While self-service platforms and applications have made it easier for customers to help themselves, when they need to make a human connection, it often signals an important inflection point in their journey.
Recently, when hackers hijacked over 2000 accounts on the investing and trading platform Robinhood, customers who lost control of their accounts were unable to reach customer support for days. Waking up to alerts that her stocks were being sold, Miah Brittany Laino frantically emailed customer support but couldn’t find a phone number. Although the firm later restored her account and stock holdings, it took them over a week to call her and have a conversation. Laino plans on leaving the company when she can.
“I don’t want to sell right now,” she said. “But I’m not going to put any more money into it. I don’t really trust them.”
A negative experience or a positive experience over the phone is highly impactful, with the strong potential for cementing the impression into lifelong brand affinity.
Bringing human back
Digitization of customer service and support has driven a technology-based support infrastructure dominated by bots and IVR systems. Although customers appreciate easy-to-use tools and shorter help times, when they need to speak to a human being technology is not a substitute for the empathy and problem-solving skills of another human being.
This is creating a strong need for businesses to better quantify and manage the customer experience across all channels, including voice. Voice channels are a crucial piece of the customer journey, and customers expect the channel to provide all the benefits and ease of a digital experience while facilitating an experience that feels personal, consistent and trustworthy.
A holistic view of customer experience
Customer experience has often been viewed through a narrow lens of fine-tuning and optimization, but companies that are growing and thriving have a more expansive and holistic view of the customer experience. It is not siloed but integrated into every area. They understand how it touches and interacts with every part of the business.
As major shifts drive changing customer sentiment and behavior, companies who are able to listen to and learn about their customers needs and expectations will be able to help shape the new normal while building lasting relationships with the next generation of customers.
Customer experience drives innovation
Customer experience is at the center of agile, adaptive companies like Amazon who can easily respond to events and still grow. While Amazon’s digital empire is built on a self-service model and they offer robust account management tools to their users, they are also incredibly responsive on voice. They have a customer support phone line staffed with professionals who are empowered and motivated to solve your problem.
Amazon listens to their customers, and it shows. They learn from every customer interaction and fold it back into their offerings. At the end of every voice interaction, Amazon wants to know if the problem was solved.
Customers trust Amazon with their entire lives, so they want to know they can reach someone if they need to.
But Amazon’s customer experience extends beyond customer interactions. They deliver
a consistent brand message and communicate their values in everything they do. Amazon listens to critics as well as its supporters, and delivers a customer experience that is never tone deaf but emphatic and responsive.
Today, most companies have customer experience top of mind as major disruptions drive shifts in customer sentiment and behavior across all industries and sectors. This is prompting a more holistic view of customer experience that connects all the dots and links together technology, culture and employees to customers, processes and outcomes.
Start with the employee experience
A holistic customer experience is built into the company DNA and starts with the employee experience, beginning with recruiting and onboarding. The candidate experience is formative of the employee experience and trickles down into the customer experience, according to Vangie Sison, Global Leader of Client Success.
When employees feel supported and enabled, they are empowered to help the customer. When they feel heard and valued, they can hear and value the customer.
The human touch is critical in the employee journey, but social distancing and remote work can leave employees feeling isolated and disempowered, without the office as a central hub where culture is produced and reinforced.
Just as customer experiences can be modeled and improved, companies are beginning to map and standardize all aspects of the employee journey, from recruitment to the final exit interview.
The line between customer and employee is more malleable than ever, and aligning the employee value prop with the customer value prop helps reinforce and strengthen the brand promise across all channels.
High-touch, high-value interactions and conversations in the employee journey become key processes in the remote environment, setting the stage for a better employee experience even in a time when face-to-face meetings are not always possible.
Human-first as CX differentiator
Whether customers are engaging over digital or voice channels, the human touch comes across in empathetic design focused on solving and understanding the customer’s problem.
While customers want to be empowered to manage their accounts and quickly find information, when they need to have a conversation, they want to connect quickly to another human that can help them. They want an experience that is empathetic, responsive, and solves the problem.
