man texting on his phone
PHOTO: SCREEN POST | unsplash

Digital customer experience (CX) transformation is all the rage and rightly so: Customer expectations have shifted dramatically and only those companies able to translate those expectations into a satisfying customer experience will win.

Most discussions center on modernizing or supercharging an outdated or anemic CX operation. But what if you’re designing a CX operation from scratch?

What a great opportunity. You get to articulate your CX vision and strategy, ensure appropriate buy-in, then identify the people and implement the processes needed to bring it to life. At first blush, it seems starting with a blank CX slate is, if not easy, at least easier than turning around an ailing ship: There’s no legacy culture to convert, no staff to retrain, no systems to rip and replace.

However: You’ve little to no context — historical data, knowledge capital, what’s worked, what doesn’t — for your decisions. You’re not exactly flying blind, you just can’t benefit from your company's prior experience.

Creating an entire CX operation from scratch could be a masterclass of its own, so for this article's purpose we'll focus primarily on the customer service piece of the puzzle. The choices involved in this area alone can be overwhelming.

Should you pursue a digital-first strategy? Perhaps your target customers are digital natives, so they’re most comfortable interacting on mobile and messaging channels.

Or maybe voice-first makes the most sense? After all, industry statistics show customers with a problem almost always call at some point.

What should you automate? When do you provide a human touch? How will you deliver differentiated service without constraining long-term financial viability? The list goes on.

Here I present key guideposts to assist you in designing a frictionless, intuitive experience for your customers no matter when, or how, or why they interact with your organization. If you’re already running a CX operation, read on: Everything here is also useful for rejuvenating or rebooting an existing CX system as well.

Build a Dedicated CX Team

According to CX research and surveys, if you don’t centralize your CX operation, you’re wasting time and money AND doing your customers a disservice.

Organizations that concentrate CX to a single point of ownership not only put the customer experience front and center, they also gather more and better data, measure harder metrics, and act on them appropriately for better outcomes. Distributed CX organizations, on the other hand, might not even see the challenges, let alone tackle them.

Your company’s ability to deliver great CX flows from your grasp of the customer journey. Be sure all team members understand the customer’s entire experience, regardless of whether the touchpoint involves marketing, sales, design, service or product development. Build the skills and mindset within your team to fully align with your CX vision.

Related Article: So You've Been Asked to Revolutionize CX as a Team of One

Start with Your Customer Channels

Your products, services and customers define your channel mix. Determine where your target customers consume your offerings and manage their accounts — that’s where you need to provide service right out of the chute. If it is your website, offer web chat. If it is your mobile app, offer mobile chat.

Next, consider how your customers will contact you for support or service. Start with the highest volume, most broadly accessible channels, probably web and mobile chat. Then add phone — still invaluable for certain customer segments and complex, high-touch situations — and async messaging.

(Side note: Messaging platforms really took off in 2020 and, by several measures, now account for the second- or third-highest number of customer interactions. The reasons are clear: Customers like messaging because it mirrors the texting they use all the time in their personal lives. Companies like messaging, too, in part because their customers like it, and in part because their messaging agents are more productive and engaged — which engenders lower agent turnover, and more satisfied customers, than with other channels.)

Now, how do you expect prospects to find you? If from Google Search, offer contact options on search results. If from a map app, offer Apple Business Chat or Google’s Business Messages. If from social sites and discussions, offer social messaging such as Facebook Messenger. If from display ads, invest in conversational ads that enable interested users to interact immediately rather than clicking through to a landing page.

Related Article: Time Is of the Essence With Social Messaging Apps

Next, Prepare Your Agents

Your agents need a North Star to focus their every interaction: That’s your organization’s brand promise — the clear, unique, and compelling value they’ll convey to every customer, every time. That’s a separate topic but I mention it here just to emphasize it’s absolutely critical for CX success.

If your brand is new, it pays to start with a high-touch “white glove” agent workforce, especially for early customers while you’re still working out kinks in your offerings.

Capture agent conversations. You’ll use this information for future training and automation, as well as to recognize exceptional service and to reinforce the brand promise. Enlist company executives, getting them to listen in on calls and review chat transcripts so they’re in tune with customer expectations and sentiment.

Bear in mind that different channels require agents with different skill sets and temperaments. Large companies should probably use separate, dedicated agents for each channel, even between digital channels such as messaging and chat, because such specialization increases productivity. Smaller operations may start with blended agents — the Swiss army knives of service — but should be prepared to recruit for a much higher skill set.

For more complex service needs, consider a team of experts (TEX) model. These self-sufficient, resource-rich business teams are dedicated to resolving issues for a specific client population. TEX teams have been proven to virtually eliminate contact center runaround, speed knowledge transfer, reverse what had been a years-long slide in CSAT scores, improve agent satisfaction, and lower operational costs. Certainly worth looking into.

Related Article: Deluged by Customer Contacts? Every Agent Counts

Finally: Automate to Support Customer Self-Service and More

Early on, identify the 100 to 200 most commonly asked questions — depending on how well you know your customers, you can create your own starter set — and implement a simple FAQ bot. It will likely contain as much as 15% of your customers’ contacts almost immediately. Customers like to self-serve and will happily skip an agent queue to do so.

Most organizations discover customer intents by reading chat transcripts, which is laborious and scattershot. Instead use available tools to automate the process and obtain precise results.

Use a bot to automate new high-volume transactions as they arise. Over time, increase automation to 50% and beyond. Monitor automation performance. When you detect new intents, automate the ones with significant volume.

With increased use, bots become increasingly robust, which, in turn, enables them to respond to your customers more quickly and with better accuracy (kicking off a virtuous cycle of greater customer satisfaction, stronger brand loyalty, higher sales, and so on).

Be sure to leverage your automation investments across channels, either by using a platform that automatically adapts content or by developing your own layer that enables you to design flows once and deploy them across multiple digital and voice channels.

Make the Most of This Opportunity

Build a determined, dedicated team laser-focused on your CX vision. Reach prospects and service your customers on the channels best aligned with your offerings and target audience.  Inculcate your agent workforce with the organization’s brand promise and ensure their skill set maps to your chosen channels. Finally, start with the most common, highest volume, simplest customer queries and automate, automate, automate.

This is an exciting time for you and the organization. My wish for you is you make the most of it.