This is the second in a four-part series designed to help small businesses, and really any size business, think about what's important when selecting new call center software. The first article explored how the right solution can help businesses grow by delivering convenient and satisfying customer experiences.
Now, we'll build on this theme by discussing the value of lifetime customers and what types of software capabilities can increase loyalty and enable you to keep more of those customers you worked so hard to acquire.
Why loyal customers are so important
Do you work so hard to sell to new customers that you sometimes run out of time and energy to take care of your existing customers? If so, you're in good company. Many businesses focus (rightly) on acquiring new customers while (wrongly) neglecting their current customers. This short-sighted approach fails to account for
Customer lifetime value is a measure of average revenue per customer for the duration of their relationship with a business. As an example, let's look at a company that offers "book of the month" subscriptions for $30 per month. If their average customer keeps their subscription for two years before canceling, their average customer lifetime value is $720 ($30 X 24 mos).
If you have high churn and customers don't stay with you very long, this will negatively affect CLV. Conversely, if you have loyal customers who stick around longer and are willing to buy more from you, your CLV will be higher.
Why is CLV important? For several reasons:
- Acquiring new customers is expensive. If you're responsible for sales and marketing for your small business, then you already know how much work goes into new sales. But do you have a firm grasp of the economics of retention vs acquisition? Research has shown that acquiring a new customer is 5-25 times more expensive than keeping one.
- Loyal customers can be your best marketers. Those loyal, high CLV customers are probably recommending you to friends and family. A word-of-mouth referral from a trusted source is the most effective marketing technique. Take care of your customers and make them a valuable part of your sales team.
- Your current customers are a platform for growth. If you're trying to grow your business, revenue from your existing customers can fund your efforts. High CLV from long-time customers provides a solid foundation that puts you in a position of strength as you add new customers. But if your customer base cycles through your business like water through a sieve, you'll have a hard time meeting your growth goals.
Unfortunately, this last point is often overlooked when it comes to call center software. Implementing the right solution should be looked at as an investment in growth that can be funded by the resulting increase in CLV. Instead, purchasing call center software is often looked at as an unwelcome cost, similar to getting a new roof for your house. This, too, is short-sighted.
An investment in call center software can help you retain more customers
Modern call center software can transform CX. Functionality that used to only be available to large companies is now within reach of small businesses. This has leveled the playing field when it comes to competing on CX. It also means that organizations that use the best cloud call center software can leverage its capabilities to strengthen the relationships with their long-time customers.
Many of those long-time customers have changing preferences regarding how they want to interact with your business. Customer service that may have been satisfying just five years ago may seem a little outdated to them now.
In addition to phone support, today's consumers, including your long-time customers, also want to interact with businesses via digital channels such as chat, text messaging, and social messaging apps, like Facebook Messenger. Additionally, they want self-service options that allow them to solve their own simple issues.
Companies that don't modernize their customer service run the risk of appearing or actually becoming obsolete. Poor CX will drive even the most loyal customers away. The office phone systems many small businesses use in their call centers aren't flexible enough to react to changing consumer demands. To remain relevant and keep more of those long-time customers, businesses of all sizes need the best cloud-based call center platform.
How to satisfy long-time customers
The relationships with your current customers are valuable and need regular care and feeding. If you want to retain more customers, focusing on the following three areas will position you for success.
This concept is basic common sense. If you want customers to continue doing business with you, make sure they can get a hold of you when they need help. Yet so many businesses make themselves unreachable in the name of saving money by avoiding contacts. Adhering to tight budgets is a reality for most call centers, but there are cost-effective solutions that will keep you connected with customers and not break the bank.
- Effective self-service options. Offering self-service means your customers can get help 24/7. This adds convenience to your support and will satisfy your DIY customers. Plus, because agents aren't involved, self-service saves on labor costs.
- Smart call routing. Intelligent call routing means most contacts get to the right agent on the first try - no more bouncing around the call center! Long-time customers can be matched quickly with qualified agents who can deliver great CX.
- Channel choice. Today's consumers want to pick the interaction channel that best fits their issue and situation - for example, email when they have a lot to say and text when they want a quick response to a short question.
- Staff enough agents. Part of being available means having enough agents hired and scheduled to answer phones and respond to digital contacts in a timely manner. You'll frustrate your customers if you make them wait too long for a response.
