How to Improve Call Center Customer Experience
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How to Improve Call Center Customer Experience

Customer satisfaction and customer experience metrics have always been key performance indicators (KPI) for the call center. But today, customer experience (CX) stands as the most important KPI for the entire organization. Nine in 10 businesses report that they are competing primarily on the basis of customer experience. However, while CX is now a top-level focus for most businesses, the heart of the customer experience still lives in the call center. The modern, multi-channel contact center contains all of your customers’ main touch points with your business and your brand. And as organizations in every sector aim to deliver a stand-out customer experience, contact centers face greater pressure than ever to improve CX, delivering experiences that meet consumers’ ever-rising expectations.

This guide gives you a comprehensive look at the rapidly growing challenge of improving customer experience within the call center

Why Focus on CX?

From high-tech to blue-collar, the pace of marketplace transformation is rapidly accelerating. Leading-edge innovations become outdated tech a year later. Robust markets are shattered into fragments. Dominant businesses rapidly fall from their thrones.

In this global marketplace where customers can buy from anyone, anywhere, it’s become even harder for companies to compete. And it’s only getting more difficult: Most (78%) U.S. consumers say they’re less brand-loyal than they were three years ago, according to Accenture. What keeps them loyal has shifted in a big way: A Blackhawk Network study found that 94% of consumers say that a consistently great customer experience is the main reason they remain loyal to a business or a brand. As a result, forward-thinking businesses are shifting their thinking on customer acquisition and loyalty. Instead of viewing these issues in terms of brand name and price, they’re thinking of these issues in terms of experience. As more markets are transformed by “anytime, anywhere” services, the ability to deliver exceptional experiences has turned into a key differentiator for many brands.

According to a recent market study sponsored by Calabrio, CCW Digital found that more than half (52%) of senior leadership globally view customer experience as the most important way of differentiating their brand.

But the gap between how organizations think they’re doing on CX — and how customers feel — can be huge: A recent Capgemini survey found that 80% of executives believe they’re delivering great customer experiences, while only 15% of their customers agree. It’s not surprising, then, that the Calabrio + CCW Digital study found that only 3% of customers report that they are “extremely happy” with the customer experience that they receive from businesses — and 83% are either unhappy or only somewhat happy.

There’s not much room for error on CX, either: 54% of customers are open to switching to a competitor after a bad experience—and many customers are unhappy with the experiences they currently receive.

On the other hand, exceptional customer experience can help companies stand out from the competition, increase customer loyalty, and help drive revenue and growth by shifting the customer mindset away from price-driven deal-hunting. In fact, 8 in 10 consumers say they’re more than willing to pay more for a better customer experience, according to a recent Capgemini survey.

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How to Create Customer Loyalty in Call Centers

The contact center plays a critical role in impacting customer experience. A poor experience in the contact center quickly creates negative feelings towards an organization, which can quickly torpedo loyalty and drive customers to complain or go to a competitor.

So what does it take to create customer loyalty in the call center?

Focus on customer-driven innovation

New customer service technologies, like artificial intelligence and chatbots, hold great potential in improving the customer experience and helping contact centers improve their bottom line. But customers don’t care about your bottom line—they only care about innovations that benefit them: In Calabrio’s report on how technologies impact customer loyalty, 48% of respondents asserted that innovation is important only if it improves customer service.

Provide a human connection

Some of the most impactful customer-driven innovations in the contact center are chatbots and other self-service options that get customers the help they need quickly. However, the phone still reigns supreme. The ability to pick up the phone and talk to a human isn’t just efficient; it builds rapport. Eight in 10 customers believe interacting with a human versus a chatbot or other digital self-service channel is a sign of good customer service. It’s also critical to a company’s credibility. Customers are emotionally driven. When they have the option to speak with real, live contact center agents, the agents cultivate a personal connection that keeps customers coming back.

Even with the rise in self-service and artificial intelligence, customers still overwhelming want to be able to connect with a human.

