According to Forrester Research, we are now in the ‘Age of the Customer’, a 20-year business cycle where:
“… power is shifting from businesses and institutions to end consumers … as technology, information, and connectivity are combining to instill in people a belief that they can have what they want, when, where, and how they want it.”
Consequently, it is no surprise that the transformation of customer experience is inextricably connected to the concept of digital transformation. For many companies, transforming customer experience is the primary driver – the primary purpose – of their digital transformation.
So, what are the elements of customer experience transformation?
Design the Total Experience
Gartner defines Total Experience as ‘a business strategy to create superior shared customer and employee experiences’ and a primary element of customer experience transformation is to develop that strategy.
This involves articulating the customer journey, including the needs for preferences and personalization to engage with customers where, when, and how they want to interact. Any service gaps can be assessed to create an experience designed to make every interaction effortless, using an omnichannel approach to ensure a consistent and optimized experience for both customers and employees.
This total experience design can drive the target service operating model, unifying the service models across the organization to align more closely with the customer journey.
Listen to the Voice of the Customer
Customers buying the product or service tells us a lot, but sales revenue is an important but blunt instrument for understanding customer experience. More comprehensive techniques for capturing and acting on what customers are saying are an essential element of a customer experience transformation.
Interviews and focus groups are traditional and useful techniques and can be augmented with other solicited feedback such as email, text, and ‘in the moment’ web intercept surveys. And, with the power of digital transformation, it is possible to capture unsolicited or inferred feedback through techniques including social media monitoring and speech analytics.
Hearing customer feedback is necessary but not sufficient. It is important to use the feedback to develop customer insight and use that customer understanding to drive improvement. Implementing tailored feedback loops to support continuous improvement is essential to customer experience transformation.
Empower the Customer
Gartner recommends that service leaders focus efforts on resolving customer issues completely via self-service channels with only the most complex cases directed to live agents, noting that customers prioritize obtaining a resolution more than anything else and do not have strong channel preferences. Empowering customers to help themselves is another principal element of customer experience transformation.
For the telephonic channel, this can include ‘Smart IVR’ (enhanced interactive voice response) to improve call routing with an individualized touch, while ‘IVR Deflection’ can offer the customer the use of text or messaging tools like WhatsApp. While it is important to nudge customers to more digital channels, it is then just as important to provide self-service improvements to allow resolution in a more cost-effective and desirable channel.
Even better is the use of predictive analytics to spot or anticipate an issue in advance and extend support to resolve it, proactively helping the customer to address a problem even before they run into it. This proactive customer support is a best practice in customer experience transformation.
Support those supporting the Customer
With the emphasis on customer self-service for more routine customer questions, contact center agents are increasingly expected to handle more complex issues, and to provide support via the telephone and more digital channels such as chat. Another essential element of customer experience transformation is recruiting, onboarding, and retaining high-performance customer support teams.
Customers expect and demand more timely and personalized service across multiple channels, and knowledge management (KM) in contact centers makes it easier for agents to find and use the information to provide that service. A related capability is learning management (often seen as LMS for Learning Management System) to help train and educate customer support agents. It is also important to ensure that the right number of agents with the right skills are scheduled at the right time through effective workforce management (WFM).
The combination of digital transformation and customer experience transformation is a large cultural change in any organization and explicit Organizational Change Management (OCM) is essential to ensure the adoption and success of customer experience transformation.
With the spread of COVID-19, remote work was suddenly an overnight requirement for many and is becoming more common for most post-pandemic. Gartner recently polled customer service leaders, and nearly 75% indicated they expect their work-from-home programs to expand after the pandemic.
So, another element of customer experience transformation is to ensure that the customer receives consistent and seamless support from distributed and remote customer support agents. This includes technical connectivity, including integrated voice and video, but also entails the careful end-to-end design of workflows and agent desktop to ensure consistency and completeness in both customer and agent experience.
In addition, the essential contact center capabilities of knowledge management, learning management, and workforce management need to operate on a virtual basis to enable high-performance customer support teams wherever the team members are.
Modernize the technology supporting the Customer
This is the most obvious intersection of digital transformation and customer experience transformation. Updating infrastructure and processes are vital to support a personalized omnichannel customer experience and, with the right technology, customer support agents are empowered to deliver consistent experiences at every touchpoint and across all channels throughout the customer journey.
Examples include enhanced voice services providing faster and more efficient customer inquiry resolution, including automatic call distribution (ACD), enhanced interactive voice response (IVR), and voice bots using natural language understanding (NLU). For more digital channels, chat bots powered by artificial intelligence (AI) can handle simple tasks allowing agents to focus on more meaningful experiences.
Underlying these specific examples are the technology trends for composable and integrated applications, coupled with a migration to the cloud to allow greater flexibility and scalability. Modernizing the technology supporting the Customer creates synergy between digital transformation and customer experience transformation.
Use advanced analytics to put the Customer first
Gartner counsels that artificial intelligence and machine learning are uniting previously separate approaches to analyzing customer service interactions to improve interaction, understanding, and intent, regardless of the communication channel. In the future, customer service analytics will leverage historical and real-time insight to deliver optimum operational, employee, and customer centric experiences.
All 4 levels of analytics (Descriptive, Diagnostic, Predictive, and Prescriptive) can apply to customer experience transformation. Examples include root cause analysis to eliminate abrasion points and drive insights-driven improvement, customer journey analytics to drive intentional optimization of the multi-channel experience, and multi-layered real-time dashboards for daily analysis and action tracking.
The right data foundations must be in place and customer experience transformation must include an emphasis on data literacy, data governance, and data quality. These fundamental data competencies build the data trust essential to enable better decisions and drive better outcomes across the organization.
In this ‘Age of the Customer’, most companies regard the transformation of customer experience as an imperative and often the primary driver of their digital transformation.
The 6 major elements of customer experience transformation are:
- Design the Total Experience
- Listen to the Voice of the Customer
- Empower the Customer
- Support those supporting the Customer
- Modernize the technology supporting the Customer
- Use advanced analytics to put the Customer first
Future articles will dive deeper into these elements, so stay tuned!