The Digital revolution is quickly reshaping customer experience processes. Great – and it’s about time, too. Who’s with me? Raise your hand if calling in to a customer support line increasingly borders on the ridiculous (assuming you can successfully “zero out” or shout “Operator!” into the IVR to reach a live agent)? For anyone that’s read our book “Code Halos” or my colleague Ben Pring’s excellent whitepaper “Putting the Experience in Customer Experience”, the preceding sentence may be a memo from the department of the stunningly obvious.
Long relegated to back-office status, customer service and support (whether insourced or outsourced) has languished as a corporate no-man’s land. Worse, traditional contact centers are incident-centric; their only goal is the current interaction. There’s no unified view of the customer and no interest in prolonging the interaction. The message customers take away? “We’d rather you didn’t call.” What’s more, because relationships are becoming less transactional and more interactional, support is shaking off its back-office past and becoming interwoven with today’s all-important customer experience. In many companies, what was once invisible to the C-suite is now gaining center stage in terms of extending customer loyalty and improving operational efficiency to drive top- and bottom-line performance.
But where to begin? Larger companies, especially, may be saddled with reactive, legacy customer support processes that they can’t untether from. Where handling agent-based, “rumps in seats” aligned processes may be exceedingly expensive (even if offshore), compared to cutting edge, interactive and digital modes that help foster positive attractive and interactive relationships with customers.
By invoking six strategies that reimagine the power of customer support processes, digitally-savvy companies can create unprecedented levels of new business value and significantly elevate the experiences they have with their clients. We recently published a process-aligned whitepaper entitled “How Digital Is Quickly Reshaping Customer Experience Processes”, dealing with practical steps leaders can take NOW to make the journey into the future of customer experience.
Following are six ways to recode key support processes and elevate customer experience:
1) Redefine support processes for proactive problem management: Identify ways your organization can redefine its processes to drive proactive support — whether responding to potential escalations via social media, or identifying opportunities to improve the product line like Intel. Do you have the organization and incentives aligned for proactive support? Is there a process for taking ideas to the next level?
2) Create multiple channels, one experience: Begin planning your initiative to create a unified view of customers. A unified view of customer interactions is very different from enabling all communication channels for support activity. The first challenge is to change how your organization defines its support outcomes. From an IT perspective, can your systems marshal customer messages and contacts from every channel, including social media and CRM systems?
3) Develop personalized product and support experiences - Largely driven by the capabilities of SMAC technologies, companies are beginning to craft tailored and customized versions of everything from stylish wardrobes to shipping options. It requires a mindset shift regarding the customer, one that’s less reactive and more encouraging — perhaps craving — of customer engagement, questions and interactions to learn about likes and dislikes.
4) Deliver ‘moments of magic’; go beyond metrics: Most support organizations still focus on responding to incidents. But customers crave “moments of magic,” those unexpected interactions that leave them feeling valued. Imagine the positive reactions among customers impacted by Hurricane Katrina when Netflix waived their charges for two months, for example. It was probably a small gesture in the midst of a huge personal crisis for its customers but nonetheless thoughtful and impactful.
5) Evolve customer support into a listening post: The one-to-one nature of customer support makes it a goldmine of feedback on products, services and processes. Yet, according to Forrester, only one-third of companies analyze customer insight across boundaries. Customer insight may be a challenge to take on, but the results can be eye-popping. Dell, Inc., for example, converted the feedback it collected from a customer service debacle into useful product development information that helped it recover from the public relations fiasco and inspired the launch of IdeaStorm.com, its groundbreaking platform for crowdsourcing ideas. Dell continued to revamp and modernize IdeaStorm in 2012.
6) Empower frontline support employees: Technology alone cannot create a memorable customer experience, although it can enhance and even transform it. Often, a missing link is the empowerment of frontline employees, or CSRs. To deliver positive and memorable experiences, CSRs need their own positive employee experiences backing them up. Rethink how you measure performance and reward CSRs. If your call center tracks average hold time, determine whether the metric contributes to a positive customer experience. If not, engage employees to help establish new metrics that will.
This is not the time for “half-measures”. Digital stalwarts such as Google, Amazon, Facebook and Twitter have gone beyond “tweaking” customer service and support and fundamentally changed their operating models to deliver sustained customer experience. But if your organization, people, technologies and processes aren’t ready for that level of change, you’re not alone: Digital technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and the cloud (or the SMAC Stack) have taken the consumer space by storm — and left customer support organizations and the processes that enable them struggling for a way to join in.
By digitizing key business processes, support organizations are finally joining the revolution. New and re-coded processes enable support to offer genuine customer engagement — and to accelerate profound, lasting change. Support organizations are adopting strategies that do away with outdated traditions (such as equating the “offshore call center” with “customer experience”) and embracing valuable new ones, such as using smart talent and digital processes to create more authentic experiences.