Delivering exceptional customer experience is the holy grail of modern business, but like King Arthur’s knights, you are unlikely to find what you seek without an effective map.
The modern contact center is undoubtedly a company’s most critical link to its customers, and the way technology has developed over the past two decades has significantly altered the way in which this link occurs. The need to connect with customers via multiple media channels – whether it be through chat functions, social media, websites, email or the traditional telephone - has seriously complicated this business unit.
Of course, such complexity also opens up a whole new range of opportunities for the delivery of a truly exceptional customer experience. To achieve this, however, requires a plan – a well-crafted and thought out customer experience roadmap.
The road to desired business results ultimately runs directly through customer experiences and behaviors, and it is vital to recognize this fact. While all companies deliver a customer experience, it isn’t always what the company intends. Thus, if you want to ensure that your company delivers an uplifting customer experience, it is critical that you develop a roadmap outlining what you expect the customer experience to be, and, most importantly, how you expect to achieve this.
In the end, the aim should be to ensure that customers receive the experience your organization would like them to have, one that builds loyalty, supports repurchase, increases loyalty and reduces customer churn and attrition.
When it comes to the contact center, the key elements of a successful customer experience include the ease of access, or the manner in which a customer is able to obtain information, purchase products, make inquiries, complain or seek assistance in fixing a problem. Alongside the ease of access is the speed of access. Customers today expect high service levels, without requiring them to first jump through multiple hoops, such as repeatedly having to enter their account number or contact the center more than once to achieve resolution. The third aspect here lies in the quality of the interaction, which encompasses things like how easy, efficient and logical the process is.
Once you understand this, you can get to work laying out and designing your desired customer experience roadmap. The first step, of course, is to know the ultimate goal you want to achieve with this roadmap.
Whether this goal is to improve the customer experience at specific channels, to engage your employees or to refine and consolidate your brand, you need to ensure that you have measurable and achievable aims, and that these are set out at the start.
Following this, it is important to know what channels, methods and touch-points the customers use when interacting with the business. Knowing what these are and how they are used by the customer will enable you to more easily ensure that your customer relationship management (CRM) system is able to track each time that consumers touch the company. This is critical information you can use to help populate your roadmap, in order to ensure that the customers’ journey is always a pleasant one.
It is also vital to consider the customer experience holistically. While the contact center is at the coalface of customer interaction, it is not the only department that touches the customer. In other words, you need to understand how other business units interact with and impact on the customer too.
Marketing, Sales and your brick and mortar stores all interact with customers, and the standard silos that exist between business units creates a distance between the various business areas that means that more often than not, these entities have little understanding of what takes place in the contact center. By focusing on viewing the customer experience holistically, you can ensure that messaging remains consistent, regardless of the department delivering it.
Furthermore, you should not only focus on the different business units within the enterprise, you should also include stakeholders from across the company and from all levels within the organization. It is important to understand how different stakeholders impact on the customer experience and to obtain input from them on how to create the ideal roadmap. A good example is how a back office area like accounting or dispatch will have information about processes that directly impact on the customer, so obtaining input from them can only help to improve the overall customer experience.
Your roadmap must also take into account the fact that clients inevitably view your brand as a single entity. It is of no interest to them the fact that, for example, the company website is administered by different people to those who handle the contact center, or that some of your services may be outsourced.
Therefore, the roadmap must take into account the combination of touch-points that each customer goes through, so you that you can understand how you deliver your brand experience at each of them, in order to improve the overall experience.
Another step is to make sure that your people reinforce the brand with every interaction they have with customers. This becomes easier once you have a holistic view of the organization and its various business units, but it must be drummed into staff that they must seek to understand what each consumer is trying to achieve at each touch-point, why they are there, how they feel and what external factors might be influencing them.
Remember that a single bad experience often has more influence on a customer than a lifetime of good service and traditional brand messaging. This is why it is crucial to reinforce the brand at every single customer touch-point.
Although it seems counterintuitive to say it, the roadmap must also take into account those things that are beyond your control, but may still impact how customers feel about you. For example, a road closure outside one of your stores or a failure in Internet connectivity may still leave the client feeling less than happy with your company. While these issues may be beyond your control, you can make a note of the things that have or can affect your key touch-points and – where possible – develop strategies to mitigate against them.
Also be sure to get every member of staff fully engaged in the customer service effort, by treating customer experience as a competence, as opposed to simply another function. This means getting everyone in the business on message, all the time and making sure that they are empowered to make the decisions that need to be made in order to satisfy the customer.
Finally, understand that your roadmap is not set in stone. In other words, even though you may have finalized it, ensure that you review and renew it periodically. Revisit it on a regular basis, even though the likelihood is that it will not need amending most of the time. However, every time a new branch opens up, a new sales or contact channel is added, or even if a new outsourced provider is brought on board, you will need to build this into your roadmap.
Ultimately, you need to understand that it is called a roadmap because it is very similar in most respects to its namesake – and if you are using an out-of-date atlas to find your way around, you will run into trouble sooner, rather than later.