This human touch is the last mile in customer experience, and often the most difficult to deliver. Human-to-human interactions are high value touchpoints in the journey with the potential for big blow back if things don’t go well as well as big payoff if they do go well. It is also a huge opportunity to create lasting brand fidelity and loyalty, and for companies to learn about their customers most pressing needs and challenges, as they are happening.
Human with empathy
People want to feel safe, heard, and valued in an engagement with a brand, particularly when they are having difficulty. How can companies make sure people feel listened to and valued?
From technology and systems that identify the customer quickly and deliver a consistent experience, to call processes that are guided and yet personalized and responsive, the challenge is moving from a scripted, rigid experience to a guided and personalized experience that captures data for future learning and a better experience.
Centering the customer in the engagement model means their needs and preferences are driving the interaction. Ultimately, It is human beings that elevate a customer experience from satisfactory to extraordinary and creates those magic moments that define and deliver on the brand promise.
Consistent experiences drive brand affinity and loyalty
If a customer has seven positive experiences and one poor one, the poor experience will overshadow the positive. If the experience is positive but they receive bad information or their problem isn’t solved, this can create a future problem.
Consistency ensures that customers feel confident they can get what they need.
How do businesses coordinate and manage thousands of voice interactions to deliver a consistent, reliable and effective experience that feels personal and human? The challenge of scaling a personalized but standardized experience has led many companies to opt out of voice channels entirely or to end up with a completely disconnected and siloed approach that can create blowback from frustrated customers and result in a lack of visibility into the full customer journey.
Integrating phone support back into the core business and digital infrastructure allows companies to gain oversight and insight into the conversations happening in voice channels, and presents opportunities for standardizing the experience to deliver a consistent, on-brand message. Data and insights from this channel equals valuable business intelligence.
Integration with existing systems ensures that information is collected and proper follow-up occurs. Customers don’t have to start from the beginning with each engagement, but have a sense of history. They feel known, understood and valued, no matter when and where they interact with a brand.
When it comes to solving problems in the moment, the right technology is key. Employees need a unified experience that puts everything at their fingertips and doesn’t force them to switch screens in order to find a critical piece of information or update their CRM or other business system. Being able to access a robust workplace experience on any device ensures that the experience is consistent no matter where work happens.
When employees can safely and securely access their work on their mobile phones, they gain flexibility and hassle-free access to desktop tools and experiences.
Technology as an enabler of better experiences
Forrester reports that 42% of service agents are unable to efficiently resolve customer issues due to disconnected systems, archaic user interfaces, and poorly integrated applications. With the pandemic shutting down call centers and creating massive disruptions in people’s lives, this has only exasperated the problem.
Technology is an enabler of people, the true drivers of productivity, but many companies have adopted certain technologies because they were told it was essential for their industry to stay relevant, without really thinking about what customer or employee need the solution is solving for and how well does it fit?
Customers don’t care about AI or automation–they only notice technology after something has broken. Putting humans first and adopting a customer centered approach means technology becomes an invisible enabler of better experiences.
Enabling the mobile workplace
Today’s workforce is on the go and not bound to a desk or office. For this generation of workers, their mobile phone is their primary business communication tool as they work from home, on the go, or in the office.
With the right design, tools and processes in place, work can be as easy as signing into an app, wherever they are.
Automations on the backend support reps and agents to save them valuable time. Having the tools and information they need at their fingertips can help them manage their call tasks and workflows effortlessly on a single screen. They can focus on delivering the human experience and excellent service that customers crave.
New standards of excellence reset consumer expectation
Today, more than ever, people expect a human response from the companies they do business with. This stretches from the candidate on a phone interview, to the customer who needs to speak to someone urgently, to the employee who may struggle to work without the right tools in place.
In summarizing their post-COVID outlook on customer experience, McKinsey concluded:
Many companies have been polishing the customer experience because it is such a direct path to increased sales and customer retention. The brand affinity it builds translates to increased loyalty, a willingness to pay more, and the trust to share data.
But today, customer experience is more important than ever, and not just for the direct value it brings.
As the world changes, companies who are able to adapt the quickest to changing needs will be able to move ahead with confidence.
Companies can use customer experience to powerfully differentiate themselves from competitors and forge new bonds with the next generation of consumers while learning what challenges and opportunities they will be facing down the road.
Want to learn more?
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