Even though many of your long-time customers will appreciate your well-designed self-service options and find them convenient, they will still want to interact with an agent for more complex issues. Agents aren't going away any time soon. In fact, our recent consumer research revealed that phone, email, and chat are the most preferred channels, and they all involve agent assistance.
Agents remain pivotal in delivering CX that increases customer satisfaction and loyalty. Because of this, they need to be positioned to successfully support your customers' needs. Critical success factors for doing this include the following.
- Provide agents with the right technology. Once small business call centers reach a certain size and complexity level, old agent solutions based on office phone systems just won't do. For maximum effectiveness, agents need systems that enhance, rather than distract from, exceptional CX delivery. This often means agent interfaces that are integrated with CRM applications and relevant business systems. The CRM integration will provide agents with customer history and automate some of the post-call documentation tasks.
- Arm agents with good information. To be truly effective, agents need easy access to timely, accurate information. This is especially true when new issues, like product defects, are emerging. Each call center has its own method of disseminating knowledge - some use knowledge bases and others rely on modern call center software that can provide agents with guidance about next steps or allow supervisors to "whisper coach" guidance to agents as voice interactions are unfolding. Additionally, agents need access to performance data so they understand how they’re performing against targets and self-correct when needed.
Choose your metrics wisely
Modern call center reporting tools allow call center leaders to measure a multitude of metrics. To avoid a case of data overload, you should be selective about the metrics you regularly manage to. Choose metrics that contribute to great CX, such as first call resolution (FCR) rates and self-service success rates. Additionally, to measure the loyalty of your customers, collect and monitor Net Promoter Scores (NPS) from them. NPS is the gold standard for measuring customer loyalty.
Your technical solution will either help or hurt your results
Productivity consultant David Allen is credited with saying, "If the only tool you have is a hammer, it's hard to eat spaghetti." In other words, if you have the wrong tool, you won't be able to accomplish the task at hand. For call centers, the task at hand is delivering loyalty-building CX and the tool is call center technology.
Most thriving small and medium-sized business (SMB) call centers reach a point in their growth trajectory when they need to honestly evaluate their technology and determine if it's the vehicle that will get them to their destination (or the fork that will allow them to eat their spaghetti!).
Traditional PBX and VoIP solutions commonly used by SMB call centers lack the flexibility and functionality to meet current customer demands. Additionally, siloed applications add to inefficiency and don't give organizations and agents the comprehensive view of customers needed to provide satisfying, personalized CX.
These outdated call center solutions provide other operational limitations. For example, they typically can't perform the intelligent call routing needed to match every customer to the right agent on the first attempt. Additionally, siloed applications make it virtually impossible to get consolidated call center reporting.
These significant limitations hurt, rather than help, an organization’s ability to create more loyal customers and increase customer lifetime value.
What's the right tool for smaller companies to use for meeting their loyalty and CLV goals? Consider the benefits of cloud call center software.
- Flexible, attainable pricing model. The cost of a seat for cloud-based software is typically cheaper than a license for on-premises applications. Plus, you pay for what you use, making it more cost-effective to flex staffing levels up and down.
- Innovative functionality. Cloud vendors constantly improve their products by adding innovative features designed to enhance CX and improve operational management. And because the software is in the cloud, all clients have access to this functionality - no resource-draining software upgrades required!
- Integrated (or integratable) suite of applications. Industry-leading cloud call center software vendors offer integrated suites of applications, including ACDs, IVRs, reporting, analytics, workforce management, call recording, and more. Additionally, extensive use of open APIs make the best solutions easy to integrate with other applications.
- Allow SMBs to "future-proof." If you've ever had to make an unexpected and unbudgeted hardware replacement for your call center, you know the pain of costly, unplanned infrastructure expenditures. Cloud solutions increase your ability to come in on plan because the vendor is responsible for hardware. Plus, if your future includes adding more support channels, that's easy to do in the cloud.
Specific capabilities that can help improve loyalty and CLV
Now that we've discussed some of the benefits of cloud call center software, let's drill down a level and look at some specific software features that can help increase customer lifetime value. Because agents are so central to delivering great CX, the first several capabilities are all about agents.
1. Optimized staffing levels.
Are you still using spreadsheets to forecast volume and schedule agents? That can work pretty well for small call centers whose operations aren't very complex, but as your center grows, you'll likely outgrow your inflexible spreadsheets. Modern workforce management (WFM) software can increase customer satisfaction and CLV by ensuring you have the right number of agents hired and scheduled to minimize the possibility of high queue times. WFM software makes intraday adjustments a snap, plus it allows agents to have input to their schedules.
