I bought a new "assemble-it-yourself" desk and chair last month to better accommodate my work-from-home lifestyle. Sitting on a dining room chair all day was taking its toll on my back.
I'm pretty handy, but I was having difficulty understanding the poorly worded instructions. So I did what many of us do when we need answers─I turned to Google. I learned that I was not the only customer that was having these problems. And although I appreciated the validation, more importantly, I found a YouTube video that walked me through the assembly.
A couple of hours later, I was comfortably seated on my new chair at my new desk. My back certainly was relieved.
I could have called customer service─the number was prominently printed on the assembly instructions─but I fall into the 81% of consumers1 who prefer to solve problems themselves before seeking assistance from businesses.
The lesson for brands to take from this is that a customer's issue resolution journey often begins before they reach out to the contact center, and may not include the contact center at all.
Customer expectations are high
Today's consumers are digitally connected, have access to more information than ever before, and won't stick around if businesses don't meet their customer experience expectations. Product and pricing options are plentiful and easy to find, making CX a competitive differentiator.
For businesses to be successful, they need to achieve customer engagement throughout the entire journey based on a deep, data-driven understanding of each individual customer. This will enable them to deliver on the following expectations.
1. Consistent level of customer service at every journey touchpoint
Today's consumers have a multitude of ways they can communicate with businesses to receive support, ranging from online FAQ pages to AI-powered virtual agents to traditional phone calls. And 80% of them expect consistent experiences regardless of the channel they use.2 This means, for example, that an FAQ page, chatbot, and agent all give the same answers to common questions. Organizations successfully achieve this when all channels use the same knowledge base.
2. Recognition in every contact center channel
Personalized customer experiences improve satisfaction and loyalty, and this requires businesses to recognize customers in every channel they use. But exactly how important is personalization? Enough that 63% of consumers expect it.3 Recognizing customers in all of your support channels means you can leverage their history to provide effective, proactive customer service experiences and make relevant offers.
3. Connected customer experiences
Customer journeys are no longer standard or linear. People often use multiple channels when trying to resolve an issue. For example, they may begin their journey by trying to resolve their own problem in your IVR's self-service solution, and then give up and transfer to an agent. This is a critical point in the journey: do your agents know what happened during the interaction with the IVR, or does the customer need to repeat their issue? The latter creates a disconnected experience and will disappoint the 50% of customers who don’t have the patience to re-explain their issue.4
Today’s customer journey looks quite different
Digital channel implementation has completely and forever changed the nature of the customer journey. All the new digital touchpoints have made linear, predictable journeys a thing of the past. They've also created more opportunities for customers to help themselves.
A large majority of consumers try to solve issues themselves before contacting customer service. For example, like me, 66% of people use search engines to find resolutions to problems.5 And 73% prefer to visit a company's website before contacting an agent,6 which means the digital customer journey has begun long before your customers reach out to your contact center.
While this is great news for DIY customers, the demise of the "typical" journey adds significant complexity to the task of managing journeys. When I was trying to find help for assembling my new furniture, instead of using a search engine I could have gone directly to the company's website, used their app to schedule a paid assembly service, chatted with a contact center agent, or visited a local store.
But just because it's difficult doesn't mean organizations shouldn't try to understand, manage, and enhance digital-first customer journeys. Digital channels offer support options that are often faster and more convenient than traditional channels, and digital-first customers typically visit your website more often and purchase more products online.
Businesses should nurture relationships with digital-first customers by providing seamless journeys, and contact centers should engage them earlier and across their entire journey.
If they don’t find answers right away, customers will leave
The Moment that Matters
Understanding consumer behaviors and digital preferences are key to reaching them no matter what journey they are on–whether they are researching, purchasing, or resolving an issue.
Remember: only about 20% of your customers will contact your business first when they need answers or solutions. The other 80% will try to figure things out themselves. So why do so many people prefer self-service? This may sound like blasphemy to contact center professionals, but most people don't like contacting customer service. Customers often view self-service as easier and more convenient than agent-assisted methods.
Now, what is the Moment that Matters? It takes place during every customer journey as they search for answers, but that 80% (the DIY-ers) represents a unique opportunity for businesses to distinguish themselves from competitors. Because here’s the truth:
If contact centers can proactively engage customers at that stage in the journey where they're trying to find resolutions themselves, that's an opportunity to help customers and establish a significant competitive advantage.
Meet consumers where their journey starts and help them find answers quickly
Imagine if my quest to assemble my new desk and chair had played out more like this:
I use a search engine to find help and the first search result is the company's website, highlighting a relevant knowledge base article. I read the article and towards the end, a chatbot pops up and asks me if I still have questions about assembling my desk. (The chatbot knows what I searched for in Google.) When I say yes, it responds, "Here's a link to our assembly video library. You'll also find a video that walks you through how to assemble the chair you recently purchased."
This is a much more proactive way to help customers help themselves. By using search information and customer history, organizations can make it very easy for customers to find answers. And most importantly, customers don't seek out other resources (like your competitors' websites) to get what they need.
An expanded role for contact center agents
Agents also have an important role to play in customer engagement throughout their journey. The proliferation of digital interactions has created an opportunity for agents to be much more than "fixers," although resolving issues is still a key part of their job.
The agent role has expanded to include involvement in many more segments of the customer journey, from pre-sales advice through post-sale support and all steps in between. An expanded agent role requires them to coordinate with more teams within the business, making the contact center the hub for building lasting relationships, resolving issues, and delivering satisfying customer service experiences.
Support these changes with tools that contain costs and help agents be successful. For example, agents can be supported by AI-powered virtual assistants that automatically gather needed information, advise agents regarding next best steps, and conduct sentiment analysis to enable agents to know which soft skills to amplify for each individual interaction.
Additionally, automated bots can assist agents with repetitive tasks, such as activating new cell phones, and make proactive outbound notifications to customers that reduce inbound volume.
Next-gen engagement occurs across the entire customer journey
Imagine the possibilities within reach when your customers can quickly resolve their needs directly on your digital properties. Or imagine if they’re matched with a well-prepared agent every time and on every channel. What would the customer experience then look like?
Digital customer journeys don't begin when customers contact customer service. Most customers start their journey on a search engine or on your website. Next-gen engagement begins at these starting points and follows customers through every leg of their individual journeys.
A best practice to execute such a seamless customer experience is for businesses to obtain a holistic understanding of digital journeys and need to design them to accommodate digital preferences, sentiments, and behaviors.
The right contact center platform integrates these new digital journeys with newer digital self-service and AI-driven channels. An enhanced platform provides digital real-time analytics to drive greater customer lifetime value beyond singular customer service moments that take place only when the customer contacts the business.
Whether it’s a prospect or an existing customer, and whether they’re searching Google, your app, website, asking Siri, or talking to a chatbot, customers prefer and expect to surface the right answer, in the right place, at the right time.
Begin designing next-gen digital customer journeys
Proactive next-gen customer journeys rely on technology and should be designed to address customer needs. To learn more, download "Cultivating a future-proof customer journey strategy: Integrating changing customer preferences into a seamless phygital first experience" and start designing your next-gen digital customer journeys today.