Future of Enterprise Contact Centers – Part 3

(This is the part 3 of a 3-part series – ‘Future of Enterprise Contact Centers’. Read Part 1 and Part 2.)

In the previous sections of this series, I have highlighted the changing face of the call center industry and the areas that will need your immediate attention to move in the right direction. Since this is the last blog post in this series, let’s discuss one of the most important aspects of customer experience – empathy. At the end of the day, customers are humans with a variety of emotions, and understanding them should be one of the top priorities of any business model.

Operationalizing Empathy

“Empathy is the connection before the solution that leads to solutions,” says Kate Nasser, a customer service expert. The ability to put ourselves in our customers’ shoes tests the humanity of our organizations. The important question here is do customers need more empathy? Let me put it in a better way – do you include the customers’ rating of agents’ empathy to their situation as part of your current quality process? Identifying opportunities or detecting weaknesses is a critical step on the journey to elevate your contact center to one of undeniable importance to the organization.

Lack of Customer Empathy is Widespread

You may be measuring things, but you are likely missing the critical dimension of empathy in your analysis. Case in point is the experience I just had with my internet service provider. 3 weeks ago, my internet stopped working and so a repair order was opened for a Tuesday afternoon. No one showed up. Upon calling the call center, I was informed that my appointment was for the next day. When I tried to argue that I had the mail to prove my point, the agent said that she was sorry while still insisting that I was wrong. In this situation there was no genuine attempt made to understand my situation.

A week later on a Monday, the services were down again. Using the automated services I got an appointment for Thursday, which was too late. So I called the call center to check if I could get an earlier appointment. To my astonishment the agent said that there were no tickets raised for my account number. She promptly raised a ticket for me and gave me a Wednesday appointment. The technician came in 2 hours earlier than the decided time. This was a very minor hiccup. But guess what happened on Thursday? A different technician called about the appointment. It is easy to understand that the automated system had actually raised the order and the contact center did not have this data at their end. The technician listened to my tale and tried to figure out why this happened while being entirely empathetic to my plight. To avoid such confusions in the future, he gave me his direct number and said that he could raise a ticket for me if I ever needed help again.

Once the ticket was closed I received a mail to fill in a survey about my experience. I had no opportunity to indicate how the process failed, how the website and the contact center were out of step, how the agent said what she was supposed to say (and probably got the call monitoring points for apologizing) but I didn’t feel it, or how the field technician connected with us and truly helped to repair the relationship even though he wasn’t the one to fix the phone lines. These are pretty major issues that I suspect are not being quantified by their quality assurance processes, including the survey. So how can you determine when customers need more empathy?

Empathy and Emotional Trigger

Every customer contact point is an opportunity to create an emotional trigger. It occurs not necessarily when a customer’s issue is resolved, but when the customer is made to feel special and wanted. Customers then connect with the services and perceive the brand’s value emotionally. These triggers also help to maintain the organization’s reputation by improving a customer’s perception of the engagement. Ease of resolution is a primary concern that will influence the customer’s view of the organization’s services, but it’s not where the desired experience should end. Contact centers can either recover or lose a customer’s loyalty. Through better personalizing offerings, organizations can create more opportunities for emotional triggers.

In a recent call center survey it was found that as many as 40% of all contact centers still have no tools to analyze data. A central challenge in getting the most useful analytics and maximum return on investment from your technology is when your data is isolated into silos. When embarking on this journey, think of your contact center as an integral part of your enterprise architecture. New channels introduced into your contact center must be integrated with existing channels, as well as wider business processes. Information is power!

Measuring Empathy Towards Customers

Crucial nuances of the customer experience need to be assessed by the customer. Analytics of that information leads to customized improvement plans for both teams and individual agents. The proper measurement components in your Quality Assurance program can uncover people, process, and technology issues that enable them to be objectively addressed. If your agents are not effective empathizers, the relationship is at risk and the brand is tarnished. Agents need to have a clear understanding of when customers need more empathy and how to deliver it. If not delivered properly, your brand becomes at risk. Giving people permission and the necessary information for how to empathize will provide not only comfort to customers who receive it, but also to your employees who are feeling the pinch themselves. The humanity and humility that comes with acknowledging this condition will bring you closer to both your employees and your customers.


Customer Service Makes or Breaks Your Business

Customer Service Impact on Business

“The customer is always right” is a famous business slogan. The underlying truth behind this statement is recognizing that customers are the lifeblood for any business. Understanding the importance of good customer service is essential for a healthy business in acquiring new customers, retaining existing customers, and developing loyalty and referrals for future growth.

Customer service is the term used to describe what happens at the point when a customer comes into contact with a business. This means customer service is something that takes place throughout a customer’s relationship with the business. The significance of good customer service can also be seen in financial terms—it costs at least five times as much to win a new customer as it does to keep a current one. Hence, repeat customers are very crucial for the profitability of a business.

