Driving Business Growth Through Customer Service Channels

Companies are facing a customer experience (CX) challenge, and customer service might provide the solution. Despite the fact that many companies are leveraging CX programs to retain customers and drive revenue growth, 2022 CX rankings fell for 19 percent of B2C companies studied by Forrester Research, putting overall CX quality back into early-pandemic territory. At the same time, customer engagement with companies has increased since the pandemic, but with fewer agents, wait times have tripled, which erodes CX and creates employee stress.

The increase in customer engagement means more work for agents but also more opportunities to upsell and cross-sell and retain customers. That means agent work is becoming more important and strategic, and many business leaders see their contact centers as potential drivers for growth or even profit centers. However, capitalizing on the CX value of service poses challenges. It's possible to optimize customer service, even with a lean staff, with the right strategy and technology as well as the smart use of customer data.

Identifying CX Pain Points in the Service Experience

The quality of customer service is critical for customer retention. Customer Contact Week found that 60 percent of customers will switch to a competitor after only one or two bad experiences. A bad experience could be a lack of resolution, a long wait for a reply, or simply not being able to access help through preferred channels. Providing a choice of channels is important, whether your customers prefer chat, social media, self-service, or something else, so customers can take the approach they want.

Bad experiences can also arise when customers have to explain their issues over and over because their data is stuck in silos. Collecting and unifying data across channels, throughout the customer journey, can eliminate the frustration customers feel by giving every agent with whom they engage a real-time view of their history and issue.

Orchestrating the kind of customer service experience that can drive revenue growth and strengthen customer loyalty requires several elements, starting with leadership buy-in and a smart strategy. The strategy at successful organizations typically provides multiple channels and self-service options to meet customers' needs. The ideal strategy also enables quick resolution of issues and personalization of customer interactions.

Having a best-in-class customer service team isn't possible without the right tools to save employees time and help them work more effectively. For customers, more channel options and seamless experiences mean better experiences overall. So, companies need to keep up with service technology trends and emerging solutions.

For example, customer decision hubs look at complete customer interaction histories to recommend next-best actions. There are also new call center tools coming out with analytics running in the back end and features like voice-to-text enablement. These tools can offer agents recommendations in real time by listening in on calls, analyzing customer sentiment, and analyzing customers' interaction histories. Layering this kind of solution on the center's telephony software can help agents identify and resolve problems faster and proactively provide personalized upsell and cross-sell recommendations.

Immersive customer service technology is also increasingly important now. For example, some telecom companies are integrating video chat with their contact center tools. Regardless of the channel customers choose, they can convert their interactions to video chat so agents can see their equipment, potentially diagnose problems, and recommend actions to resolve them.

Companies that want maximum value from their contact center investments also need to centralize their customer data so it's not siloed in multiple customer service tools. Centralizing data across company departments also solves the problem of what Forrester calls "dark data," or data that's been collected but not used. That data can feed into customer service artificial intelligence tools to accelerate business transformation and contact center ROI.

Improving the Agent Experience for Business Growth

Creating a more data-driven, customized service experience also improves the agent experience. That's important because the role is traditionally stressful, with high burnout and turnover rates. A February 2022 Salesforce report found that 71 percent of service agents had thought about quitting their jobs during the previous six months. Burnout is more likely when agents lack the tools to do their jobs effectively, feel like the workload is too heavy, or feel that their work doesn't have much value.

AI-powered chatbots, self-service troubleshooting flows, and other tools can take some low-value tasks away from the agent while delivering recommendations and insights that allow the agent to drive loyalty and upsells or cross-sells. In this way, their work becomes more value-focused and less frustrating. Of course, as companies look to improve the agent experience, they will also need to adopt new KPIs that focus less on efficiency and more on effective resolution and customer satisfaction.

The digital transformation of customer service gives companies an opportunity to resolve the CX conundrum created by a shortage of service agents at a time when customers expect better, faster service. By adopting the right mindset, strategy, tools, and KPIs, service can live up to its full potential as a value center for customer retention and revenue growth in ways that can also improve the agent experience and potentially reduce turnover-related costs.

Jaime Lightfoot is principal analyst for digital customer experience at Capgemini Americas.