Keeping customers happy and satisfied has never been more important. As consumers moved en masse to digital channels as their primary way of interacting with a brand during the pandemic, companies were challenged with a substantial increase in both call volume and irate callers.
In fact, difficult calls during the pandemic increased by 50%, while there was a 68% increase in escalations and a 34% increase in hold times. It was clear that call centers needed more help in the way of process, technology and automation to alleviate the volume and route calls more effectively and efficiently.
Today, the customer experience (CX) touches all parts of a business and is a major differentiator for businesses that need to unify customer profiles so they can share a single source of truth regarding a customer across any interaction. A cohesive and valuable customer experience can drive improved customer satisfaction while meeting modern customer expectations. After all, if a customer interfaces with you on several different channels, your call center professional should know about it.
So, what are some ways the call center customer experience can be improved to meet the expectations of digitally savvy consumers?
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4 Tips to Improve the Call Center Customer Experience
1. Understanding the customer. The best way to improve customer satisfaction and retention is to know as much as possible about your customers and eventually turn them into advocates. But now with customers engaging with brands across multiple online and offline channels, knowing who you are talking to when that call comes into the call center is no small task. Too often, customers get upset having to explain their issue for the third time, as they bounce around from channel to channel trying to get some assistance.
Many organizations are now deploying centralized customer data management solutions, like a data management platform, customer relationship management or customer data platform, that gather all that disparate customer data into a single silo, so it can be combined into a unified profile for use across an enterprise. This way, when a customer gets to that call center rep, the rep has information about the customer on hand, such as purchase history, and perhaps with some AI-assisted interactive voice response (IVR) technology, even the tone and mood of the caller are available.
2. Understanding the customer journey. Appropriate responses to customers’ needs can be planned by knowing which phase of the customer journey they are in. When the phase is not known, customers can experience a longer process because they are not being routed to the right person to help them. Customer service agents need to be aware of whether callers are just beginning their buying journeys or are at the end or post-sale in the customer support phase of their journeys.
Standard call center technologies like IVR need to be integrated into the broader IT technology stack when it comes to the customer experience, so the customer journey can be more data-driven and trackable. Call center data on customers, combined with other channel data about that same customer, can allow customer service reps to have better business intelligence at their fingertips to target which area of the journey customers are on and respond and assist appropriately.
3. An easy-to-use customer experience. With so many different channels for customer use and the onslaught of messaging and communications customers receive, they can be overwhelmed and feel digital fatigue. According to a Deloitte study, 32% of consumers reported feeling overwhelmed by technology during the pandemic.
Brands need to penetrate all the digital noise with simple and effective customer experiences across all channels and try to unify the look and feel of those experiences as much as possible to reduce confusion. Call centers can provide call-back technology so customers do not have to wait for an available rep. Another way brands can make the CX easier for customers includes supporting customer service agents with advanced AI-driven chatbot technology to answer simple queries. Call centers should be shooting for improving first call resolution and maximizing agent engagement so they can deal with difficult customers more effectively.
4. Get customer feedback. Improving the call center customer experience is all about understanding and listening to your customers. And getting that feedback direct is one of the most valuable forms of engagement you can participate in with your customer base. A popular customer experience strategy here is voice of the customer (VoC) programs. VoC allows brands to create high-value and high-impact customer experiences by informing your CX delivery systems with your customers’ needs, behaviors and perceptions of their interactions with your brand.
A VoC program is the keystone of a solid customer experience strategy. These programs work by setting up listening posts for customers at various touchpoints to get an overall view of the current state of the customers’ needs and desires. You will need the right technology tools to implement a successful VoC program. Those tools may include customer surveys and feedback loops, data visualization and analysis, agent and staff feedback exercises, and contact center monitoring software. You may want to get an external consultant who is an expert in VoC to help during the planning process.
While some VoC programs can take time to gather and incorporate feedback into the planning process, with a continuous monitoring VoC program, businesses will be able to react faster to evolving customer sentiments and changing satisfaction scores. Consistently monitoring contact center calls and converting speech to text can allow the information to be mined for insights. Continuous monitoring essentially empowers you to identify and resolve customer issues in real time and provide a superior customer experience across all channels.
In the end, a good CX in the call center is all about the customer voice. Annette Franz, CCXP, founder and CEO of CX Journey Inc. said, “Bring the customer voice into all you do. Customer understanding is the cornerstone of customer-centricity. Do the work. Take the time to understand customers and their needs, expectations, pain points and problems to solve.”
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Conclusion: Real-Time Processes, Advanced Technologies Are Key
For call centers to offer a truly effective and valuable customer experience to consumers, they must embrace more real-time processes and advanced technologies that will enable them to create and deliver those experiences at scale.
Understanding the customer across all touchpoints means deploying a centralized data management solution that will not only gather all that disparate data and combine it, but also deliver that data out to the right technology platforms to deliver custom experiences to users. Deploying the appropriate technology solutions like IVR combined with a central data management solution will empower call center staff to respond to customers based on the point in the customer journey they are on.
And modernizing VoC programs so they can be continuously monitored will enable brands to understand individual customers more thoroughly and deliver valuable customer experiences in real time.