experiences a closer, more personalized interaction thanks to the use of contextual data.  Often, an agent simply answering the call by addressing the customer by name makes the customer feel valued. 

But, the concept of contextual continuity is not only relevant in a case of problem resolution.  It can also be an invaluable tool in creating personalized interactions by sales and marketing teams. 

Take a car buyer who has initiated a new vehicle search online through one of the many available online portals that have developed relationships with car dealerships.  They collect information and pass that along to local dealers to follow up with potential buyers.  Dealers can connect with those buyers through email, text, or voice, but what’s important is they understand the buyer’s needs based on data they have entered.  If a buyer is looking for a specific model year and trim, addressing that specific need is as critical as knowing the customer’s name.  In this case, the context of the initial online engagement is made available, but it comes down to how well representatives are trained to respond.  Calling a prospective buyer and asking what vehicle she is looking for leaves a much less satisfying feeling than starting be saying, “Hi Cindy, I understand you’re looking for a white 2018 Honda Accord EX-L.  I would love to help you find exactly what you’re looking for.”

The same relevance of context and personalization holds for any channel.  Delivering an onmichannel experience goes much deeper than simply enabling customers to leverage the channels of their choosing.  It requires tight integration between channels to ensure data availability across every channel to retain context and to be able to personalize every engagement as much as possible.  Otherwise, instead of a personalized omnichannel experience, you’re offering a multichannel environment.  If your system isn’t providing continuity of context, you’re missing out on the opportunity to deliver the next level of customer service, whether that’s with existing or prospective customers.

Edited by Erik Linask