5 Smart Ways to Cut Costs and Improve the Customer Experience

One of the most challenging issues facing contact centers is meeting and/or exceeding their goals of lowering costs while still managing to improve the customer experience. This is no easy task. The Internet and mobile devices have had a huge impact on customer expectations. Companies that want to keep their customers happy need to understand this ever-changing landscape and provide innovative connectivity solutions that meet customers' expectations and still provide positive ROI for the organization.

Here are five steps companies can take to improve customer experience and achieve their ROI goals:

1. Know your customer. When a customer reaches out to a company in hopes of resolving an issue, she expects her needs to be met, and that means offering a broad range of customer service options. Today's customers expect a full mix of options that include traditional contact methods, such as phone support, a Web site, and email, along with shiny, new options, such as live chat, mobile apps, and social media, to name a few. It is important to note that while customers will like and prefer certain contact methods, they expect the company to offer a level of technology that meets or exceeds current standards. In a 2014 Jacada customer service survey, 76 percent of customers said that they notice the level of technology companies use in customer service.

2. Develop a customer-centric approach. In our connected and interactive age, customers expect service and information on the fly. The mobile revolution has given customers unprecedented access to companies, and they expect those companies to respond accordingly. This means companies need to be ready to offer support to their customers, anytime, anywhere; at the call center, at the store, on social media channels, or via mobile phone. It is important for companies to implement customer service technologies that are tailor-made to their business and reduce call times, transforming themselves into agile customer-centric enterprises.

3. Integrate communication channels. Create consistent customer engagement across all communication channels, including voice, Web, mobile, social, and point-of-sale. Newer call center solutions provide a single "designer" to create customer service interactions that can be executed in any channel, reducing time needed for developing scripts and call trees. These products take the approach that your customer interactions solve some core issue, and they should be reused consistently across any channel. For example, agent scripts can be transformed and reused in Web self-service scripts or mobile self-service scripts, projected to social channels such as Facebook, and even automatically converted to an IVR tree without having to be re-created."This not only saves costs for the company, but also lets customers enjoy a consistent customer experience no matter the channel they use.

4. Enhance the mobile customer experience. According to a 2012 report by Strategic Analytics, more than 1 billion people own a smartphone, opening endless opportunities for companies looking to enhance their mobile customer service. The latest mobile technologies enable seamless connectivity from the mobile phone to the agent at the call center. Solutions such as touch screen and Visual IVR reduce call times and hold times while providing a better customer experience. The customer does not need to repeat information, such as account details and reasons for calling, nor does she need to wait around until all options are said. Instead, she can see the options and choose quickly. The customer can also schedule callbacks at convenient times.

5. Invest in your existing IVR. In Jacada's Customer Services Experiences Survey 2013, more than 500 consumers were asked about their customer service experiences. Eighty-five percent said they expect phone service, 53 percent expect email support, 45 percent want Web site customer service, 39 percent expect live chat, 19 percent want a mobile app, 14 percent want a virtual assistant, and 10 percent expect assistance via social media. With voice still being the number one channel customers use to contact a company, it is important not to overlook this traditional means of communication. For example, new Visual IVR technologies are easy and cost efficient to implement, work seamlessly with traditional IVR, and address constraints such as long hold time and confusing menus, which are a chief source of frustration for customers.