Published: February 18, 2014 | Comments
Despite the obsession with customer experience as the ONLY thing that matters to a brand, delivering a frictionless, cross-channel customer experience remains a mystery to most brands. The new connected consumers are channel-agnostic and expect brands to deliver on their promises, regardless of the source - be it online, in-store, through web or social media, or through a telephone interaction. They remain blissfully ignorant of the complex organizational structure behind the companies with which they engage. Their sole concern is an outstanding customer service experience, which is rewarded with loyalty and recommendations to peers. Customers crave a frictionless experience, devoid of the usual organizational background static, and will prove tremendous brand ambassadors if they are granted one. According to McKinsey, “Over the next several years, we’re likely to see the consumer experience radically integrated across the physical and virtual environment. Most of the technologies needed to make this scenario happen are available now.” One key technology enabler is Contextual Routing, which empowers brands to identify the customer’s preferred channel and solve their problem.
Identifying the Customer
Phone conversations are not for everyone. If we have learned anything in the past several years, it is that social media, SMS messages and email are making their way to the top of the list of preferred communications channels. This means new technologies and new ways to leverage customer information to create a better experience. Following the collision of customer service and social media, the customer service industry has been forever transformed, making buzzwords like big data, analytics and routing capabilities a reality and a high priority for many brands. While new channels can present a great opportunity for brands to get creative and reach their customers, they also introduce challenges. Now, instead of just incoming phone calls, companies are receiving customer inquiries from all angles. This poses the task of identifying which channel consumers prefer to use as their primary means of communication.
Some brands receive a large amount of inquiries in a short period of time making it difficult to identify and prioritize messages that need the most attention making social listening now an imperative part of a sound social media customer service strategy. Social listening includes monitoring for keywords and identifying incidents known as “hot cases.” These are inquiries that require an immediate response and should be transferred to an on-call team. Less pressing issues or those received after hours can be set up so an automated response is sent to the customer, acknowledging receipt of the complaint and informing the customer that a company representative will respond during normal business hours. These messages can even go so far as to provide the option for the customer to schedule a specific call-back time.
Incorporating social listening allows brands to ensure customers feel heard and valued even if they have to wait for assistance. To be successful in the area of social customer service, brands must catch negative or time-sensitive messages before they escalate into a more serious problem. Ultimately, a brand’s primary goal needs to be to pivot these public conversations to a private channel, and by providing a prompt response – even an automated one – brands will be able to ease the minds of customers and buy time to respond.
Once a brand has pivoted a conversation and identified the best channel in which to continue the conversation, it is ideal for them to have any and all information about the customer’s relationship with the brand, including prior interactions, purchase history, etc. This avoids needing the customer to repeat themselves and helps prevent frustration levels from escalating. But how do companies aggregate all the customer data that is coming at them and gain an accurate picture of a customer’s interactions and history? How can they direct the customer to a customer service agent who can solve their problem the most efficiently? This is where real-time contextual routing technology comes in.
Solving a Problem
Picture this: You are online filling out a credit card application, got confused about the rewards program and called support for help but hang up after waiting. You tried calling back, but after being put on hold you hang up again. You later decided to revisit the credit card application form. With contextual routing, a brand can collect data in real-time from your internet, telephone and CRM activities, identify you as a valued, but potentially frustrated customer, and trigger a pop-up with a personalized click-to-call link to a product specialist or trigger an outbound call offering you immediate assistance or scheduled call back.
So how does this technology work? Real-time contextual routing makes customer data actionable instantly by picking up on patterns in behaviors as they happen, placing them in the context, and automatically recommending a course of best follow-up actions to an agent. This capability offers brands the ability to engage in real-time across communications channels (including email, voice, SMS and social media) with a high degree of context and customer understanding.
If this brings to mind buzzwords like big data and analytics, you are on the right track. However, while examining and analyzing historical data is important, it doesn’t provide brands with the ability to address problems in real-time or develop a deeper understanding of customers as individuals. To reap benefits, such as churn reduction and increased brand loyalty, brands must strategically collect customer interaction and transaction data across channels and enterprise applications, detect patterns indicative of a positive or negative customer journey in real-time, and then engage with the customer, in the moment, with the right response tailored to the opportunity or threat. This allows companies to correct an issue before it becomes an issue or, at the very least, before a customer is lost. It also provides a better view into what is happening in any given market in present time. If companies are solely basing decisions upon past behavior, there is a high likelihood that they are missing something critical that is happening right before their eyes on multiple channels.
The Future of Customer Experience Management
As brands begin their explorative journey into the future of customer experience management, it is clear that they will need to look beyond the simple implementation of predictive routing and analytics, (which are powered by historical and not present information) and direct their attention toward the “here and now.” To differentiate themselves among competitors, brands are once again making customer service and satisfaction a priority. Through real-time contextual routing, companies can easily identify which channel a customer prefers for communication by looking at their past. This allows the issue to be routed accordingly, enabling quicker, better resolution.
As they look for new solutions to address the challenges of today’s omni-channel consumer, it is apparent that companies have only just begun to tap into and leverage the power of customer service and their agents. With powerful technology running behind the scenes and contact centers continuing to become more and more sophisticated through big data, predictive routing and now real-time contextual routing, more brands will be able to provide superior experiences, creating a win-win situation resulting in happy customers and happy, profitable brands.