With so much at stake, it becomes imperative for any business to take up the cause of customer experience very seriously. And many have already taken steps toward improving customer service. In spite of all the effort in the right direction, you will be surprised to know that there has been a decline in the CX metrics across industries and verticals this year when compared to the last five years. Are companies at fault? With so much time and energy being spent on improving customer service, how can businesses falter? The answer seems to lie in the fact that customers have become more demanding and CX is unable to keep up with customer expectations.

Customer sentiment for Customer Service Drives Customer Sentiment for the Brand

To understand the effects of customer service on a business, we analyzed thousands of tweets about various industries for Q1, 2015. Through this analysis, we tried to understand what customers are saying about these industries.


Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.18.50

From the above graph, it is clear that service and customer perception of a business are correlated. Following are our other observations:

  • The higher the customer service sentiment, the higher the overall sentiment. In other words, the better the service the more positive the customer’s perception.
  • The telecom industry seems to deviate from others, but this could also be due to the usage of the term “service” to refer to network quality in the telecom industry
  • Banks and other financial institutions have yet to implement customer experience programs. If they already have, they might need to relook as things don’t seem to be improving in this industry for customers.

From the observations above, it is clear that customer service is a critical factor that could make or break your business.

Proportion of Customer Service Discussions in Overall Buzz

If you find above findings interesting, here is another revelation: if the buzz around service has such a deep impact on the overall perception, how much do you think these service buzzes are part of the overall brand buzz? The answer definitely took us by surprise.

Screenshot 2015-04-24 11.23.19

Service mentions formed a very small part of the overall discussions, yet they have had a deep impact on these industries. With less than 2.5% mentions around services across industries, its impact simply cannot be ignored.

It is clear that good customer service is vital. Satisfied customers return to the business and ensure that healthy profits are made. They also help to build a good reputation. Customer centricity is a cultural phenomenon and not a technological one. Listening to your customers is paramount to improving customer experience. Customer interactions form one of the prime pillars of any CX program. Customer expectations are increasing. Things won’t be easy going forward, but we must remember that if customers receive good service ‘this time, next time, every time,’ then they are more likely to return.

Please don’t forget to share this buzz with other CX and analytics professionals.

Are there any other topics regarding CX/customer service that interest you? Tweet us, or comment below to let us know!


Who handles your Customer Analytics?

Processing all the customer data and creating actionable customer analytics is a very complex task. It requires coordinated efforts by skilled and specialized professionals working across multiple departments of a company; particularly customer experience, IT and marketing. However, the division of task varies from company to company depending on the scale of customer intelligence operations present in the organization.

In order to get to the bottom of who should ideally manage customer intelligence, we need to first understand what steps customer intelligence operations essentially encompass. It includes –

  1. The storage wherein the huge chunk of customer information extracted from various social media platforms, customer feedback, and other sources are stored together. This information can be structured or unstructured.
  2. The next step is processing the customer data to segregate the relevant from the irrelevant.
  3. The third step is analyzing. Once the processing is done, the relevant information is scrutinized for actionable insights to formulate further business strategies.

Among these activities, storage and processing go hand in hand. The servers capable of processing the customer data require technical expertise to handle it. Hence, many customer intelligence professionals work in the IT department. Some companies may have their analysts working in business functions that use customer data to gain insights and make decisions. Since customer intelligence is still very much in its evolution stage, many companies may not actually have a separate group that consists of a team of professionals designated to solely overseeing its processing and analyzing.

Let us see some of the typical customer intelligence organization –

Customer analytics experts in business functions like marketing –

Customer intelligence experts working in marketing departments have an upper hand when it comes to modeling plans and policies more in sync with customer preferences. This is because the key to attracting customers and building customer loyalty lies with them. The customer data can be analyzed for insights that can be used to achieve more personalization in customer services. Marketing campaigns with a sharper focus on customer needs designed through analytical insights would reap far better results than those designed vaguely, without the highly reliable analytical data support to rely on. Since marketing functions revolve around the business, they generally don’t have customer intelligence experts handling the processing. That majorly remains the prerogative of the IT department.

Customer analytics experts in IT functions –

Since customer intelligence is very much a technology-driven process, in many companies, the IT department is the one where the core function is located. Technology is the backbone of customer intelligence. Customer intelligence professionals working in the IT functions know exactly the kind of technological infrastructure that is required to process customer data. The analysts can make recommendations for high-tech upgrade, weighing the scalability and the flexibility of the customer data with them. The needs and expectations of the analysts and the technology must match at all levels, so as to ensure that efficiency in processing is always maintained. They have to be mindful of the costs, reliability, packaging and ergonomics along with the pre-requisite technical knowledge.

Customer intelligence professionals working in different functions, having an expertise in their distinct capabilities, need to maintain a coordinated working pattern and a lucid communication channel to process and analyze the customer data for actionable insights.

