What a powerful proposition:  Our customers WANT to love us.  That is a very enticing idea, and customer experience is certainly a primary focus for organizations across all vertical industries.  We know that companies that get customers experience right are leaders in the market. So what is stopping us?

mt_nirenThe answer was the premise of the latest webinar in our DMA Analytics Council Presents series from Dr. Niren Sirohi, Vice President, Predictive Analytics at analytics consultancy iKnowtion.  He painted a picture of the contact center of the future – and its impact on customer experience.

“When customers contact us, it gives us a chance to change or transform or influence the experience.” He said.  “Self-service is highly valued in our culture and now that there are many channels of self-service, including online chat, communities and websites, we have an opportunity to learn from customers how they want to interact with brands,” he said.  The problem is that self-service is not always intelligent or helpful, as evidenced by the fact that  “57% of inbound calls are those who first attempted to resolve their issue on the website,” he said.  The channels themselves are silos and customer experience breakdowns between them are commonplace, he said.  For example, a customer may spend  20 minutes with online chat, and the issue cannot be resolved, they are escalated to a call center where they have to spend another 20 minutes just re-establishing their credentials and re-explaining the problem.  That is usually so frustrating that it’s hard to provide a satisfying experience, even if the problem is resolved.

The danger is, of course, that word of mouth is amplified in our social-digital world. “People can complain and they do complain,” Niren cautioned.

The answer is to focus on creating a contact center that can truly address customer needs – even predict and anticipate them, he said.  A contact center is not a call center, although a call center may be part of it.  “It’s a multi-channel place for a lot of opportunities to transform the experience that each customer has,” he explained. It will take some work to get there since today’s centers are a challenging environment with  high workforce attrition, fragmented systems, inconsistent service and answers across channels and poor customer experiences. In addition, contact center executives today don’t have it easy.  “You have to optimize the experience across channels while balancing somewhat conflicting objectives – like up sell and reduce call time at the same time,” he said.

The contact center of the future will be customer centric and offer intelligent, effortless self-service across channels so that each interaction happens with an empathetic “brand steward” in the right channel, not just the least expensive channel, he advised. The contact center of the future will serve as a test bed for innovative customer experience strategies. “All of this can be achieved, by contact centers being technology innovators rather than technology laggards, by them being proactively data driven, instead of being reactive observers of data.”

Is it possible?  Niren said it requires both an attitudinal shift and an embracing of advanced analytics techniques and technologies.  “Customer Experience has been a buzz word for some years, and companies have realized that they have no existing group in the business that takes care of this end to end,” he said.  “So they are creating these business units led by the Chief Customer Experience Officer or they are forming cross functional teams and giving them pilot projects to work on to prove the value of managing the customers end to end experience,” he said.  That shift is already in motion, he said.  It’s time for action.

Listen, Interpret, Act.

Smart customer experience solutions leverage technology enabled analytics and will listen, interpret and act to solve customer problems.

  1. Listening across channels in real time – online, social, call center, apps, and product. The contact center of the future is a listening post where every interaction is considered a source of valuable information
  2.  Constantly interpreting and looking for patterns: When a high value customer has a bad experience – or, multiple bad experiences – the customer experience solution needs to identify those and connect the dots.  The solution also needs to identify what to do next e.g. should the customer be contacted, if so through which channel, who within the workforce should contact the customer, and what should they do?
  3. Acting on insights: The action may be an alert to the customers’ account manager or advisor, it may trigger a text message with an offer of help or a coupon, or it may post points to the customer loyalty account and send an email notice with an apology.

“It is predictive analytics-enabled software combined with systems integration with existing technology” Niren said.  “You’ve already invested in channel specific technologies and so the job of this solution is to pass the right data through the interpretation engine, make decisions and send it back to the channels, so that you can act.”

It works by having key capabilities come together in real-time, Niren advises.

  1. Constantly listening to, collecting and integrating data across channels and enterprise systems
  2. Interpreting and analyzing the information in real time to determine next best action—which channel, which workforce, what content and treatment
  3. Acting in real time which involves model scoring, event orchestration, and acting in the right channel.

Pre-empt Future Interactions

Using this approach, predictive analytics can even be applied to your customer experience. Just think if you could accurately predict the future contact issues, you can anticipate and solve them now – in the right channel.  Once those predictions are in place, you can actually pop them on the screen (customer web or phone screen or rep’s CRM system), Niren said.  Consider a recommendation engine like what Amazon does for products, but for your customer engagement.  It could be as simple as “People with this issue also tend to have the following issues….”  You can also follow up with an outbound message after the interaction which can add value to the overall experience and reduce the cost to serve, Niren said.

Niren offers four tips for improving customer experience:

  • Many firms are doing things to collect Voice of the Customer (VOC) information, but we need to activate and act on it across channels in an analytics-intelligent way.
  • Go beyond just measuring customer experience metrics like NPS/CSAT/Customer Effort scores to understanding their drivers. Use these drivers to develop experience improvement initiatives
  • Bring together channel technology silos with cloud based analytic platforms.  Preserve your past, current and future investments in channel specific technology, and integrate them with this cloud based experience solution
  • Leverage your contact center as a test bed for innovative customer experience strategies

For a copy of Niren’s presentation, visit our DMA Analytics Council webpage.

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