74% ARE MORE LOYAL TO A COMPANY IF THEY CAN SPEAK TO SOMEONE

54% DON’T TRUST THEIR ISSUE WILL BE ADDRESSED IF THERE’S NO OPTION TO SPEAK TO A REPRESENTATIVE

60% FEEL LIKE THEIR VOICES ARE HEARD WHEN THEY SPEAK TO A LIVE PERSON

56% THINK THEIR ISSUE WILL ACTUALLY GET SOLVED

53% BELIEVE THE ISSUE WILL BE RESOLVED QUICKLY

IF THERE IS NO OPTION TO SPEAK WITH A PERSON,THE COMPANY’S REPUTATION AND BUSINESS IS ON THE LINE:

43% WOULD CONSIDER SWITCHING TO A COMPETITOR

37% WOULD QUESTION THE LEGITIMACY OF THE COMPANY

46% FEEL THE COMPANY REALLY DOESN’T WANT THEIR BUSINESS

Focus on your people

Recognizing the importance of making human connections with customers in the contact center, the next natural focus is the human on the other end of the line: the agent. When customers reach out to your call center, it’s likely that they’re purposefully bypassing self-service channels because they want help from a person. And that’s when well-trained, empathetic agents make a big difference.

To improve customer experience, give your agents the right tools and training to be effective, such as customer interaction analytics, ongoing training and rapid feedback to keep them on the path to success. Treat them like the knowledge workers they are—ask for their input when it comes to voice-of-the-customer projects. And empower them with the flexibility to empathize and resolve customer complaints by offering refunds or vouchers to upset customers. Your agents will be happier and more effective, and so will your customers.

Align Customer Experiences Across Channels

Businesses are more focused than ever on their customers—and armed with mountains of data to hone their customer-centric efforts. Nevertheless, there are still many blind spots in the customer experience.

Nearly half (47%) of CMOs feel that they do not have the right tools deployed in order to understand their customers’ greatest challenges. In the UK, only 30% of senior leadership feels their customer experience across channels is any more than ‘satisfactory.’ Meanwhile, in the US, leaders are banking on technology to bridge the gap: More than half (56%) of respondents expect to better align the customer experience across all touchpoints only when their technology capabilities improve.

So what do you need to do to align the customer experience across all customer touchpoints and across your organization?

Collect cross-channel data

Customers today are interacting across email, chat, social and more, giving companies the opportunity to understand behavior patterns and preferences. Companies who don’t combine customer interaction data information from all those channels are essentially making decisions while wearing blinders. That make it nearly impossible to make changes that can truly impact customer loyalty—and the bottom line.

Establish a CX leader

Ownership around who will own customer experience is a clear point of tension in the C-suite. Despite an increased focus on customer retention over the next year, only 35% of CMOs believe that using customer data insights is their responsibility, while a mere 29% of Chief Customer Officers claimed ownership. Looking further across the C-suite, 37% of CEOs stake a claim on improving customer experiences, which underscores both the confusion surrounding ownership as well as a bigger issue—the hesitation to take control.

Whether the CX leader in your organization is the CEO, CMO, CCO or someone else entirely, it’s important to define who will make customer experience a priority, instead of having many groups who all have a hand in it. Defining a designated CX leader will create some consistency and increase accountability—which is ultimately the key to improving customer experience.

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Develop a strategy for each channel

It’s no secret that companies want to provide a seamless, quality experience across all channels that they use to communicate with customers. In fact, 93% think it’s important. However, when companies add channels to their contact centers, they often find that it actually has a negative impact on their customer experience. So, what happened?

Setting up a new communications channel can be done so quickly that many companies are doing so without first developing a strategy. In fact, only 58% of organizations have a set process that they follow when adding a new communications channel. And as a result, not even half (45%) of companies believe they are very effective at providing a consistent customer experience across channels.

If the right internal omnichannel framework isn’t in place, and your contact center adds channels without understanding the customer-facing implications, you’re setting yourself up to fail. To eliminate hurdles, make sure to take a step back and re-evaluate internal processes before moving forward.

Many companies adding channels without a clear strategy

  • 58% have a set process to follow and find it easy to add a new channel
  • 20% don’t find it straightforward and say it’s a bit of a guessing game
  • 18% have no set formal process to follow

Here’s how to ensure a positive impact on customer experience when adding a new communications channel to your contact center.

Rethink staffing and training:

A true digital self-service strategy isn’t just about adding channels; it’s about creating a seamless experience every step of the way. If that experience doesn’t include highly trained, competent people who have the right customer information at their fingertips, companies will struggle to provide the level of digital self-service customers expect.

With new methods of communication come new challenges, including understanding customer behavior and sentiment via text, email and other non-verbal exchanges. Different channels require different skill sets, which means companies must adapt hiring and training practices to meet customer needs.

