Customer experience as a boardroom topic is more relevant than ever. Enterprises are investing significant digital transformation budgets and commissioning large projects to elevate CX. Yet more than 70 percent of digital transformation projects fail to move the needle at scale.
One topic that has a substantial impact on CX is the transformation of customer service operations using digital tools. Although it is often the engine room for driving transformation and change, it is met with limited success.
As enterprises across all industries embark or reflect on learnings from their journey, consider following these six steps to success.
1. Eliminate Unnecessary Contact
Radically eliminate unnecessary contact by leveraging a combination of analytics of interactions, and steering contacts to self-service channels (including cognitive digital assistants).
The first wave is to understand the root causes of contacts and unexplained spikes, while leveraging insights gained from customer journey and interaction analytics. For example, a large European-heritage telecom provider identified that 80 percent of the contacts could be bucketed into 20 percent of situations, providing for a clear angle of attack to abate contact volumes.
The next wave is to have a clear strategy to triage and steer the “deflection-ready” contacts to cognitive digital assistants (voice bots, chat bots) — and the rest to agent-assisted (e.g., live chat) or agent-only channels.
Many enterprises seem to struggle with high email volumes, causing a backlog that ultimately gets lost, and low usage of digital assets (e.g., chatbots, mobile apps). For the same telco, implementation of a natural language processing interactive voice response based on a well-mapped customer journey resulted in 30 percent reduction in contact volumes. This allowed the company to reinvest CX budget in reaching out to more customers regarding issues that it wasn’t able to address earlier.
The final wave would be to steer and hand off the complex, multiple intent queries to skilled agents in live chat or voice agents without breaking the customer service journey. For example, best in class CX operations can send a message immediately when they detect breaks in a consumer’s purchase journey. They then can fulfill the buying or support journey by transitioning seamlessly from online to phone and mobile.
2. Simplify Processes to Connect Front and Back Offices
Simplification of business processes and standardization of fewer processes are essential to reduce complexity and achieve economies of scale. Merger and acquisition integration further adds to this complexity.
Re-imagining service designs based on customer journey mapping, and reducing process steps and effort are critical parts of the simplification approach. Process reengineering and omnichannel customer engagement platforms help simplify and harmonize interactions and processes across channels.
For example, a leading travel company was facing dis-economies of scale (more agents required to support growth) due to multiple processes resulting from disjointed journeys and process redundancy. It benefited by implementing an omnichannel CX platform in an incubation lab setup that simulated a real-time customer service environment. That approach allowed them to make refinements before rolling out the platform to its agent network. The company lowered its total spend by 15 percent and improved the CX for its customers.
3. Automate Ruthlessly
While significant progress has been made toward back-office automation, front-office automation presents a significant opportunity to deliver at scale. Interplay of voice and non-voice channels, and interactions with systems of record have been challenging to automate.
Lessons learned are that a majority of efforts focus on task automation using robotic process automation, or RPA (toggling between screens, copy pasting between systems, etc.), but most of the process remains manual due to tribal knowledge and technical limitations.
Advances in technology driven by conversational artificial intelligence and machine learning have ensured that natural language understanding helps recognize multiple intents that enable sales fulfillment with conversational AI bots.
Likewise, computer vision and advanced optical character recognition tools help deliver end-to-end process automation (e.g., returns management, cancellations, document management) for back-office processes that weren’t possible with vanilla RPA tools or that resulted in scrappy implementations that were costly to manage.
4. Enable Agents to Become Super-Agents
When customers cannot solve their problem via self-service (e.g. legacy IVR or FAQ only chatbots) they typically shift to the most expensive channel (phoning an agent). By then they’re likely frustrated, making it critical that agents possess a positive attitude and resiliency at all times.
Customer complaints and questions typically are more complex, requiring the agent to employ thoughtful problem-solving skills and use good judgment to provide the best customer experience possible.
Customers expect agents to be their expert advisors and help them navigate through complex problems or even negotiate an offer, such as lower interest on a credit card. Ultimately, agents need to be prepared to address a variety of inquiries, many of which are difficult to predict. Instead of relying on scripts and training, a super-agent whose skills are augmented with digital tooling can come to the rescue.
Agent enablement and empowerment tools to create a “super-agent” through enhanced performance (accuracy, compliance, cross selling, first contact resolution) include the following:
- A truly omnichannel 360-degree view of a customer in a unified desktop with next-best actions reduces average handling time and improves business outcomes (e.g., cross selling). For example, implementation of a unified desktop for a European online real estate platform resulted in increased revenue by 20 percent. Similarly, a telco and media company reduced revenue leakage by 20 percent by increasing the transparency of customers and pricing across siloed channels.
- Knowledge management tools based on semantic search help improve agent productivity (capturing tribal knowledge, improved search functionality) and accuracy, with less downstream tickets resulting in a faster resolution and smaller middle office. Further, real-time Voice of the Customer programs (enabled by speech analytics) help the agent understand sentiment in real-time. This is accomplished with recommendations on next-best actions integrated within the agent cockpit to cross-sell and win-back vulnerable or lost customers.
- AI-powered translation services allow an agent proficient in one or two languages to service customers (via synchronous or asynchronous messaging) in any other language. Using this solution, enterprises can leverage the same customer service team to serve multiple languages where needs are small-scale, but language skills are scarce.
5. Personalize Interactions and Deliver Real-Time Next Best Actions
Delivering contextual campaigns that allow proactive engagement with consumers based on their choice of day and time for sales, and preventive break/fix or renewal/retention are changing the brand-to-customer paradigm.
A global luxury retailer understood this challenge and implemented a data-driven, analytical process to engage and acquire customers proactively in social media. It automated the entire sales to fulfillment journey to cater to the demands of its target audience (mobile-first, millennials, busy during working hours, etc.).
6. Transform Models and Metrics
Most importantly, transform commercial models and CX success metrics from input-based to business outcomes.
These include reductions in total cost of ownership, as well as topline improvement and increased customer retention.