The first goal of customer service is to make a client’s experience with your business as easy and convenient as possible. They want to buy. You want to sell. What’s the problem?
Delivering a seamless customer experience is not hard in theory – but it has gotten more difficult because customer expectations have gotten more sophisticated and technology is driving rapid change in what’s considered great customer service.
As companies embrace partnerships - like banking and fintech have - to advance offerings customers are asking for, it adds more third parties, technology platforms, operational teams and processes into the customer journey. All siloed, doing their thing - separately.
Since each functional area or partner handles just a fraction of the journey before handing it off to another to manage a different portion of the journey, you can see where things can go wrong. Sadly, you may not just end up with a frustrated customer but with no customer! Too often, according to our own research, businesses get so irritated by the poor experience, they give up and walk away. By the time you realize they’ve churned, it’s too late.
In the race to digitally transform, new teams and workflows are being added on top of existing workflows. While they are dependent on one another to deliver flawless CX, behind the scenes, they are rarely connected at all. That leaves the customer's experiences disjointed and disappointing.
There’s hope! An organization can elevate its customer service and smooth its customer journeys resulting in happier customers who are more loyal and profitable, too.
The lowest cost proposition in any economy is to hold on to your current customers. They were costly to win, so to lose them out the back door affects growth and revenue. If you can discover where customers are churning along your journey and fix those broken touchpoints, existing customers will receive better service and be more committed to your brand.
It’s typical for around 1 in 4 customers to churn across various industries (below), but when financial services is losing customers at the same rapid pace as cable companies or retailers, that’s seriously bad news. According to our own CXM Impact Report, 42% of enterprise customers said it took 4+ contacts to resolve problems with their financial services provider. That figure underscores, perhaps, the serious churn problem that exists in banking. But again, banking is not alone. CX problems seem to be rampant across a wide swath of industries.
Capturing new customers is hard and expensive, so it just makes sense to prioritize holding on to the ones you’ve got and deepening those relationships so they become even more profitable and sticky.
Greater customer satisfaction leads to many positive business outcomes. Increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase profits by between 25% and 95%, according to Bain and Company.
There are two ways to understand your customer more fully:
By understanding the unique characteristics of different customer segments, you can learn what your most profitable, loyal customers do, and seek lookalike customers who want and need similar things. Your buyer personas can form the basis of your ideal customer profile or ICP.
Once you have a clear understanding of who your ideal customers are, what they care about, and how they act, vet that against how they experience your organization across your buying, onboarding and servicing journeys.
Journey mapping is the ideal way to do this. It always, without exception, uncovers some significant aha moments for the organization. Why?
Most of the time, enterprises optimize their functional silos, making sure that each team is working as efficiently as possible. But what about from the customer’s perspective? Ah, that doesn’t always feel the same way.
We’ve done an entire video series on the how-tos of journey mapping, preparing companies to conduct journey mapping sessions. We also provide consultations for companies who want expert help in mapping their journeys.
But best practices for any journey mapping session include:
What’s measured gets accomplished. Your CX goals should directly correlate to your business goals. For instance, if a line of business struggles with customer retention, any CX initiatives should directly address how they will impact that metric. If customer NPS scores or employee scores are lagging, what customer experience changes should be prioritized to move those needles in the right direction?
Customer service can only be seamless if it's consistent across the entire business. Each team should be operating under the same CX north star even if their individual tactics that support it are different.
A customer experience mission statement can be one way to document and inform the entire ecosystem, including your partners that engage with your customers, about your strategy. The goal is that along a journey, no matter who a customer speaks to, they will receive the same high-quality level of service your brand wants to be known for.
In truth, ecosystems are becoming more complex with more microservices and partnerships involved in delivering new offerings. And that model will continue to grow, as it should, according to analysts. It provides companies with rapid speed to market and agility and minimizes the expanding amount of custom development and technical debt.
Legacy technologies haven’t been able to corral chaotic complex ecosystems, but new platforms like customer experience management (CXM) are emerging to help connect these individual providers and teams into a more singular customer experience so companies can better deliver on their brand promise.
