Customer Service: Both Simple and Complex, but Definitely Worth Celebrating

Customer Service: Both Simple and Complex, but Definitely Worth Celebrating

October 5-9 is National Customer Service Week , and we are joining the celebration—the joys, the challenges, the endless rewards of customer service done right. To us, this year’s theme, Ignite a CX Celebration!, seems especially relevant—and to be honest, a little poignant, because it recognizes that the customer experience in 2020 has been like no other.

The impact of events that are affecting the world today have changed the very ways in which companies and their employees engage with customers. Through all the uncertainty and devastation, customer service has not only survived—but in many ways is leading us through the wreckage. Most incredibly, among businesses fortunate enough to survive the pandemic, many have found new ways to thrive—and in that, new hope for the future.  How? The vast majority have found new ways to deliver customer service and moreover, to raise the bar on customer service excellence at the same time.

NICE inContact celebrates CX

As we look toward the close of 2020 and ahead to a fresh new 2021, it’s especially fitting that we recognize excellence among our own customers.  Every year at our annual user conference, Interactions—a virtual event in 2020—we honor select organizations with our CX Excellence Awards. This year was no exception. Winners in five separate categories were honored for powering unmatched and uncompromising customer service by leveraging innovation and through best practices for agility, flexibility and adaptability in today’s changing reality.  Each and every one continues to demonstrate brand-differentiating customer service—against a landscape in which CX organizations are required to change at a record pace.

NICE inContact’s 2020 CX Excellence Award Winners are as follows:

Read on to learn more about these winning companies and how they leverage CXone technology solutions to provide the kind of service that keeps their customers loyal and coming back time and again for more. But first…

Why do we still talk so much about customer service?

Even with the impact of 2020 events, in a world awash in customer service theories, research, stats and gurus—you may wonder what more can possibly be written or said on the topic of customer service. Aren’t we thinking, talking and reading about customer service all the time? Doesn’t every customer, every business get it already? Aren’t we all providing and receiving the best customer service, especially in view of the many challenges that emerged over the past year?

Yes—and no.

  • Yes, customer service continues to be—and will always be—a hot topic, regardless.
  • Yes, customer service has been explored inside and out, top to bottom, side to side.

    Customer service only gets better when we continue to examine and improve it.

  • Yes, customers and businesses seem to agree that, even under the greatest stresses and most difficult conditions, great customer service is what makes the world go ‘round.

And –

  • No, we can never know all there is to know about customer service, because it’s an evolving dynamic, with many variables. Some of the core customer tenets are changing. But at the same time, customer service is always new, continuing to push forward and reach new heights.
  • No, there isn’t just one customer service standard that’s the holy grail. Different standards apply to different types of businesses and different customer segments.
  • No, amazingly, businesses and customers often disagree on what makes outstanding customer service.

Speaking of evolving, dynamic service: Teleflora

Imagine being a Teleflora customer or florist around, say, Valentine’s Day or Mother’s Day—your service expectations would be justifiably high: The brand was synonymous with easy ordering and outstanding service. But as it grew, the company found that it had serious disconnects with customers and florists alike---largely due to outdated and fragmented contact center technology.  Moving to the CXone cloud CX platform and consolidating its global contact centers has enabled Teleflora to provide the kind of service on which the brand was built.
Says a company representative: “ With CXone, we can deliver a fast, reliable and consistent customer experience… we trust CXone…”
Find out more about our CX Excellence/Best Business Impact Award winner. 

HireRight and Trupanion: Both Winners for Best Cloud Implementation

The companies couldn’t be more different—HireRight a provider of pre-employment screening services—and Trupanion, a fast-growing pet insurance company. But both companies realized that they weren’t meeting their respective customer needs for intelligent, nimble service—an absolute must in both their industries.  In both cases, though, moving contact center operations to the unified CXone cloud CX platform drove vastly improved performance metrics and gave their respective agents easy-to-use tools that increased satisfaction and empowered them to provide consistently exceptional service.  Read on for more insights into these two winning brands, HireRight and Trupanion.

How customer service myths still challenge us all

While CX Excellence Award winners can make it look it easy, you may be surprised at some of the challenges businesses still face as they strive for customer service excellence themselves.
Incredibly, despite all the discussion and best practices, not to mention untold papers, books and presentations on customer service, there are myths still surrounding customer service.  A few of the persistent ones:
  • If customers aren’t complaining they must be getting good service—and are happy with it. (Not necessarily).
  • It takes a lot for customers to change brands or bypass your business for another because it’s inconvenient. (Nope- the majority of customers say they will readily switch brands/favored businesses because of bad service.)
  • Good customer service is really instinctive, like basic politeness—and anyone can do it.
    Being polite is great, but providing truly exceptional customer service also requires a sustained commitment, deep understanding of the customer and unrelenting effort.
  • Once a business establishes its customer service philosophy and procedures, all it needs to do is execute. Actually, sustained, exceptional customer service requires continual examination and adjustment, based on evolving customer preferences, changing market conditions and an intensifying competitive landscape.

    Our (least) favorites myth: The role of technology in customer service

    Remember when society feared that technology would create a robotic, impersonal world?  We know better now, but here, too some myths manage to live on. For example:
  • Good customer service and technology are incompatible.
  • Customers will always prefer a live person over automation.
  • Customers may like technological advances in some areas of their lives but prefer something different when it comes to customer service.