2. Tools that develop agents.
If you're in the process of selecting software, consider including agent development capabilities in your requirements. The best cloud solutions include agent dashboards that bring visibility to individual metrics and allow them to self-manage their results. And performance management applications can motivate agents to change behaviors and improve performance with features like gamification, which rewards agents for completing development tasks and reaching metric targets. Additionally, quality management software can help identify skill and behavioral deficiencies, which can be used for building training plans to improve agent performance.
3. Capabilities that engage agents.
It is often said that a good way to increase customer engagement is to increase agent engagement. Tools that increase engagement make agents more committed to helping your business meet its CX and CLV goals. A prime example of an engagement-increasing factor is the ability to work from home. With cloud-based software, agents only need a computer and a good Internet connection to be able to work remotely. At-home agents will appreciate the bump in work-life balance and it should result in better customer interactions. Additionally, features like gamification (described above) can increase agent engagement, especially when it's used to create some friendly competition among teammates. And making key performance statistics visible on dashboards will increase engagement and ownership of results.
4. Functionality that makes agents more successful.
As previously mentioned, the best agent desktops consolidate applications so everything they need is in one place. This requires a call center platform that easily integrates with other systems, such as CRM, ticketing, and knowledge base applications. This will put customer history and context at agents’ fingertips, allowing them to personalize interactions. And when the desktop is integrated with back office systems, like accounting and order management, everything an agent needs to help customers is readily accessible. Additionally, the agent interface should support all channels and include a universal inbox for optimized contact management. Eliminating the need for agents to toggle through multiple applications will streamline interactions and improve first contact resolution. To turbo charge agent tools, consider AI-infused features like automated agent assistants, which can detect customer sentiment, guide agents through next steps, and assist with post-interaction tasks.
5. Intelligent call routing.
We discussed the importance of intelligent call routing, now let's talk about what to look for in software. The automatic call distributor (ACD) is the call routing engine. Modern ACDs can be configured by end-users to route according to a multitude of rules, ranging from simple (time in queue) to the complex (skills-based routing). More advanced ACDs can even use predictive behavioral routing to route a customer to an agent best suited for his personality.
6. Customer choice and convenience.
Being easy to do business with is sure to increase loyalty and customer lifetime value. A good way to do this is by offering self-service service and digital options to empower customers to interact with you on their own terms. Look for interactive voice response (IVR) systems that include robust self-service capabilities and that can easily integrate with voice bots. Additionally, your cloud call center platform should include both voice and digital channels seamlessly integrated to deliver omnichannel experiences.
7. Proactive notifications.
Microsoft research revealed that 70% of consumers have a favorable view of brands that send proactive notifications to customers. Notifications can range from appointment reminders to event cancellations to product recalls. Look for dialers that can push notifications via phone, email and text (SMS). For more interactive CX, look for an outbound IVR that pushes out notifications and then lets customers interact with a menu that can, for example, lead to an agent connection or a self-service transaction.
8. Oversight and management of results.
To ensure your efforts are resulting in better CX and higher CLV, you need tools to solicit customer feedback and monitor key metrics. Look for call center software that includes configurable surveys so you can regularly calculate NPS and customer satisfaction. Additionally, your chosen solution should have quality monitoring features that enable you to record audio and agent screens, easily pull samples to evaluate, configure your own quality scorecards, and make quality scores visible at the agent, team, and organization levels. Finally, your call center software needs to come with a multitude of out-of-the-box call center reports and let end-users easily customize reports to better meet their needs.
Your call center software selection approach
As you initiate your call center software selection process, keep in mind that many new loyalty-enhancing capabilities are within your budgetary reach. Don't set out just to replace "like-for-like." Instead, imagine what features like new self-service capabilities, intelligent routing, and a unified agent interface could do for your customer lifetime value.
New software shouldn’t be viewed as just a necessary expense to keep the "wheels on the bus" of the call center. Look at it as an investment in transforming CX and creating more lifetime customers. When you put pencil to paper, you might even find that the projected increase in customer lifetime value pays for the investment in new software over time.
For idea on what to consider when looking a new contact center, download this free guide: Choosing a CCaaS for Small and Mid-sized Organizations.
You can also check out our product suite and start building your ideal solution today. To get you started, we've put together some suggested packages.
And view a demo of CXone to see your next call center solution in action.