In our research, one of the biggest complaints from businesses was a lack of knowledge and not being able to find the help they needed. Customers don’t know:
Some customers complain that in their onboarding journey, for example, they’ve been dropped into a black hole after saying yes to a product or service. 76% of businesses we surveyed said they abandoned onboarding right in the middle because the process was too complicated or confusing.
The common theme to all of these complaints - lack of transparency.
And that lack of transparency exists inside the organization too. Teams don’t have a shared view of the customer, only the sliver they are dealing with. No wonder both employees and customers become frustrated.
Many organizations realize they need a middle layer or orchestration layer that aggregates customer interactions so anyone servicing the customer can see what’s happened so far and what’s next. Many of those interactions, with modern orchestration platforms, can be automated or can leverage AI to improve efficiency as well.
You don’t want customers to experience 1-800 pinball. Your customer purchased a product from your company, and you should control how the journey is delivered, even when you share the CX with other teams, systems and external partners.
Too often, especially if ecosystem providers are involved, it can feel to a customer like they are being bopped around from provider to provider without a clear idea of who they belong to.
One client we work with learned in a journey mapping session that 13 emails were being sent out in a week’s time, from the software provider, hardware supplier, processor and the enterprise itself! That’s two per day, and all were branded differently. Imagine the confusion!
You can deepen customer loyalty more easily when you see all of the interaction taking place and can control how that journey progresses. After all, you are ultimately responsible for the experience, no matter who is delivering slices of it. That may require plugging in a CX-focused software specifically built to expand your visibility, collaboration and communication.
Omnichannel support is expected as a baseline by today’s more demanding consumers. What’s not expected is the need to repeat information over and over (and over and over!) whenever they pivot to a different channel during a journey. (Hello, cable companies - we’re looking at you!)
Companies must leverage the information captured in different systems and make it available across channels without a drop-off. When teams and tech stacks are sharing information, it’s possible to create a singular customer journey even if they start in web chat, move to SMS and then finish off with an email.
That will require providing that multi-channel visibility to your teams. They have to have a single source of truth for all of the customer’s touchpoints in a single place, regardless of which channel is being used at that time.
Without omnichannel support, companies can’t truly transform their customer service or brag about providing personalized service. It’s simply impossible with disconnected systems and teams that are frantically searching for some history on what’s happened so far and what customers need now.
Send out a quick post-sale or post-interaction survey via email or text message. If you want more detailed responses, ask some of your top customers if they’d mind having a quick phone conversation or filling out a longer questionnaire.
You can also learn a lot from simply paying attention to what people are saying online. This includes customer needs, pain points, difficulties, feature wish lists, and brand sentiment. Some social platforms make that easy, to monitor any mentions of your brand. In other cases, you may want to invest in social media management platforms that offer live customized streams of mentions, reposts, comments, etc. related to your company.
Get out of your own echo chamber. According to a report by Bain and Company, 80% of businesses think they are doing a great job in customer service delivery when customers say only 8% are meeting their expectations! There’s a lot more listening to be done!
Customer feedback, by its nature, often comes too late, after the experience has gone poorly or a customer has left your business. You work too hard to win their business - you need to be proactive in holding onto it.To compete and lead in customer service experience today requires in-the-moment insights and the ability to adjust how journeys are going as they happen. It’s what customers expect.
A technology that allows you to view analytics on your journeys, where they are stalled, what type of questions are coming up over and over again, how many are dropping off and at what step can be valuable to identify areas to tweak in your customer service delivery and to uncover and fix friction points.
Real-time visibility isn’t just nice to have. It’s what will set apart market leaders in CX from all others. It’s what saves customers from leaving in frustration. And it’s what gives organizations the ability to focus on both customer experience before they negatively impact business outcomes.