Today’s reality of technology’s impact on customer service is something altogether different from the myths described above. Within the context of a commitment to understanding and responding to the customer—technology enhances customer service, in any number of important ways.  Although not perfect by any stretch, no one can disagree that technology has made the world smaller, links us in ways we couldn’t have imagined only a few years ago and enriches many of our interactions and experiences. Richer, more varied approaches to customer service reflect all this and enable companies to customize and personalize their service experiences.  

Consider all that Valvoline has accomplished

It’s not surprising that Valvoline was selected as this year’s Best Customer Experience Award winner.  Facing some customer service issues head-on, the company took an innovative approach to creating a consistent customer experience while also developing a new market acquisition program. Consolidating operations in a central corporate contact center and moving to the CXone cloud CX platform were key pivots that led to success in both areas. Using the CXone IVR to create self-service options was a game-changer.  See how Valvoline exceeded its goals  and took customer service to new heights.

What is ‘great customer service’ anyway?

Customer service is a living, breathing dynamic within—and projected by—organizations and their brands. Most importantly, it’s based and focused on identifying and meeting customer needs. Some say excellence begins when brands are routinely delighting their customers. 

We should expect customer service to change with the times, with standards and variables that often vary according to different vertical segments and evolving customer expectations. Exceptional customer service begins with an acknowledgement that it’s not a “one and done” on the part of the organization and unwavering commitment to the process of delivering the very best service to customers in a sustained way.

How do you get there? Customer service reflects brand values and business culture. But mastering the fundamentals is also critical, and Salesforce.com offers a handy list seven distinct customer service best practice examples :

  1. Hire the right people and treat them well.
  2. Deftly manage customer expectations.
  3. Nail your first impression.
  4. Collect as much data as you can—and use it.
  5. Personalize the experience.
  6. Be where your customer are
  7. Maintain your focus.

How Vera Bradley empowered its agents

‘Hire the best people and treat them well’ (#1 in the best practices above) leads directly to the story of Vera Bradley, this year’s winner of the CX Excellence / Employee Engagement Award.  The company struggled with an obsolete on-premises system that led to poor service—and unhappy customers and employees. Moving to the unified CXone cloud CX platform, however, produced a  variety of changes that have resulted in exceptional service. A key component in the company’s customer experience has been the empowerment of its agents with tools like gamification and a work-from-home program that sent productivity soaring.  Learn more about Vera Bradley’s winning CX strategies.

Even rookies can be the best of the best: LPL Financial and Wine Country Gift Baskets

And that brings us back to our 2020s CX Excellence Award winners. It’s one thing to talk about service excellence in contact centers; it’s another to look under the hood to see first-hand how contact centers are doing it every day.

What is it that they’re doing every day that sets them apart? How are they harnessing technology to gain insight, improve efficiency and streamline operations—all of the benefits of which ultimately serve to raise the bar on the customer service they provide?

Our CX Excellence Rookie of the Year Award winners— LPL Financial and Wine Country Gift Baskets—operate in different sectors and face completely different challenges. But both found opportunities to streamline their operations and super-charge their customer service when they made their respective moves to the CXone cloud CX platform.  Skills-based routing enabled LPL Financial to reduce call transfers, which has raised customer satisfaction significantly.

Wine Country Gift Baskets, on the other hand, has also realized substantial benefits with CXone solutions. Streamlining operations has enabled the company to reduce costs and save on labor and hardware. And during the pandemic, CXone was the lifeline it needed for business continuity—continuing to serve its customers without missing a beat.   

See how LPL Financial and Wine Country Gift Baskets each continue to power their customer experiences with CXone.

Contact centers: The heart of it all

Perhaps nowhere else in an organization are there more opportunities for winning over and keeping customers than the contact center.  Every customer contact is an opportunity to listen, respond to—and exceed—customer needs and expectations. From improving efficiency to providing important customer insights to enabling a quick response to a changing environment, technology powers the flexibility, intelligence and adaptability that form the backbone of effective customer service today.

In relatively short order, what used to be call centers—where agents responded perfunctorily to customer questions, took complaints and perhaps occasionally took an order—have become contact centers, vibrant hubs of multi-channel interactions—many complex, problem-solving in nature—between well-trained agents and customers whose very high expectations continue to push businesses to elevate their customer service standards even higher.

Do contact centers reflect brand values or shape them? Do contact centers demonstrate their organizations’ customer service philosophies or lead them? We like to think that among the best of the best, contact centers do some of both.

Driving service excellence in the contact center

At NICE inContact, the world’s #1 cloud customer experience platform, we help organizations be first in their industry by powering exceptional experiences for customers and employees. The unique CXone platform unifies best-in-class Omnichannel Routing, Analytics, Workforce Optimization, Automation and Artificial Intelligence—to transform the customer experience across all channels, by arming contact centers with the technology, knowledge and complete solutions they need to optimize and improve customer service interactions. CXone equips contact centers with the unified tools and insights they need to elevate every interaction across the customer journey. 

Join us in celebrating National Customer Service Week and the winners of our 2020 CX Excellence Awards!