on cellphone, next to defunct payphone
Gathering customer data isn't enough: it's how you act on it that makes the difference PHOTO: Shutterstock Image ID: 84718831

In the rush to offer “digital-first” technologies for customer interactions, many companies are falling short. One extreme example comes to mind: A company was experiencing a significant rate of abandonment for the mobile surveys opened by its customers. It turned out the first screen had three paragraphs of legal disclaimers that customers had to click through to get to the survey. Most of them just gave up.

That’s a good illustration of a common challenge companies looking to improve customer experience come up against: How do you ensure you are implementing new customer engagement systems to your best advantage? How do you blend them with traditional processes and existing core technologies to meet the needs of every customer? The answer isn’t as difficult as you might expect.

Don’t Throw the Baby Out With the Bathwater

When considering digital-first strategies, the first step is to assess the value of the tools and processes you already have. A recent worldwide study by Verint and Opinium Research of more than 24,000 consumers and 1,000 businesses confirms that even though they conduct many transactions digitally, consumers still highly value the human element. 

Given that millennials are the customers of the future, it makes sense that digital channels are implemented to appeal to them. However, the research showed that not everyone is ready to embrace digital. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of all consumers polled said they prefer engaging with organizations on the phone or in a store, especially when the transaction is something more complex than, say, an address change or order status inquiry.

The reliance on human interaction becomes greater as the requests become more complicated, such as a question about a bill or a refund request. Successful retailers have taken this message to heart: They’re incorporating digital customer experience (CX) technology in their stores so sales associates can have access to information about shoppers, and they’re offering well-designed surveys to get instant feedback from customers about the in-store experience. That’s a prime example of using technology to support, rather than replace, human interaction.

Keep Mobile Customer Engagement Easy

In analyzing the cloud databases that host worldwide survey responses, we have found that consumers are twice as likely to use a mobile device, rather than a desktop computer, to initiate communication with a brand, but the abandonment rate is 60 percent higher on mobile devices because people find the overall digital experience lacking.

How many click-throughs and how much time does it take for people to reach the pages they want to access on your website before they abandon you for one of your competitors? Web analytics applications such as session replay can provide answers. They are just one component of a digital-first strategy.

Here’s another that fits easily into existing CX stacks: When someone is shopping for a product or service on a website, it’s customary for the brand to launch a pop-up survey requesting feedback from the customer about his or her online experience. While companies may see this is a valuable opportunity to capture the voice of the customer, shoppers may perceive it as an intrusion that disrupts their online experience.

This is where digital feedback management can make an impact. Instead of pop-up surveys, companies’ websites and mobile apps could include links to structured comment cards that customers can use at any time to request help or share a comment — whether they want to report that a coupon code isn’t being recognized or lodge a complaint about rude customer service reps.

While online pop-up surveys gather what’s known as “brand-initiated” feedback, digital feedback management opens the door for “customer-initiated” feedback. In addition, digital feedback management systems on mobile devices can track where customers are when they interact with you — providing valuable insights into customer behavior that you can use to fine-tune your CX program.

Have an Action Plan – and Follow It

Digital feedback management helped one of the largest U.S. banks save big money. The bank classified customer-initiated comments into more than 25 categories, including issues with bill payments, money transfers and new account applications. With a better understanding of the issues facing its customers, the bank took steps to improve the customer experience saw its online support ticket volume fall by more than 10 percent over a period of several months. That decline represented a monthly cost savings of nearly half a million dollars.

While digital feedback management offers an important new avenue for companies to capture their customers’ digital cries for help, it’s what happens next that determines whether a digital-first strategy succeeds or fails. There must be follow-up, and it must happen immediately — within 48 hours is a good rule of thumb.

Case management tools are available for CX teams to track how their organizations are following through on customer complaints and requests. They can help you quickly put customer data in the hands of people who can do something about it, like your digital team, a specific product manager or a back-office department. In so doing, they help remove organizational barriers and get everyone working on the same page to meet the needs of the customer. Most importantly, you can be sure resolution time is where it needs to be.

Act Quickly on What You Learn

While tools for gathering data about customer experiences across all channels have improved, their ultimate value depends on how companies use the data. Sure, new tools to help companies learn more about their customers’ experiences will continue to come down the pike, but one truth won’t change: The companies that act on the data — and do it quickly — will be the winners.

Digital technologies can do more than improve the customer experience. They can also improve the employee experience. New employee engagement tools — including mobile apps that let people perform tasks from any location using the device of their choice — are also valuable additions to the CX stack, but that’s a topic for another article.