As a customer experience (CX) consultant, I'm in a lot of contact centers, talking to executives about their CX initiatives. I often hear things like, "We installed a knowledge base, but we’re just not seeing the results we expected," "Proactive chat isn't giving us a lift in conversion," or "We installed a new agent desktop, but we’re not seeing the efficiency gains." So I ask some business process questions and typically find that their processes just don't support their strategic vision or technology expectations. New technology was implemented, but the business processes never evolved to effectively utilize it.
Let's look at Virtual Assistant as an example.Virtual Assistant is a combination of natural language, contextual knowledge, chat and scripting. Implementing Virtual Assistant and immediately expecting it to be successful is like installing a kitchen sink without putting in the plumbing underneath.You have to implement technology capabilities in layers and mature your processes along the way—implement a knowledge base and develop your knowledge management processes and content; employ natural language and fine-tune it to your industry and business.
Many companies have implemented multi-channel solutions: desktop, chat, email, web self-service, knowledge base, etc. and assume they're providing an omni-channel experience. But typically these are point solutions, the systems are disconnected, the channels are siloed, and there is very little integration between the support applications. This is a good example of tech adoption without strategy, and causes inefficiency at an operational level. But more importantly, it causes frustration for the customer. There is no visibility to all customer interactions and profile information, causing the customer to have to re-explain their issue and giving them a sense that the company doesn't know them at all.
To solve this problem, industry leaders are moving to fully integrated solutions that provide true omni-channel support, ultimate configurable flexibility, and agent desktop tools to personalize the customer experience. But technology adoption is a process, not an end-state; you can't start at the finish line. Too often, companies with CX initiatives will implement top-tier solutions, and expect all their goals to be attained through the technology alone, as if the systems themselves are a panacea. Technology solutions are only as good as the strategy and business processes they support, and it's critical to understand what those are and the capabilities needed to attain that maturity.
Determining technology needs should be a later stage of ‘solutioning.’ To properly determine those needs, you must start at the top. Creating a strategic plan
to identify and define what your business is trying to achieve is a foundational and necessary step to identifying business process gaps and/or technology needs required to meet the strategic plan. Examine the business processes that support your strategy and determine what improvements need to be made. Ascertain the metrics that will measure success, baseline your KPIs, establish improvement expectations, and determine reporting needs. Only after you've identified the strategy, supporting processes and success criteria can you effectively identify the appropriate technology solutions that will get you there. Don't just follow the pack and implement solutions for the sake of having those capabilities. Make sure they provide you with the means to accomplish your strategic objectives.
When selecting a solution that will help you progress through your process maturity, technology roadmaps are incredibly useful. They provide a clear path to gradually attain maturity in technology, as you also attain maturity in business processes. So when I talk to companies about evolving technology and process maturity, I talk in terms of a Roadmap To Modern: “Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead
,” rather than talking only about the desired future state. This staged approach effectively enables the gradual adoption of technology, allowing companies to realize immediate improvements and progressively become CX industry leaders.
, focus on technologies and processes that will make you more operationally efficient. This one’s easy to understand and is foremost in the mind of contact center directors everywhere: implement a base layer of technology capabilities that enables self-service, increases agent productivity, and decreases operations. Provide improved interaction capabilities to simplify customer engagement: present multiple channel options to engage your customers and a knowledge base to promote self-help: this has the benefit of not only improving efficiency, but also providing customers with options to engage the way they choose. This foundational layer of technology capabilities provides a solid basis from which to build.
, leverage the efficiency savings and invest in solutions that will improve customer retention. There is already cross-over between efficiency and retention by way of reduced customer effort (Most of the initiatives to make your operations more efficient also make it easier for customers to do business with you. This decreases customer effort, which in turn, increases retention.), but now you start to enable the technology to improve the processes that strengthen relationships and improve quality. A cross-channel strategy will ensure consistent, quality customer treatment across touch points. Embed consistent knowledge content in your web self-service and desktop. Consider how to use technology to engage your customers in creative ways in an effort to keep in closer contact and differentiate yourself from competitors. Use data on-hand to understand what your customer has gone through when (or before) they reach out to you so you can quickly help with the issue.
, as your business processes mature to match your technology capabilities, you can start to use functionality for proactive engagement, segmentation and personalization to acquire new customers, increase conversions and, ultimately, increase revenue. Use proactive outbound communications to alert customers to things like account activity, service outages, product offerings, etc. to not only answer questions customers haven’t asked yet, but also to generate sales by understanding your customers’ history, preferences and anticipating what they might need next. Segment your customers based on their profile and history to get them to the right resource the first time.
Most importantly, use everything you know about your customers to create a personalized, differentiated experience:
- Know how they've engaged with your company in the past, regardless of how they contacted you (phone, chat, email, Facebook, etc.), and get quick visibility into their issues.
- Know who they are, they're preferences, what they've bought (and how much) and how they liked it.
- Understand how they feel about your company, about their interactions with you, about the effort they expend doing business with you, and about recommending your company to others.
This level of maturity in both technology and business process will differentiate you from competitors and help make you a leader in your industry. It will also create fierce loyalty in your customers, making them brand advocates.
Technology can help you attain your strategic goals—but you can’t get there all at once and you can’t get there with technology alone. Determine your strategy, examine your business processes, and establish your success metrics. Then, as you make choices about your CX technology, ensure that you invest in robust solutions that will get you where you want to go, and provide you with a roadmap to get their gradually. Finally, consider the progression of adoption: "Get Going, Get Better, Get Ahead," not just with your technology but with the underlying processes that the technology supports and enables.