It should be easy for your customers to get help, whether through self-directed help, a virtual assistant or your team. Research studies vary, but all show an uptick in acceptance of chatbots by consumers who want to get quick answers during their sales, onboarding or servicing journeys. It’s not about replacing people with machines – it’s about using AI-powered chatbots and tech to boost productivity and deliver a consistent level of service with ease.
Providing self-service options to your customers doesn’t just make them happy - it directly benefits the bottom line according to McKinsey. In their 2022 State of Customer Care report, they surveyed CX leaders and learned that close to two-thirds of companies that have reduced their call volumes attribute it to making customer self-service more accessible.
With the disruption of large language models like GPT-4 and others, virtual assistants should become even more effective at providing a human-like engagement for many routine CX needs, freeing up human agents to address more high-touch, complicated customer situations.
As you work to reduce the amount of effort required of your customers, you’ll likely uncover a few bottlenecks in the customer service process that create problems for both your customers and your team members.
If you can identify the barriers and roadblocks preventing you from delivering amazing customer service, you can begin to overcome them. What you may find, as so many companies do, is that repurposing legacy technology is like trying to use yesterday’s tools for today’s customer experience delivery. It doesn’t work too well.
Legacy tech holds rich information, but it’s not typically versatile enough to pivot to new use cases, adjust workflows, or launch new specialty offerings very fast.
Analysts recommend the adoption of microservices, plugged into legacy technology through APIs, to fast-track agility, and we agree. Strengthening your CX effectiveness or adding a new use case can’t wait the months (or years!) it takes to update monolithic systems. By that time, your use case may already be obsolete!
There’s rich customer information inside your existing platforms. You might not even know what’s in there or how to leverage it to its fullest! Experts note that not only is important information buried like a treasure in legacy tech stacks, but it’s often replicated in multiple places and in multiple formats making it difficult to have a full picture of what’s really happening with a customer.
Let your tech stack do the specific thing it was built to do so well, but find ways to connect to that tech and do more with the information inside.
For example, one of our clients has used one of our ecosystem connectors to start sharing customer interaction information back and forth, making customer service easier and more efficient. The goal is for your customer to feel like they’re having one continuous conversation with your brand, rather than many separate interactions with different teams and companies.
During cost transformation periods, when there’s an uncertain economy, CX initiatives may be seen as expendable. However, what do experts say? Harvard Business Review (HBR) warns companies that one result of across-the-board cost consolidation is the sacrifice of future growth and organizational health.
Forrester reports that companies obsessed with their customers’ success grow almost 2x faster than all other businesses, across every industry.
When other organizations go into a customer experience pause, you have the opportunity to pull ahead by forging ahead with a focus on CX.
You have a lot of smart people within your organization - and often that knowledge is tribal, meaning it lives in one place and one place only. That doesn’t help the organization, and it surely doesn’t help the customer. Delivering the right knowledge at the right time to teams that engage with customers leads to better and more precise answers that solve customer issues more effectively and efficiently. Customers are happier and so are your teams.
Combined with the advent of AI, platforms that serve up knowledge delivery are getting better and better at surfacing information and even anticipating what team members or customers will want and need to know next.
Knowledgeable teams are more confident they can get the resources they need. That can further improve metrics like revenue, cross-sell ratios, and satisfaction scores.
Customer expectations are fast-moving and hard to keep up with. It’s why partnerships have blossomed between enterprises and technology companies. These collaborations help companies speed up new offerings and short-circuit a company’s need to build from scratch over months and millions of dollars.
As you consider ways to elevate your customer service, look for low-no code platforms that provide maximum speed-to-market for innovative offerings that will delight customers, but are also future-proofed, enabling you to pivot to new use cases, respond to emerging competitive pressures or take advantage of never-before-imagined opportunities. What you don’t want is to invest in technology that solves one problem today but doesn’t have the flexibility built in to adjust to new customer expectations.
In every purchasing decision and across every industry, today’s consumers have a multitude of different options at their fingertips. Creating a seamless customer service experience is the top way to stand out from the competition so your customers stick around and new consumers choose your product first.