Customer analytics experts in a separate group-

Some companies understand that understanding of the customer, creating actionable insights and utilizing them towards business goals is an interdisciplinary activity. A separate group of experts who understand data, technology as well business are most suited not only to bring together all the customer data, but also to transmit the customer intelligence to appropriate teams within an organization. This leads to better results and more success. Companies with a separate function generally had a higher ROI than those who did not.

Centralization of customer intelligence operations helps in multiple ways-

1) The experts can offer unbiased opinions strictly on the basis of customer intelligence, without intervention of vested interests of other company functions; whose judgment might be clouded in favor of its department’s well-being or constrictive due to a department-specific limited scope of understanding.

2) The customer intelligence professionals, together with their freedom, get a sense of assurance of job security and scope for progress, which is otherwise limited to other business functions due to the hierarchical structure of the businesses.

3) It helps in providing a singular view of customers, which is of absolute necessity for delivering better customer experiences. It saves the confusion that often arises with disorganized and multiple versions of customer information present in different departments.

4) It squashes the chance of being limited by traditional thinking. This is because it gives much space and independence for innovation and technological evolution outside the realm of typical business bounds.

5) It builds high levels of trust between the data scientists, who present insights on customer data, and the functional managers.

Having a separate centralized group of customer analytics professionals along with analysts in specific business units would establish a more cohesive, stable and healthier system of analytics communication. The analysts should be able to put in place the recommendations put forth by the central group, whose main task would be processing rigorous data and arriving at business intelligence through its data science capabilities.

What is your take on this?


Simple Ways to Convert Customer Feedback Into Customer Satisfaction


At a time when customer choice and empowerment is at its peak, a company’s constant endeavor and focus on aligning its strategies in accordance with customer preferences has assumed utmost importance. The wealth of data in the form of customer feedback has the potential to decide businesses’ fates. However, it requires the application of appropriate steps to ensure the translation of feedback into overall customer satisfaction. We’ll be elaborating on few simple methods you can adopt to develop a strong and satisfied customer base.

Gain knowledge of customer needs and demands

A customer lies at the heart of any business venture. All the decisions, strategies, and developments are contingent on his needs and demands. Therefore, understanding customer experience and heeding his voice need to be made the utmost priority. To gauge customer response, companies generally rely on customer feedback forms, market surveys, complaints etc. However, these paint only a partial picture of the whole. While nitpicking on only some of the most obvious questions and issues, there’s a possibility of missing the forest for the trees and the company might still incur losses without realizing why. This is where the importance of social media analytics is realized.

The coordinated working of human expertise and technology is seen to reap astonishing results. High-end analytical servers are capable of extracting enormous amounts of relevant social media data and processing them to produce an array of results presenting the whole view of the ecosystem. Having these results analyzed by a team of experts generates more accurate and valuable insights and trends.

Create better products and services based on customer insights

Now, social media isn’t just confined to being a communication channel. Its purpose and utility has diversified and is continuously evolving. With users increasingly being vested with more and more power, we are witnessing an unprecedented level of interaction. This has called forth an extensive collaborative process where users of a product are playing an active part in its development.

Many new ideas are generated every day through discussion pages, posts and tweets. One simple strategy is to closely monitor all of these conversations and track customers, competitors and competitors’ customers for ROI and key insights into popular trends and ideas. This way you can get to contemplate on what works and what doesn’t and make tweaks to your existing product development accordingly.

If you are on the initial research stage of product development, social media insights can help you zero down to one specific idea which will serve as a foundation for an entire process. You can inculcate existing popular features and also add new desired ones based on your target users’ opinions. This way, you’ll have a clear edge on your competitors and also a chance to attract their customers to your refined products or services.

Offer great support

Customer intelligence is used for effective customer relationships and support of strategic decision making. It leads to improved quality of response. The real-time capability of social media means that you get time to pass the issue to the appropriate department in the organization, elicit a response and convey it back to the customer. The quality and time duration of the response determine the customer’s satisfaction quotient.

Always being there for customers, providing personal assistance and customizing help to resolve their specific queries goes a long way in enriching the overall engagement experience of the users.

Great customer support is determined by response strategy, channel strategy and a proactive customer relationship management. It can be achieved by:

  • Understanding customer sentiments and emotions and connecting with them.
  • Using the appropriate strategy for different channels of response depending on the nature of the query and customer demand.
  • Proactively searching for new customer engagement opportunities and turning passive customers into active ones.

Create meaningful customer engagement

Today, social media is no longer the prerogative of just a few select individuals in an organization as it used to be in the past. Now, in order to proliferate their presence companies want as much customer engagement as possible. To achieve this, an optimal social media marketing strategy needs to be put in place. While crafting this strategy factors such as industry, target customer demographics, communication channel etc. need to be kept in mind.

According to a study by Altimeter, four key elements were identified as crucial for engagement with your customers:

  1. Emphasize quality, not just quantity
  2. To scale engagement make social media a part of everyone’s job
  3. Doing it all may not be for you – but you must do something
  4. Find your sweet spot

Following these simple steps, you can use the customer feedback – direct or indirect – to offer great customer satifaction!

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