Forward-thinking businesses have been focusing on the journeys their customers take as they try to transact with them. A lot of attention is given to removing barriers and optimizing touchpoints that are along the customer's path. Contact centers are a critical touchpoint that can make or break a customer journey. Having the best cloud call center software can ensure this particular part of the journey is smooth sailing rather than rough seas.
Customer journeys can be difficult to control for a couple of reasons. For one thing, customers don't always take a predictable, linear route. They can zig-zag their way through multiple touchpoints on their way to a purchase. Additionally, they can use multiple channels - website, company app, social media, etc - along the way. These factors make it extremely important for organizations to use the best cloud call center software in order to accommodate their customers' preferences.
This article will explore the critical role contact centers play in customer journeys and how the best cloud call center software can ensure this particular touchpoint offers frictionless service.
What is a customer journey?
A customer journey is the collection of all touchpoints a customer has during an interaction with a business. It's focused on action, rather than feelings. For example, in one customer journey, a person might see a sales ad on Facebook, click through to the retailer's website to check product availability, and go to a store to make a purchase. What he feels about his experience at each of these touchpoints is a different but related concept called customer experience (CX).
Customer journeys are often broken down into phases that resemble the purchase life cycle. For example:
Call centers can play an important role throughout all phases by:
- Making outbound calls designed to create awareness of products and services
- Answering questions for prospects who are considering a purchase
- Placing orders for prospects that convert to paying customers
- Supporting customers with their post-purchase needs
Many organizations document touchpoints like these on customer journey maps. A customer journey map is a visual representation of the most common and/or critical paths customers follow as they try to complete transactions with a business. It's constructed from the customer's point of view, which means it includes their goals and activities at each touchpoint. Good customer journey maps also include quantitative data like web page load times and call center abandon rates. Ultimately, these maps help organizations identify things like rough transitions between touchpoints, barriers to accomplishing goals, touchpoints that provide suboptimal experiences, and more. This information is used to improve and optimize the customer journey.
Savvy businesses recognize the importance of having modernized call centers to assist prospects and customers throughout their journeys. Supported by the best cloud call center software, these customer service operations provide the infrastructure, self-service tools, and competent agents needed for smooth, stress-free journeys. Additionally, customer survey capabilities and back-end reporting and data analysis supply the ability to continuously improve customer journeys.
Let's take a closer look.
4 roles the best cloud call center software plays in facilitating customer journeys
Imagine the customer journey is a road trip along Route 66. The customer is counting on a smooth ride from Amarillo, Texas to Winslow, Arizona. This means the highway needs to be in great condition, the car needs to be reliable and comfortable, and there needs to be emergency service along the way in case the customer runs into some trouble.
For the segment of the journey they control, call centers that use the best cloud call center software have these factors covered. Omnichannel routing provides a seamless highway, self-service tools put customers firmly in the driver's seat, workforce engagement management applications make sure a qualified road assistance squad is always available, and reporting and analytics tools allow each state’s Department of Transportation to keep everything in good shape.
Role 1: Omnichannel routing paves the way for seamless interactions
If you're on a road trip, you want the streets and highways to be free of potholes and obstacles throughout your journey. You want a smooth ride regardless of what direction you drive and what kind of vehicle you ride in. Similarly, customers want a seamless journey even when they visit the company website, make a pit stop at a store, and then make a detour through the call center IVR.
When organizations use call center software that includes omnichannel routing, they can provide their customers with this smooth, seamless highway.
Omnichannel customer service allows customers to move seamlessly across channels within the same transaction without any speed bumps or barriers to slow them down. For example, they can switch from chat to phone without being required to repeat their issues or submit their personal information a second time.
Whether they’re familiar with the industry term or not, customers now expect omnichannel experiences, however businesses still typically struggle to provide them. That's because it isn't easy. It requires a collection of applications that work in concert to perform complex omnichannel routing. These applications are part of the best cloud call center software suites and include the following.
