The Gist

  • Opportunity knocks. Economic uncertainty is an opportunity to invest in customer experience, not cut it.
  • Prioritize these areas. Prioritize investments in areas such as agent training, support, AI, customer data platforms and understanding customer processes.
  • Getting better all the time. Improving customer experience through investments in these areas can lead to increased employee engagement, reduced agent turnover and a better overall customer experience.

Uncertainty should prompt companies to invest in customer experience rather than cut it. Many executives often make the mistake of reducing costs in areas that could enhance customer experiences, while simultaneously increasing investments in areas that may only minimize them. Winning companies, on the other hand, differentiate themselves by seeking opportunities to attract and retain customers through superior service and experience.

To achieve this, it is essential to identify areas where investments can deliver quick returns, speed up time to value, and achieve immediate success. Experts suggest prioritizing investments in the following areas.

Contact Center Investments to Enhance Customer and Agent Experience

Rebecca Wettemann, CEO of Valoir, suggested that the most crucial areas for contact center investment are those that enhance customer and agent experience while also increasing efficiency.

She recommended investing in technology to provide data-driven agent coaching at scale, supporting training programs beyond the contact center, such as degree and certification programs, and facilitating career development opportunities outside the contact center.

Wettemann believes that these investments can help reduce agent turnover, increase employee engagement and ultimately improve the overall customer experience.

Related Article: Why Your CX Investments Might Be Seesawing With Customer Satisfaction and ROI

Boost Customer Experience by Improving Agent Support

Closely related to agent training is agent support.

"Despite uncertain market conditions, now is the time to make forward-looking investments, including digitizing processes that support effectiveness,” said Deven Lindemann, Datasite chief customer success officer. “One key area where this should take place is with the customer experience. Some specific areas of investment should focus on ways to support employees who provide support and giving customers greater engagement choices.”

Employees benefit when they have the right tools for the right job. Streamlining the technology they use, as well as simplifying tasks and actions, gives them more time to support the customer, Lindemann added. “We’ve found this applies no matter if they are providing training, working on behalf of a customer, or helping customers adopt new functionality to increase their productivity.”

Additionally, digital employee experience (DEX) platforms can help improve employee productivity and experience from the bottom up. DEX provides leaders a view across their employees’ digital assets and provides IT teams with actionable insights and predictive alerts that pinpoint and fix tech issues before they become business disruptions. Imagine if employees didn’t have to call IT to report an issue — productivity and morale increases.

Related Article: The CX Forecast for 2023 — and Your Best Action Steps

Customer Data Platform for Improved Customer Insights

According to Lorrissa Horton, chief product officer and general manager of Webex Software Collaboration at Cisco Systems, investing in CX doesn't have to be a massive transformation that incurs significant costs.

She emphasized that smaller steps can still add considerable value along the way. For example, implementing a customer data platform can help companies gain a better understanding of their customers throughout their unique customer journey.

Horton believes that this is critical in the new era of CX, where customers expect companies to know them, be proactive and keep them satisfied.

Using NLP to Improve Customer and Agent Experience in Contact Centers

Using natural language processing (NLP) to analyze experiences at scale enables managers to improve quality, increase coaching effectiveness and identify trends that impact customer and agent experience, such as escalations or product issues, Wetteman said. Agent health is an issue that can be more effectively addressed at scale with AI.

“NLP has advanced to the point where it can understand customer interactions — voice and otherwise in real time — and provide real-time guidance to agents,” Wetteman added.

In the past, Wetteman said, managers in traditional contact center settings had limited visibility into customer interactions and relied on reviewing only a few call transcripts or case logs. As a result, they rarely had a complete understanding of the tone, type, and outcomes of these interactions, and their approach was always backward-looking. However, with the advent of natural language processing (NLP), interactions can be continually analyzed to provide managers with real-time insights. NLP can alert managers to new customer service issues that require attention or identify agents who need coaching, enabling proactive management of customer experience.

AI can also help predict potential escalations so that managers can assign agents or subject-matter experts before a customer issue becomes a crisis, reducing time to resolution and reducing the overall cost of handling customers, Wetteman said. “This is especially valuable in sectors like B2B technology, where calling in expert engineers or executives to solve an escalating customer problem can get costly very quickly.”

Investing in Smart Help Centers for Improved Contact Center Processes

It’s essential for contact centers to invest in the process, said Benjamin Chacko, Harte Hanks managing director of customer care. “We must understand the steps our customers take when they need help or assistance with our brand. We can't make it easier for customers to do business with us if we don't understand their processes. For example, we do a lot of work with a global television streaming service. What do you do when watching TV and your favorite show stops streaming? You don't call a 1-800 number. Instead, you probably grab your phone and search ‘network stopped streaming show.’”

A phenomenal help desk is useless if the company doesn’t understand that customers will not call a phone number to get there, Chacko added. “My investment should be in a smart help center that will intuitively read search engine queries and dynamically present a solution to my customers — connecting them with our helpline via a chat service, for example.”

Understand Where to Prioritize Investments for Improved Experiences

Investing in customer experience during economic uncertainty can have significant benefits for companies. Prioritizing investments in areas such as agent training and support, AI, customer data platforms, and understanding customer processes can lead to increased employee engagement, reduced agent turnover, and ultimately, a better overall customer experience. By taking a data-driven approach to identifying areas where investments can deliver quick returns and immediate success, companies can differentiate themselves from competitors and establish a signature competitive advantage.