Amid heightened consumer expectations, delivering a superior customer experience is critical for organizations across industries. Digital technologies such as social, mobile, analytics and the cloud (or the SMAC Stack) have been widely embraced by consumers, leaving customer support organizations and the processes that enable them struggling for a way to engage more effectively.
By digitizing key business processes, support organizations can boost customer engagement – and reshape customer perceptions and relationships. To deliver memorable customer experiences that drive revenue growth, we suggest the following six strategies.
Redefine Support Processes for Proactive Problem Management
In a world gone social, a company's reputation – and sales – may have already taken a hit by the time complaints reach customer support. Proactive processes that reach out and respond to customer inquiries are critical to maintaining positive customer relationships.
To achieve this, redefine your processes to drive proactive support, whether responding to potential escalations via social media or identifying opportunities to improve the product line. It is also essential to tie predictive and prescriptive analytics to service and support processes.
Create Multiple Channels, One Experience
Customers move fluidly among call centers, IVRs, social media queues, online chat and e‑mail, and they expect customer support to do the same. While it is challenging to integrate deceptively complex processes and technologies, the payoff can be tremendous: When paired with analytics, the volume of smart data derived from the customer experience and loyalty processes can become a massive competitive differentiator.
Voice‑initiated banking, for example, is predicted to reduce contact‑center calls by as much as 40% and save the financial services industry more than $8 billion annually.1 Moreover, a seamless experience delivers the message that your organization values its customers and encourages them to engage with you. Capital One, for example, has created an ambitious process through which it uses its social media presence to listen, engage with and learn from customers. For the strategy to succeed, the financial services company must coordinate multiple steps, first capturing customer insights from its social efforts and then populating them into its enterprise CRM system.2
To make the most of customer interactions through multiple channels and delivering a uniform experience, begin creating a unified view of your customers. Having a common system of record is foundational, which can be achieved in multiple ways, from leveraging existing CRM systems, to moving to a cloud‑based, multi‑channel solution. All this will require a disciplined approach to master data management.
Develop Personalized Product and Support Experiences
Personalized products and services are becoming a key area of focus for many companies. Largely driven by the capabilities of the SMAC Stack, some companies are crafting tailored and customized versions of everything from stylish wardrobes to shipping options. Applying Code Halo™ thinking (i.e., making and applying meaning from the digital data that surrounds people, processes, organizations and devices) can be a powerful force‑multiplier to catalyze the necessary process change, drive experiences over transactions, prioritize "suggesting over selling," and finding ways to create "markets of one."3
Achieving this requires a radical mindset shift in the way customers are viewed and treated, one that's less reactive and more encouraging of engagement, questioning and interacting to learn about customer likes and dislikes. As products become more personalized, the customer support mission is to use digital tools and techniques to drive tailored support processes that are further personalized by highly skilled customer service representatives (CSRs), who undertake the role of customer advocate and advisor.
On the technology front, create unique customer data models that combine internal CRM and support data, as well as data from social platforms, to create specific service scenarios that help CSRs anticipate and serve customer needs, while still providing flexibility for best near‑term business value.
Deliver 'Moments of Magic' by Going Beyond Metrics
Using social media to drive service and support is gaining traction, but measuring the business value of social customer interactions can be tricky. Volume is one factor, but more important metrics include the total number of queries answered and the resulting customer satisfaction rates.
Customers crave "moments of magic," those unexpected interactions that leave them feeling valued. Customer support needs to plan for such qualitative moments as meticulously as it does for quantitative metrics. Smaller, qualitative gestures leave impressions on customers that are even more lasting. Imagine the positive reaction among customers impacted by Hurricane Katrina when Netflix waived its movie rental charges for two months, for example.
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. When organizations train CSRs to probe for information as they respond to inquiries and process returns, the support function becomes an invaluable listening post.
Converting customer support into an insight generator requires rethinking the support function and shifting focus from a reactive to interactive stance. To get there, organizations must take two distinct steps: Identify the functional, operational and cultural changes needed to create a more interactive support function; and determine the process mechanisms to listen more carefully to customers.
Empower Frontline Support Employees
To deliver positive and memorable experiences, CSRs need their own positive employee experiences to inform their approach. Consider ways to increase employee autonomy and flexibility. Rethink how you measure performance and reward CSRs.
A "moment of magic" score may be one metric that you can leverage to give rewards beyond normal operating performance. Consider empowering frontline support employees with the authority to offer refunds or incentives to wow your customers.
Looking Forward: Steps Your Organization Can Take to Get Started
Establish the position of chief support officer or head of digital customer experience.
Take advantage of digital technologies and approaches to recast customer support as a front-office function.
Go beyond metrics and define how your organization can create, deliver and reward moments of magic.
For deeper insights into and examples of leveraging customer experience to increase profitability and revenue growth, please read our white paper How Digital Is Quickly Reshaping Customer Experience Processes. Visit Cognizant's Business Process Services business unit for more.
1 Olga Kharif, "USAA to Geico Test Voice Apps Seeking $12 Billion in Savings," Bloomberg, Dec. 30, 2013,http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-12-30/usaa-to-geico-test-voice-apps-seeking-12-billion-savings.html.
2 Andrea Incalza, "Social Media for Customer Service Summit: The Genie Is Out of the Bottle," MyCustomer, Nov. 12, 2013, http://www.mycustomer.com/feature/social-crm/social-media-customer-service-summit-genie-out-bottle/165967.
3 "Putting the Experience in Digital Customer Experience," Cognizant Technology Solutions, November 2014,www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/http://www.cognizant.com/InsightsWhitepapers/putting-the-experience-in-digital-customer-experience-codex1180.pdf.