6 Ways Smart Routing Can Build Lifelong Loyalty

The most memorable consumer experiences are often formed from the unique relationship between the business and the customer. I'm unflinchingly loyal to my neighborhood cafe. Every Saturday they personalize my breakfast taco order with a spicy kick, yet my oldest daughter will have her weekly no-frills quesadilla. Through their understanding of me as an individual, my preferences, and my priorities they've made me a customer for life.

If you are a large enterprise, how do you capture and scale that local neighborhood experience across thousands of agents in your contact center and earn lifelong customer loyalty? Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. But there is a way to localize interactions between customers and agents through smart routing functionality. This ensures that customers are directed to the agent who not only has all context and skills required to build a strong connection, but might very well be located in the same geographic area. If you're looking to replicate the magic of a local, one-on-one interaction, here are a few things you need to know:

1. Get Smart Routing and Omnichannel Right.

Adding non-voice channels to your contact center to become multichannel is now table stakes. Customers expect to be able to reach you in their channel of choice, but what happens when these channels don't work together seamlessly? Or if their preferred channel isn't the best one for the situation at hand? Getting the customer to the right channel and the right agent with the least amount of friction requires a truly omnichannel infrastructure, allowing a customer or agent to combine multiple channels at once (e.g. chat and web co-browse) or elevate from one channel to another (e.g. from social to voice). In fact,4 out of 5 customers want you to guide them to the most effective channel. Yet, few enterprises are able to deliver this.

2. Know the Context of Customers and Their Journeys.

For agents to truly personalize each interaction, it's essential to provide context. Back to my cafe example: The proprietor remembers each of our orders and uses that as a basis to create a connection with me and my family. The same principle applies for agents in a contact center, but these agents need help to make this a reality. They require a full customer profile and history of the customer journey with your company, including all of the context from the current touchpoint. Equally important is having all of this information presented in one simple user interface. It's impossible to have a personalized conversation if the typical agent is toggling between 5-7 screens.

3. Don't Underestimate the Importance of Chemistry.

Customer service agents are on the front lines of building positive, memorable experiences between companies and customers. Success in this regard depends partially on the chemistry between any particular customer and agent; some people's personalities just click. Fortunately, you can also use customer behavioral profiles to match them with the most effective agents, at scale. By analyzing customer' communications styles, they can be routed to the most compatible agent. For example, if a customer has demonstrated in previous interactions that she is more chatty, it would be beneficial to connect her with an agent skilled in maximizing customer satisfaction. Alternatively, if you have a customer who is quick and to the point, he would be best suited for an agent skilled in minimizing average handle time.

4. Identify Whether It's a Job for Bots or People.

Despite the rise in automated technologies, agents will always be one of a contact center's most critical assets. That being said, artificial intelligence-powered chatbots or natural language interactive voice response systems are popular ways to provide fast service for simple issues, at a lower price point. The challenge is that even the best AI self-service options have containment rates of about 50 percent. It is crucial that your contact center software can quickly route that chatbot or IVR conversation to a live agent with full history so the customer doesn't have to repeat himself.

5. Stay Flexible and Scale Quickly.

Just as your local cafe can quickly add hot tomato soup as a special if an unexpected cold front blows in, enterprise contact centers often need to adapt quickly. Make sure your contact center and IVR infrastructure is agile enough to elastically scale for your peaks and valleys of traffic. Leveraging the cloud is core to acting on this. In fact, a leading national florist recently realized that it had been missing out on 64 percent of orders on peak Mother's Day weekend before moving its contact center to the cloud.

6. Route Customers to Local Agents.

Of course, sometimes the best way to replicate that local coffee shop feeling is to actually connect customers to local agents in their neighborhoods. Using smart routing technology, contact centers can automatically match customers to local, physical stores in their regions. The local agent is also equipped with context on the customer's recent in-person interactions, demonstrating that the agent knows the customer.

Replicating the personalized service and customer loyalty offered at your favorite neighborhood spot at enterprise scale isn't easy. Customer expectations are growing at a tremendous pace, and companies are faced with the challenge of creating meaningful, engaging experiences for a potentially massive audience. Through a strong smart routing strategy, underpinned by seamless omnichannel infrastructure, you and your agents can gain a powerful edge in the fight for customer loyalty.

Chris Bauserman is vice president of product and segment marketing at NICE inContact. He has driven technology strategy and go-to-market (GTM) growth initiatives for software startups and large enterprises over the past 20 years, focusing on solutions that help organizations improve customer experience.

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