Automatic call distributor (ACD)
Every call center uses an ACD, but not every ACD can support omnichannel routing - it takes an ACD with a "very particular set of skills." ACDs capable of omnichannel routing:
- Use a universal queue to holistically organize, prioritize, and route contacts from all channels according to user-defined rules. These rules can include prioritizing real-time contacts over asynchronous ones and routing customers to the same agents when they switch channels.
- Accommodate agents working in multiple channels at the same time. This means, for example, that when an agent ends an inbound call, she may be routed a chat session next and then work on the two emails she has in process. This is an important component to omnichannel routing because it also means she can receive the email from the customer she was just communicating with on Facebook Messenger.
- Include a consolidated agent interface that empowers agents to personalize interactions and offer a seamless experience. This enables agents to see interaction history, such as phone and chat transcripts, which means customers don't have to "start over" as they move across support channels. This also eliminates the need for agents to toggle through multiple applications as they assist their omnichannel customers because everything is in one desktop. Agents and customers will both appreciate the elimination of this speed bump.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
The best cloud call center software includes an IVR scripting application that can make the omnichannel ACD even more effective by allowing companies to create customized call flows. IVRs collect additional data from callers about the nature of their issues and pass the information to the ACD for even better customer-agent matching. For example, a customer may indicate in the IVR that he has a language preference, so now the ACD knows to factor language into the routing algorithm.
Additionally, in a customized application, a customer could hit a click to call link from the company's website or mobile app and the IVR would recognize the inbound call and play a customized menu. Depending on the placement and routing of the click to call link, the IVR could even know what they were trying to accomplish online and further customize its menu options.
Role 2: Self-service is the vehicle that lets customers remain in the driver's seat
If you've ever been on a long car trip with a large group of friends, you'll probably recognize these personas:
- The Perma-Driver - this person always insists on driving, probably because she thinks she's the best driver in the car. She also controls the car's temperature and what music is playing. She may reluctantly let someone else drive in order to catch a quick nap.
- The Combo - this person likes a combination of driving and riding. However, he avoids driving at rush hour in and around large cities and major road construction makes him nervous. He prefers driving on wide open highways with not a lot of traffic.
- The Perpetual Passenger - Perpetual Passengers are content to let everyone else do the driving. This may be in deference to their superior driving skills, or maybe it's just because PPs would rather nap or play games on their phones. Regardless, they're just along for the ride.
When you think about it, these personas closely reflect consumers' attitudes towards digital self-service. Some people strongly prefer to solve their own problems and will only relent and seek agent assistance when they've exhausted DIY possibilities. Others will sometimes use online self-service, but only for simpler transactions. And some people will never use self-service, preferring to always have an agent help them.
Businesses need to cater to DIY-ers by offering them well-designed, trustworthy self-service "vehicles" to carry them securely through this segment of their customer journeys. Those using the best cloud call center software can provide self-service options, such as:
- IVR self-service. Modern IVRs have self-service capabilities to satisfy even the most independent Perma-Drivers. IVRs can provide answers to frequently asked questions and allow callers to perform tasks like scheduling appointments, ordering food, checking bank balances, and paying bills. If the IVR uses artificial intelligence (AI), the experience can be like interacting with Siri or Alexa to have your service needs taken care of.
- Chatbots. AI-powered chatbots use speech recognition to interact with humans. As the technology advances, chatbots have become smarter and more people are using them. Chatbots can be deployed on websites and within messaging apps and have similar capabilities as IVR self-service - answering basic questions and facilitating simple transactions. Chatbots can also be designed to seamlessly hand customers off to agents if the customer decides he needs a higher level of assistance.
Role 3: Agent-assistance is the roadside help customers need on their journeys
Not all customer journeys include a "pit stop" at the call center, yet businesses need to make sure they're ready if that roadside assistance call comes in. Help from a competent agent in a time of need can turn a disastrous trip into a pleasant jaunt and convert a prospect into a loyal customer.