Be flexible with customers:

Every interaction is different, and what may start as a seemingly innocuous online request can quickly turn into a much more complex situation, making flexibility critical. To get the best possible outcome, contact center agents must have the flexibility to move customers across channels as the situation demands—and not force customers to repeat themselves in the process. For example, if an interaction isn’t easily resolved via chat or text, it’s imperative that companies allow them to seamlessly cross over to the phone.

Take an integrated approach:

Delivering a personalized, omnichannel experience is more than enabling multiple channels—it requires seamlessly linking these channels to give contact centers an accurate and comprehensive picture of all customer interactions. Customers today expect a consistent experience across all channels, which means contact centers need to measure quality assurance metrics not just for voice interactions, but also for chat, text and any other channels.

Add the right channels

While it’s tempting to just add a communications channel to your contact center, that doesn’t always make it the right choice to improve customer experience. Today, 44% of organizations say they offer four or more channels to communicate with customers, but 58% say they think their customers only use two or three. If organizations don’t know which channels their customers are using, how can they implement the right options?

So, what channels do customers typically prefer? While 58% percent of customers believe that picking up the phone and talking to a representative is the way to get the best and most efficient service, customers prefer different methods depending on what they’re trying to accomplish:

  • 23% said email
  • 10% said website
  • 7% said social media

Measuring Call Center Customer Experience

As the call center has evolved into the multi-channel contact center, measuring the customer experience has become correspondingly more complex. Traditional metrics like first call resolution (FCR) and average handle time (AHT) often cannot be applied to channels like email and chat. More importantly, many traditional call center metrics fail to fully capture the customer experience—and can place too much value on operational efficiency, at the expense of the customer experience. In short, where traditional call center strategies have focused on reducing call volume and minimizing AHT, the brands delivering today’s best customer experiences recognize that investing time, effort and cost in more robust customer interactions can lead to invaluable loyalty that delivers significant ROI.

So, if traditional metrics won’t give you the full picture of your customer experience, how should you measure CX?

The Customer Experience Metrics Every Business Needs

Customer Retention Rates

Happy customers stick around. And while not every disgruntled customer leaves, today’s customers will jump ship more quickly than ever after a bad experience. That makes customer retention one of the simplest customer experience metrics. Customer retention also directly connects CX with its value to the business: Loyal customers are critical to running a successful business. Our recent CCW Digital study found that 67% of C-suite leaders agreed that customer retention rates have become the most important measure of success of the customer experience. Among the wider senior management team, customer retention has also surpassed profit (13%) and product development (8%) as the highest priority.

Net Promoter Score

While there can be reasons that a disgruntled customer may stick with a brand, an unhappy customer would almost certainly never recommend that brand to others. This makes Net Promoter Score (NPS)—a measure of how likely a customer is to recommend an organization or a brand—an important CX metric for the contact center. The main problem with Net Promoter Score, however, is that most contact centers only get a very small sample of Net Promoter Score data from their customers. And oftentimes, that Net Promoter Score data is skewed because most people who respond to surveys are either very upset or occasionally very happy. Fortunately, best-in-class contact center analytics tools now enable contact centers to evaluate NPS for every single customer and every single interaction, using advanced artificial intelligence and machine learning to provide a highly accurate predictive NPS without depending on customers to volunteer their time and feedback.

Customer Sentiment

Whereas customer retention and net promoter score measure outcomes (things that happen as a result of good or bad customer experiences), customer sentiment delivers a qualitative measure of the interactions themselves. Nearly half (49%) of global respondents cite customer sentiment as a key measure of customer experience success. But measuring customer sentiment has traditionally been difficult. However, once again advanced analytics tools make it much more practical. AI-driven sentiment analysis tools give a contact center a near-real-time readout of how a customer is feeling throughout an interaction, allowing the organization to identify unhappy consumers and pinpoint places during a customer interaction that cause frustration. This enables them to fix problems before they impact other CX metrics—lowering NPS or hurting customer retention—and before they ultimately impact the bottom line.

Customer Effort

One of the metrics rising quickly in importance in the contact center is Customer Effort. That’s because customer effort hones in on measuring how well you’re delivering on the number one thing customers want in a great customer experience: simplification. They want it to be easy to get in touch with your organization, they want to only have to call or reach out one time and they don’t want to go through multiple levels of escalation to resolve their problem. The less effort a customer has to expend to get to a satisfactory resolution, the better they will rate their customer experience.

