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Bringing it Back Together in 2014

It’s that time of year! It’s that time to make predictions of the year ahead and look back at the year we left behind. It’s now that we build lists of what worked, what didn’t, and what we want to focus on going forward. As a person who loves lists, why wouldn’t I want to contribute to the conversation?

Last year ICMI ran a series called “Bringing it All Together” that was inspired by Interactions 2013, NICE’s annual user conference. After Interactions, it occurred to me that the highlighted themes from the event were also indicative of the trends that were resonating within our contact center community.

1. Understanding the Customer Journey
2. The Power of the Emerging Channels
3. The Need for Actionable Data
4. The Impact of Proactive Engagement
5. Rebalancing the Customer and the Company
6. Making Life Easier for the Agent

Throughout the year I was often asked what the contact center should be focused on, and I kept coming back to these six themes. As I mentioned time and time again, the beauty is that when one is accomplished effectively, there will be a natural positive influence on one or more of the others. They are that intertwined and impactful.

So here it is, that now in the New Year, ICMI is expected to make a new set of predictions for the contact center.  Instead, I think these six are still extremely relevant and that there is more power in revisiting, rather than replacing them for 2014.

So, here we go…here is a fresh look (and a little evolution) of the first three focus areas for 2014.

1. Understanding the Customer Journey (Creating a Customer Experience Management Culture)

Today, customer experience management (CXM) is no longer a luxury; rather CXM is a competitive necessity. In totality, customer experience programs can optimize your organization's customer service, provide valuable competitive data, and give your brand the differentiating edge to create a more loyal customer base. While a necessary component of CXM still remains the customer journey map, I’d argue now that we need to broaden this prediction out to include the entire CXM strategy. It’s not just about the journey; rather it’s about creating a culture within the organization where everyone respects and fosters the intended brand-customer relationship.

“You can be good at customer service and people will shop with you again, but loyalty is different,” says Kevin Thompson the VP of Customer Experience at Barneys New York. “What you need is an experience! It’s a feeling, it’s a brand, and it’s a deep relationship between a customer and a company.”

ICMI will be talking a great deal more about CXM throughout the year, with a specific emphasis on the Connected Customer Experience in June.  We’ll also touch on mapping the customer journey in November during our Digging Through the Data focus. In the meantime, there is much to learn from our Q4 2013 Avaya underwritten research report and best practices guide, Customer Experience Management in Action! Insight to Differentiate Your Company and Contact Center. In it you’ll read about new metrics, tactics, and the framework for a successful CXM organization.

2. The Power of the Emerging Channels (The Need for Non-Voice Channels)

In 2013 there was a lot of discussion around emerging channels and platforms. While we still wholeheartedly feel that brands need to be providing a varied multichannel customer service strategy, ICMI promotes a refined concentration on the right channels; often non-voice channels, rather than simply on what’s possibly the best big thing.

I recently interviewed Matthew Storm, NICE’s director of innovation & solutions, about his customer service and call center predictions for 2014, and he said this about channel implementation. “We have gotten very obsessed with channels because they are new, and that creates obsessive decisions internally. It’s not about it being new; it’s about what enhances the customer journey. Where is the RIGHT place for the channel in the journey?”

So why our push to non-voice channels - chat, text, self-service, social and community? Well, they often have the biggest impact on the customer experience, they are easier for the contact center to implement, customers want them, and they are readily available from the mobile platform.

Read more about multichannel and customer expectations in Extreme Engagement in the Multichannel Contact Center underwritten by USAN. The complimentary whitepaper 6 Best Practices for Optimizing Multichannel Support is also available. In May, ICMI will concentrate our entire editorial calendar on The Multichannel Contact Center.

3. The Need for Actionable Data (Reducing the Data Noise)

Storm from NICE also agrees that with all the metrics and measurements today, contact centers may be experiencing the symptoms of “too much data”. I’d like to borrow a description he used, and rephrase our third theme as Reducing the Data Noise.

“We need to be creating a single view across the organization,” he says. “It’s not just a balanced scorecard, it has to be the same view for agents, management and executives. A single view gives companies the consistency they crave; the clarity they need to actually formulate action from all that data.”

In our Whitepages PRO underwritten report from Q3 2013, A WOW Customer Journey! Actionable Data in Today’s Multichannel Contact Center we dove into the notion that contact centers need to reduce the data they collect, measure and report in order to truly make the data actionable. In the report and the accompanying whitepaper, Big Data? Better Data! The value of Data in Today’s Contact Center, you’ll read about how you can streamline data collection to improve customer engagement; agent productivity and efficiency, accuracy and performance. In the case of data, less truly can be more.

Next week we will revisit the final three themes of 2013 and discuss how they need to be revamped to meet the contact center evolution of the New Year. Let’s Bring it Back Together in 2014! 

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