There are many factors that go into having a competent, dedicated agent force - hiring practices, training, culture, and capable supervisors just to name a few. Additionally, organizations can use the best cloud call center software to engage, develop and motivate agents and ensure enough agents are working to handle those "distress calls." These applications are categorized as workforce engagement management (WEM) tools and typically include the following.
Workforce management (WFM)
Workforce management software automates volume forecasting, agent scheduling, and intraday management. Forecasting predicts the number and timing of all contacts across all channels along the customer journey. Accurate scheduling ensures there are enough agents to answer the "distress calls," and sound intraday management practices adjust forecasts and schedules when things don't go according plan. Industry-leading WFM software ensures customers are well-supported during their journeys.
If you need assistance during a road trip, you essentially put your safety and well-being into the hands of strangers and hope that they know what they're doing. Similarly, when you talk to an unknown customer service agent, you're counting on a certain level of quality. The quality management applications found in the best cloud call center software suites help businesses ensure agents are meeting quality standards and receiving the coaching and support needed to correct and improve performance. This ensures customers are in good hands.
Performance management software can inspire agents to take control of their own performance results. Individual dashboards, available on agent desktops, bring visibility and transparency to performance against key metrics. Features like gamification and virtual store fronts provide incentives for changing behaviors and reaching specific goals. And for those agents needing extra focus, performance management software can provide automated performance plan workflows. The end goal is an agent workforce that strives for excellence and is motivated to help customers as they navigate their unique, personal journeys.
Role 4: Data driven journey maintenance and planning
Road trips are only successful when someone, plans, maintains and improves the route. Similarly, customer journeys need regular planning and management. Businesses that leave their journeys to chance risk the possibility that their customers will make a U-turn that leads directly to a competitor.
The best cloud call center software includes analysis and reporting tools that allow companies to understand what's happening during the customer journey and provide insights needed to fix pot holes, remove barriers, and otherwise optimize the experience. Tools such as the following allow leaders to make data-driven decisions about where to focus their efforts.
Interaction analytics tools use artificial intelligence to recognize human speech. This means call centers can sift through 100% of interactions (call recordings or digital transcripts) to identify customer sentiment about areas such as products, prices, website experience, customer service, quality, and more. This allows organizations to identify and correct issues that are preventing customers from accomplishing their goals. For example, if the key phrase "coupon code didn't work" is commonly used in interactions, the organization knows it needs to remove this speed bump so customers can continue smoothly on their path to making a purchase.
Customer survey tools allow organizations to keep their finger on the pulse of what their customers are thinking and feeling. The best cloud call center software includes survey tools that allow users to easily configure surveys to collect feedback on whatever they want to measure. For example, call centers could zero in on the IVR experience to determine if it's causing friction and identify opportunities for improvement.
Operational reports and dashboards
Reports and dashboards let customer service leaders know whether things are on track or about to hit a guard rail. Industry-leading reporting tools come with a multitude of out the box reports and also make it easy for end-users to customize their own reports. Additionally, exporting data should be simple and allows organizations to consolidate all their customer journey information for more holistic management. And dashboards present key metrics in a way that makes it easy to identify issues that may be impeding the customer journey.
End of the road
Managing the customer journey is an important component to succeeding in today's experience economy. The call center is a critical touchpoint that plays a pivotal role in every leg of a customer's path to making a purchase. Organizations should implement the best cloud call center software to ensure the road to customer service is smooth, customers can remain in the driver's seat with effective self-service tools, a competent team of agents is ready to provide assistance, and actionable information is readily available to maintain and improve this important stretch of highway.
To learn more about how the best cloud call center software can turn customer journeys into smooth rides:
- Watch a demo - Omnichannel Routing - NICE inContact CXone
- Read a customer story - Contact Center Self-Service: How Valvoline Drives Customer Acquisition & Retention
- Read a blog post - Workforce Engagement Management 101 - The Who, What, Where, When, Why and How of Contact Center WEM