Measure CX in Real Time

The increasing connectedness and accelerating pace of modern life means that small customer experience issues can very rapidly grow into major problems—leading to customer loyalty and brand reputation damage that can be very difficult and costly to repair. Whichever metrics you use to monitor your customer experience, it’s more critical than ever to shift your contact center and customer experience metrics as close to real time as possible—so your organizations has a clear, accurate view of how your customers are feeling right now. In fact, 39% of respondents listed the importance of understanding real-time behavior as a core reason for a dedicated chief customer officer (CCO) function. For customer experience leaders, the ability to analyze behaviors in real time opens a world of new insights, helps instill best practices and guarantees better outcomes.

How to Extract Customer Experience Data from Every Conversation

So you know why customer experience is important to your business. You know what metrics you can use to evaluate and monitor your CX. But where do you get the data to build those metrics? The answer is simple: An incredible amount of customer data comes pouring into your contact center each and every day. But many businesses are failing to capture all this data, and they’re missing out on critical customer insights that can help them improve customer experience.

In our customer experience survey, we asked organizations what tools they use to understand their customers and their greatest challenges. Just over half (51%) said that they rely on surveys, while 37% use focus groups to learn more about their customers. Only 43% replied that they leverage contact center data to learn more about customer needs and experiences.

Full value of the customer data

Traditionally, organizations have been missing out on the full value of the customer data in their contact centers because the technologies required to capture and analyze all that data either didn’t exist—or were too costly, too cumbersome and failed to deliver relevant, usable insights. Fortunately, new technologies are finally enabling the enterprise to easily and cost-effectively analyze and understand what their customers are trying to tell them. These easy-to-use solutions make it possible to monitor 100 percent of contact center interactions, turning complex conversations into rich data, and mining that data to extract actionable insights. Moreover, they deliver an intuitive interface that makes these powerful tools accessible to even novice users, and provides clear insights that can be quickly understood and immediately used by anyone in the business—no data science background required.

Customer Experience Intelligence Filters Out the Noise—Extracts the Meaning

Here’s the crux of the contact center customer experience intelligence challenge: U.S. contact centers captured more than 200 billion minutes of inbound calling in the last year. Each call tells a small-but-valuable part of the bigger story. But the vast majority of those minutes can be rightly classified as “noise”—not usable information. Advanced analytics solutions leverage intelligent analytics tools to filter out the noise, hone in on the “signal” and transform that critical data into easy-to-understand, actionable insights.

Contact center conversations, in their native form, are unstructured and extremely complex. They don’t fit neatly into the traditional data model. They’re full of meaning, but messy and extremely varied in terms of syntax and structure. But advanced analytics solutions use sophisticated technologies, such as phonetics and speech-to-text applications, to turn these unstructured conversations into orderly data. This is a critical step in unlocking the true voice of the customer—putting these voices in a format that’s ready to be devoured by data analytics tools. This includes the ability to understand the subtleties of context and tone, honing in on the true intentions and sentiments of the caller. By distilling the true voice of every customer and the meaning of every call, intelligent analytics enable the enterprise to finally see the patterns, trends, challenges and opportunities that emerge in the big picture.

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How to Extract Customer Experience Data from Every Conversation

Business leaders in every sector increasingly recognize that it’s no longer the products or the prices that customers care about most. As we mentioned earlier, 9 in 10 companies today compete primarily on the basis of customer experience. This age of customer-centricity puts the focus on the CX, giving the multi-channel contact center a tremendous opportunity to elevate its influence—delivering customer-centric insights and becoming a true strategic partner to the business.

The Key: Telling a Better Story

The customer-centric insights that business leaders seek pour into the contact center every day—and new analytics tools make it easy and cost-effective for contact center leaders to turn the raw voice of the customer (VoC) into actionable business intelligence. The challenge is weaving those insights together to tell a simple, compelling story that your senior leadership cannot ignore.

With that goal in mind, here are some quick tips for presenting VoC data and contact center analytics insights to effectively influence decision-makers:

Understand Your Audience’s Hopes & Frustrations

The customer-centric insights that business leaders seek pour into the contact center every day—and new analytics tools make it easy and cost-effective for contact center leaders to turn the raw voice of the customer (VoC) into actionable business intelligence. The challenge is weaving those insights together to tell a simple, compelling story that your senior leadership cannot ignore.

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Look for immediate or urgent priorities over long-term goals. Delivering value now is more impressive than promising value later.

