Three Customer Experience Goals for 2022

We've all read it 1,000 times: customer expectations are rising. COVID has not only accelerated digital engagement but also brought us near real-time service for groceries, clothes, household essentials, takeout, health, and issue resolution. Furthermore, with an abundance of choice in products coupled with competitive pricing and a variety of platforms where they can air their grievances, customers are more in charge than ever before. Put simply, they expect retailers to be easy to do business with and take care of them when something goes wrong.

So how does one differentiate given the new table stakes? The answer is customer experience. Creating a shared vision across the organization is the first step, and putting more concrete goals in place is the next. Here are three recommended customer experience goals businesses should keep in mind for 2022.

Goal 1: Plan thoughtful, frictionless experiences across channels.

It has become a universal truth that customers expect a seamless experience across all channels. Easier said than done!

The service model of the future (which is now) is about providing a seamless customer journey across all channels. Companies with strong omnichannel engagement note a 9.5 percent annual increase in revenue compared to 3.5 percent achieved by businesses without omnichannel support.

Given the complexity in connecting all of the ways a customer can shop and communicate, companies need to start with putting the customer first. Solve their primary friction points and the use cases that negatively impact an experience by creating a roadmap for how to pull all vehicles together. A recent Harvard Business Review article perfectly captures this priority:

"Customers and employees are increasingly expecting well-designed digital experiences, a trend that certainly has further accelerated during the pandemic. Consequently, the question companies face currently is not a matter of whether they should implement a connected strategy, but a matter of how.

Yes, it's more challenging than ever before to do this! It's also more important than ever and could make or break customer lifetime value.

Goal 2: Find the right balance between automation and personalization.

An age-old adage in retail has been about striking the right between art and science. It's now extending to finding the sweet spot between artificial intelligence (AI) and humans based on your service model. Optimization of self-service for your customer-facing teams is now an essential part of any CX strategy.

According to a recent study, 84 percent of customers now expect their inquiries to be resolved quickly and accurately. But when firms don't live up to these heightened expectations, 68 percent say a single poor customer experience has a negative impact on their brand loyalty. We've seen this as high as 80 percent as well.

Companies need to spend time identifying the right mix of cost-saving (but satisfying) self-service automation and higher-cost (but personalized) human service. Deflecting too many interactions to automated channels leaves you at risk of lower resolution rates and declining satisfaction. But skewing too far in the opposite direction can lead to higher costs and longer call queues.

The future is here, and technology now exists to help organizations find this balance. Companies are turning to artificial intelligence-powered cloud-based contact center software to become the new hub of customer intelligence, as well as a facilitator of more personalized, in-the-moment, and profitable customer experiences. As technologies, such as self-service portals and voice and digital virtual agents mature and become more integrated throughout multiple customer touchpoints, businesses can provide a scalable blend of interactions that feel connected and satisfying. Likewise, AI can help identify customer mood and sentiment regardless of channel, providing insight into when a customer should be routed to a live agent for a more personalized, empathetic experience. AI-powered agent assist technologies can then help customer service representatives on the back end by monitoring their interactions in real time and surfacing relevant suggestions and useful knowledge.

Goal 3: Calibrate KPIs to reflect today's customers.

Contact center benchmarking data reveals that average service level dropped from 85.6 percent in 2019 to 82.5 percent in 2020 while contact center transactions are quickly growing year over year. Additional research shows 85 percent of CX professionals agree that agents are expected to handle more challenging issues compared to a year ago. Eighty-one percent cite new revenue generation as an aspect of agent KPIs today, and 86 percent anticipate that customer relationship growth will be an agent KPI within five years.

The core KPIs of average abandonment rate, average speed of answer, and average resolution time remain important; meanwhile, there are new KPIs that help paint a better picture. Such KPIs include customer lifetime value (CLTV), customer satisfaction (CSAT), customer churn, upsells/cross-sells, and channel selection/optimization. These metrics enable contact centers to drive organizational change and transform from being problem-helpers to problem-reporters, and ultimately, problem-solvers.

Your customer service team is a rich source of customer feedback, but it's only by tracking and proactively reporting on these metrics that companies will be able to optimize their operations to address why customers reach out for help in the first place. Companies are at an inflection point with their contact centers, pivoting from a reactive cost center to a proactive, customer-focused growth center.

Shannon Colquhoun is vice president of global strategy at Talkdesk.