Proactive, Personal, and Transparent Service Removes Friction, NICE Interactions Speakers Urge on Day 2

As the pace of life continues to quicken, consumers increasingly want frictionless experiences from the companies with which they interact.

"Customers are impatient; they expect quick access to accurate answers and immediate resolution of issues," Barry Cooper, president of the NICE workforce and customer experience division told the audience during presentation that opened Day 2 of NICE Interactions 2022.

He and Paul Jarman, CEO of NICE CXOne, said the frictionless interactions are already occurring in several aspects of life, from ordering a meal to be delivered to the doorstep to ordering a car online.

"When experiences like these are already the norm in so many parts of our lives, it's critical that you can deliver the same frictionless experience when providing service to your customers," Cooper said.

The most successful companies provide customers with proactive, personal experiences to reduce the friction involved in resolving problems, speakers agreed.

"Proactive customer service means organizations initiate interactions at the right time," Jarman said. "Proactive experiences significantly reduce customer effort, and they create a springboard to get quick resolution. Being super-responsive means providing customers with a linear experience that's fast and seamless. They shouldn't be forced to wait for replies and shouldn't be aware of any handoffs during the process."

To provide personalized experiences, companies must use all of their customer data to tailor all aspects of the interaction and not ask for information that's already known, Jarman said. "Transparency in customer service reduces friction by keeping customers informed throughout their service journey."

These have been difficult to create due to technology limitations and because service has been delivered by multiple departments, Cooper explained.

"Most of the issues we see are structural within the company," said Forrester Research analyst Max Ball. "You have different groups interacting with customers, even within the contact center itself. Especially larger enterprises have dozens of contact centers, each with its own technology stack. And, as a result, it's almost impossible to get a consistent customer experience."

"The biggest barrier that customers are experiencing today with their CX is the fact that it's just grown so. While in the old days the customer experience started with the customer dialing a toll-free number, today the customer experience starts much earlier," added Tom Brannen, OnConvergence founder and senior analyst. "It doesn't start with a phone call. It starts with a Google search. It starts with the self-service portal. And so the challenge is how do we expand our offerings, providing customer service into these emerging areas.

Companies need to provide the enhanced self-service solutions that customers are saying they want, added Donna Fluss, founder of DMG Consulting. "This is a gift, so give them the kind of self-service solutions that will allow them to help themselves."

This is true of business customers as well as of consumers.

Verizon, for example, communicates with 15,000-20,000 customers each day, interacting with them as many as 10 times over the course of their journeys to make appointments, confirm appointments, change appointments, educate them, get feedback from them, said Kevin Service, Verizon's senior vice president and chief wireline network officer. "Each one of those contacts and visits is an opportunity to have a great customer experience or not. So we need to get this one right. We have multiple initiatives in place to help us achieve our goals."

One of those goals is to provide efficient customer service without wasting resources. Using NICE's contact center solutions, the company had a 30 percent to 40 percent response rate from customers to confirm appointments, but after conducting a deeper analysis, the company found that many of the service trucks it sent out didn't need to be rolled.

By changing to an AI-based SMS solution to confirm appointments, Verizon increased its confirmation rate to 80 percent, meaning a significant reduction in unnecessary truck rolls, increased efficiency, and increased capacity, Service said. With the improved confirmation rate, service trucks were more likely go to where they were needed. That meant quicker resolution of problems and improved customer experiences.

The total benefits were well into the millions of dollars, according to Service.

In one of the conference's last sessions, Forrester analyst Max Ball said many companies today undervalue their contact centers.

"The contact center is the bulk of where customer experiences happen unless you're McDonald's or retail," Ball said. "When I have a good experience, I feel appreciated. I feel valued, and that makes me happy."

Such experiences lead to a customer retention rate of 76 percent and increased spending in 80 percent of cases, according to Ball. Additionally 87 percent of customers with good experiences will recommend the company to others, according to Forrester data.

The metrics show how important the contact center is, Ball said.

But to get full value out of their contact centers, companies need to look for opportunities to improve, according to Ball. "We all rate ourselves just about a notch better than our customers tend to rate us."

Though many contact centers rate as OK, they can move beyond that rating to deliver differentiated services that improve customer experiences and add to the company's bottom line.

By carefully examining contact center data, companies can learn where improvements are most needed and which improvements will truly make a difference in customer experiences, according to Ball.

But contact centers also play important roles in other regards. For example, contact centers are pivotal for product returns, incorrect charges, etc., often after customers exhausted other resources, he explained.

"There are places where it makes sense to automate, but there are times you need the human touch. There are times where people are completely irreplaceable," Ball said. "That's got to be available, then you have to make that work. Levelling up the contact center is a great way to get you out of the tyranny of being a cost center because it raises the profile of what you're doing for the organization."

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Companies need to declare war on the friction that has kept self-service from satisfying customers, speakers urged during day one of NICE's Interactions 2022 event.

Posted May 25, 2022