That the customer experience counts is not news to anyone, but it is easy to underestimate just how central to customer retention the experience factor has become.
Today’s connected customers have far lower hurdles when it comes to switching brands: a recent Salesforce survey found that 76% of customers suggested that switching brands is easier than ever before.
It is also widely known that acquiring a new customer is far more expensive than retaining an existing customer. A poor experience can lead a customer to drop off at any number of contact points, including at your call centre.
To get value from the investment you made in acquiring a new customer, the entire customer journey with your brand, including call centre interaction, must be flawless.
Customer experience expectations have changed
Digital transformation has irreversibly changed the expectations of customers. Innovations driven by online behemoths like Amazon and Netflix have trickled down to enough small to medium sized businesses to now create a very different expectation around the customer experience everywhere.
Customers no longer tolerate being treated as a number as they seek out personalised experiences and the reassurance that their custom is valued. In practice this means interactions that are customised to the needs of an individual and not the entire customer cohort.
Rather than quickly dipping in and buying, customers enjoy shopping and seeing their relationship with a retailer develop via personalised recommendations. However, this relationship is relatively fragile and effectively down to a consistently good customer experience.
In further pressure on companies, technology has also erased so many of the customer experience pain points that customers are now increasingly frustrated when encountering any difficulties whatsoever. In retaining customers there is almost no room for error.
The impact on contact centres
Heightened customer expectations are often matched by improved online shopping facilities, but retailers cannot neglect other channels in the process because the customer experience is a journey.
The contact centre customer experience is therefore just as important as the web-based or in-store experience. Up to 32% of customers are likely to stop doing business with a brand due to one poor experience and your contact centre must not be the source of these drop-offs.
To avoid contact centre moments of truth becoming a path to customer attrition companies must understand that the contact centre game has shifted over the years. Crucially, the cost-based model no longer works for contact centres. Customer contact centre encounters are no longer opportunities for cost savings.
In contrast, contact centres are central to the customer experience journey and should be treated as such. Some companies have always treated their call centres as a customer centre rather than a cost centre, but others will need to adapt their call centres to meet the connected customer’s expectations.
How contact centres can pass the new customer experience bar
Meeting today’s customer experience expectations requires a different approach from contact centres. Customers are not setting unachievable expectations, but contact centres must get a number of key points right:
Focus on quality not speed
Where resources are limited contact centre operators should not sacrifice quality of service in the pursuit of speed. Yes, your customers expect efficiency, but a poor call centre experience is far more likely to lead to a customer changing brands than a somewhat longer call centre experience.
In practice this means a mix of a sensible, connected automated call centre systems and call centre operators that are unhurried. Every business is operated for a profit, but the cost imperative should not obstruct a positive customer experience.
Ensure 24/7 availability
Online shopping operates 24/7 and so do the shoppers. Some customers will require call centre interaction and restrictive call centre hours can be a frustration. Where 24/7 call centres are not an option companies could opt to enable at least some functionality via automated systems.
At the very least a call back option should exist so that you can pick up the customer journey the next day. A good call centre platform will easily cope with these requirements.
Multi-channel is not just a buzzword, it is an important element of keeping customers on board throughout their journey with your brand. Here too call centres play a role by ensuring that a customer experience that starts online is continued uninterrupted at the call centre.
Technology makes achieving a joined-up service relatively easy as call centre agents can be fully aware of a customer’s previous interactions, including purchases, buying habits and aborted shopping baskets.
A joined-up call centre experience also ensures that customer do not repeat themselves: repeating personal details, order data or other facts that your company should already know about a customer can be a real pain point.
Just as the online shopping experience anticipates your customer’s next needs, so should the call centre experience. Whether it is on the automated segment of a call centre journey or with an operator, the call centre workflow should be customer-aware and bend to the customer’s journey.
Adjusting call centre processes to anticipate the customer’s needs can shorten the call centre experience for the customer, reduce the opportunity for drop-offs and also lead to cost-saving efficiencies.
Don’t eliminate the human aspect
There is a strong role for contact centre automation, particularly where this automation is backed by cutting-edge contact centre technology. However, customers still expect to be able to make human contact when their customer service requirements are too complex.
Instead, consider offering customers the option to opt out of automated journeys and to reach a capable call centre operator if they prefer the human touch. Fail to do so and your customer may simply hang up and move their business.
Contact centre success starts with a customer experience strategy
All of the aforementioned points are crucial to getting the contact centre customer experience right, but the key to the optimal contact centre experience lies with a customer experience strategy. Essentially, it is hard to meet today’s high customer experience expectations by merely ticking boxes.
Instead, contact centres should consider the entire customer journey and build a strategy that takes into account the multi-faceted nature of this journey. Customer journeys vary too, so contact centre experts should map out their customers and their typical journeys in order to find paint points and indeed those moments of truth that is make or break for your relationship with your customer.
In conclusion, call centres can meet high customer expectations but only by understanding that the call centre is but one stop in a longer customer journey. Combine an understanding of your customer’s journey and their expectations with capable technology and your call centre can become a key contributor to customer retention, rather than customer attrition.