Three Ways to Build a Better Customer Experience

There was a time not too long ago—say the mid-2000s—when the phone was king when it came to customer care. Call centers received high volumes, hold times were extensive, and new technologies generally made the experience worse. The customer experience was often regarded as frustrating, with consumers having to repeat details over and over again and hunt alone for answers to their problems.

While a lot has changed, there are still issues within the customer service industry that can be addressed with technology that has finally caught up to the demands of consumers. This influx of innovation has resulted in heightened awareness for what's commonly called the customer experience, which is a more proactive, positive counterpart to traditional customer care.

As a customer service leader, your transition to customer experience should leverage tools such as automation, analytics, mobile, and social to understand the business outcomes you're looking for. Here are three ways to build and transform a better customer experience for your business.

Anticipate the consumer's needs.

From one inbound phone call, email, or chatbot message, you can gather critical information to be leveraged in enhancing the customer experience. Through the use of automation and analytics, you can, in many cases, better understand your customer inputs, such as whether they've visited your company's website or called before. You can then use that data to be a little more predictive and understand what their needs are and who they are as customers and foresee some of what they're going to ask.

Predictive analytics make life easier for both your customer service agents and the customers they serve. By having a platform in place that uses automated tools, including robot process automation (RPA), to handle more mundane tasks, like inputting customer information into the appropriate form, your customer service representatives are free to perform at a much higher level to deliver a better customer experience. Social listening tools can also help by automatically combing through Twitter and Facebook chatter to deliver valuable analytics of customer sentiment.

Provide the consumer the right answer the first time, with personalization.

The key to happy customers is making sure they receive quick and accurate answers to whatever their questions might be. With this in mind, a self-service perspective might be the ideal strategy to implement. Generally speaking, customers today want to get a lot of the answers they need on their own, either through a website or a text message.

Virtual agents, or chatbots, can often handle these tasks, detecting and learning how human agents diagnose customer problems and offering solutions. This machine learning capability allows the virtual agent to quickly develop the intelligence needed to understand and solve queries itself. Having a platform and option that provides a consistent self-service experience, just as if they were calling into a call center, is very important.

Don't default to a phone call.

While a call center is still a solid, tried-and-true solution to customer care today, many are saying it's on the same path as the VHS, cassette, and CD. A 2016 global survey of technology, media, and telecommunications consumers found 42 percent of respondents believe there will be no call centers at all by 2025. With this in mind, it behooves businesses to invest in more future-looking platforms for customer service that don't rely so heavily on the phone. This is often referred to as omnichannel customer service, and it can help you reach newly empowered consumers.

Consumers want the freedom to contact you in their channel of choice, but they also expect each interaction to be similar regardless of medium. So, should a consumer desire to get an answer via a virtual agent at 3:30 a.m., that experience should be just as efficient as if they were calling a human agent at 11 a.m. While this is ideal, giving customers this freedom to reach you does come with risk if you don't have a measurement tool in place to capture transaction data 24/7. Next-generation real-time monitoring can help identify problems, analyze customer sentiment, and exploit opportunities, even in the middle of the night.

Investing in the customer experience can help create more loyal followers for your company, each with the power to refer new customers and better business. By offering customers an intuitive and helpful omnichannel experience, you're setting your business up for success in the not-too-distant future of phoneless conversations and virtual agents. Doing this alone isn't easy, though, as it requires investments in new technologies and processes, significant underlying change management, and a cultural evolution. That's why it's wise to partner with a business services provider who can bring these tools to your company and help you evolve your customer service to the next level.

Christine Landry is group chief executive of consumer and industrials at Conduent, responsible for the company's end-to-end delivery of customer experience centers, human resources services, and learning business. A 24-year veteran in the business services market, Landry was previously general manager of Conduent's communications and media business unit. Prior to the Conduent and Xerox separation, she served as group president for Xerox Services’ communications industry vertical.