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Pay careful attention in cross-departmental meetings and to internal communications that give hints to the pain points felt by other business units.

Put Your Best (Most Important) Foot Forward

Avoid the tendency to tell your story in chronological order (First we did this, then this…the data showed this, which means this…). This puts your most important information last, where it may never get heard.

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Follow the journalist’s inverted pyramid: Begin your presentation with all the most important information (based on your audience’s motivations).

Give Them Information—Not Data

The most important information isn’t the data itself—it’s what the data means (to your audience/for your business).

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Do the work for your audience. Don’t make them extrapolate conclusions from your data—you risk losing their interest, or (worse) open the door to misinterpretations.

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Use “why” language—not “what” language. Don’t just give them contact center KPIs. Explain what improving FCR or reducing AHT means for sales conversions, customer loyalty, operational costs, etc.

Speak Their Language

Avoid the temptation to prove your expertise by filling your presentation with data science terminology and contact center lingo. The goal is to elevate the conversation to a business-wide level; your language should speak to this broad, high-level audience.

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Be concise, clear and simple. Avoid jargon and explain technical language in simple terms.

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Talk the talk of business value. Make sure you’re connecting your message to the objectives (customer loyalty, revenue, etc.) and challenges (customer attrition, operational costs, etc.) your audience cares about.

Paint a Very Simple Picture

Best-in-class analytics tools enable you to create complex graphs and charts, but save those for a different audience. Keep graphics simple and don’t risk confusion or misinterpretation.

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For your most important conclusions, flip the old adage around: Tell them; don’t just show them. This avoids misinterpretation and keeps you in control of your message.

Don’t Bore Them with How

Process is absolutely critical to a successful contact center analytics program. But it’s largely irrelevant to an audience of high-level business leaders. They want to know what you found—not how you found it.

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However, make sure you are prepared to speak to process, if asked. A firm grasp on methodology can quickly dispel any “what abouts” that may come up.

Let the Customers Tell the Story

Whenever possible, back up your findings with raw VoC feedback. This reminds your audience that you’re simply conveying the message coming from your customers. Moreover, while VoC analytics allows you to go beyond anecdotal insights, there’s no denying that a good anecdote can make a big impression.

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Show (and read) a customer quote that directly supports a key assertion you’re making. Make sure you carefully select the quote and connect it to the big-picture finding to avoid losing control of your message.

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Take VoC feedback to the next level by creating a VoC mashup. Use keywords to pull together a collection (mashup) of raw VoC clips that demonstrate that your findings represent much more than a single customer viewpoint.

Share Your Customer Experience Story

It’s no secret that the most successful organizations today are those that deliver a unique and consistently exceptional experience to their customers. But as the business world increasingly adopts customer-centricity as its guiding principle, the “secret sauce” lies in the art and science of measuring, monitoring and constantly improving the customer experience. Leading brands are recognizing what savvy call center leaders have long known: that the contact center is the true home of the customer experience—and that there is tremendous value in the VoC insights pouring into the contact center. They’re following four basic steps to build a smart customer experience intelligence program:

1

Establishing CX
leadership and goals

2

Identifying key CX
metrics

3

Capturing and integrating
customer interaction data across
all channels

4

Leveraging advanced
analytics tools to
transform that raw data
into meaningful metrics
and usable insights

The widespread embrace of customer-centricity gives the contact center a unique opportunity to elevate its role and its voice in the organization. But while there’s no denying the power of the insights themselves, contact center leaders need to strategically tell their stories in order to maximize impact and influence. By following the best practices covered in this guide, you can build a smart and comprehensive customer experience intelligence program that establishes the contact center as a strategic business partner in driving customer-centric decision-making—and helps your organization deliver the consistently outstanding customer experiences that drive loyalty, retention, competitive differentiation and success.

More Resources

Are You Measuring These Critical Customer Experience Metrics?

3 Ways Retailers Can Use the Contact Center to Improve Customer Experience

New Year, New Experience: Four Predictions for 2019

Connecting the Disconnected: The Promise of a Holistic Customer Experience

Top 4 Ways to Elevate Agent Engagement in Your Contact Center

Digital Transformation: Just a Buzzword for Today’s Contact Center if You Don’t Recognize these 3 Things

Earning Customer Loyalty in a Digital World Means Finding the Right Balance of Technology and Human Touch

The Customer Experience Breaking Point: Are You at Risk of Losing the Human Touch?

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