According to Metrigy's latest State of Customer Experience Technology report, contact center leaders who want to improve the way their teams engage with customers in the coming year should keep one critical business objective front and center.
“Customer satisfaction is still the most important objective leaders should focus on,” said Erik Smith, Digital Principal, RingCentral. “If you want to retain customers and attract new ones, you must get this right. It’s easy to get caught up in cost savings and the latest artificial intelligence (AI) technologies, but always look to evolve your contact center through the lens of providing great customer service.”
RingCentral is a provider of cloud-based communication solutions based in Belmont, California and a sponsor of Simpler Media Group’s virtual Digital Experience Summit (DXS). During the conference, Smith presented the session, “Top Digital CX Technology Trends Heading Into 2023.” Here, he shares with us some of the most important ideas uncovered in the report and how contact center leaders can use these findings to enhance the support experiences they provide to their customers.
Tech Spend and Channel Preferences in the Contact Center
CMSWire: During your presentation, you discussed findings from your State of Customer Experience Technology report. Where are contact center leaders investing their technology spend in the coming year?
Erik Smith: We’re seeing an increasing trend towards conversational AI and other self-service functionality in order to meet changing customer communication preferences, and in some cases, find more economic ways to handle inbound contact center volume. We’re facing lots of uncertainty in the macroeconomic environment, and that can be worrisome. Choosing your new technology tools wisely and through the lens of enhancing customer service can help alleviate some of that worry.
CMSWire: Which digital channels are people engaging in most for their support needs?
Smith: It largely depends on the industry, but the original three — chat, email and SMS — remain prevalent, followed by direct messaging channels on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We’ve been encouraging companies to look into Apple Business Chat (now Apple Messaging for Business) and WhatsApp, even for domestic use cases, and finding that many don’t yet understand how easy these channels make communication for their own customer base, which should be the goal.
Why Omnichannel Support Is Key
CMSWire: As customers continue to raise their expectations, offering support across channels has become table stakes. How many organizations are still failing to meet these expectations for omnichannel support?
Smith: There’s still a wide spectrum of omnichannel maturity in most industries, with tech leading the way in digital communication options for their customers. Companies that are feeling pressure to improve should seek to understand the benefits of the various digital channels and how to properly deploy them — not just jump into the deep end with no plan. That can backfire quickly.
CMSWire: What are the biggest challenges organizations face when providing support through email, chat, voice and other channels, and how can they overcome them?
Smith: There are a few tricks to perfecting a strong omnichannel approach. The first is ensuring that your agents have the right skills for adding new digital channels. Communicating on Twitter is quite a bit different than answering the phone, with different consequences for making an error.
The second is providing smart self-service options for easy-to-answer questions so your agents are free to handle the higher priority, and often more challenging, issues. The sooner you can connect a frustrated customer to an agent with the correct answer, the better chance for resolution, and for retaining them as a customer. And finally, provide your agents with the tools necessary to serve your customers competently while providing coaching for continuous improvement.
CMSWire: During your presentation, you discussed how more organizations are investing in AI, yet it hasn’t been consistently implemented in the contact center. How can AI be used most effectively, and what can organizations do to ensure they successfully incorporate these capabilities into their systems and processes?
Smith: As individual customers, we’ve all had frustrating experiences with bots, whether on a website or in an interactive voice response (IVR) system. There are many pitfalls to nailing this strategy. Once you’ve had a bad experience, either as a customer or as someone trying to implement AI, you’re less likely to try again. It’s just human nature.
Fortunately, the tech is improving and there isn’t much you can’t automate these days. We often recommend starting small with the easiest automation options—such as FAQs, password reset, and even appointment scheduling — and really nailing that. Once you have it completely dialed in and you’re comfortable with the technology, then seek to expand to more complex options.
Start and End with Your Customer
CMSWire: What does workforce engagement management (WEM) mean to you, and what are the benefits of implementing this approach?
Smith: To us, WEM is all about continuous improvement, both in the tools we give our agents and teams to self-improve, as well as the management tools to analyze, diagnose, and coach those agents and teams. You should be asking questions like: How do we optimize? How do we improve at the individual level so our entire organization gets better? What can we learn from our customer feedback that we can scale to improve our company? There’s so much valuable data that comes through the contact center, and we want to capitalize on those insights.
CMSWire: What are the top recommendations contact center leaders should take away from this report to help them more effectively engage with customers across channels?
Smith: I’m going to end where I started — with the customer. Isn’t that why we’re all here? How do we get customers, keep them happy, and retain them for life? Same thing we’ve been doing forever, just now through different mediums. The more you spend time learning the nuances of each channel or technology, the more comfortable you’ll be applying the same timeless best practices of customer service.