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Creating a positive customer experience

This article appears in the issue February 2014 [Vol 23, Issue 2]
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Extensive research into customer experience shows (and common sense affirms) that those who have a positive customer experience are far more likely to purchase again from the same company, less likely to defect and more likely to promote the company to others. What might be a surprise is the dollar amount into which the positive ratings translate.

According to Forrester, the cumulative benefit from companies whose customer experience index (CXi) improves from below average to above average ranges from $39 million for the electronics industry to $1.3 billion in the wireless industry. The amount of additional revenue attributed to lower churns in companies with an already high CXi is of the same order of magnitude for investment firms and wireless providers respectively.

In the pre-digital age, creating a positive customer experience was a simple matter. Take the retail industry, for example—courteous and helpful sales clerks, good quality products, reasonable return policies and attractive prices generally ensured a positive customer experience.

Now, the environment is much more complex. The number of channels through which customers interact poses significant challenges for attaining consistency and continuity in the experience. Customers are sophisticated in their shopping habits; they can quickly compare prices and read reviews from other customers. With the opportunity to post their thoughts in venues outside the ones controlled by the company providing products or services, customers can easily create a social media firestorm.

Three factors

Three of the elements that can help ensure a positive customer experience are an effective contact center, the ability to find information the customer needs, and rigorous monitoring of metrics and customer feedback.

When you hear a television commercial announce that "operators are standing by," chances are that those operators work with LiveOps. Over 20,000 at-home agents support LiveOps' contact center services for television marketers, and also for large retailers, insurance companies and healthcare/homecare providers.

At a time when most customer service representatives (CSRs) had to be physically located in a call center, LiveOps developed a platform in the cloud for its own use that allowed workers in any location with an Internet connection to take calls from customers. A few years ago, LiveOps began offering its platform to other companies.

One of the strong points of the LiveOps Platform is its routing. "When our system receives an incoming call, it knows right away whether the customer has purchased something previously," says Ann Ruckstuhl, chief marketing officer of LiveOps. "It knows the location of the caller and what the service level agreement is, so the caller gets routed immediately to the right person." If the caller is using a mobile device to get in touch, that is added to the record during the call, and the same goes for a Tweet or a Facebook engagement.

About 80 percent of companies with contact centers do not have integrated social media channels, according to Ruckstuhl. "If they do not integrate those channels, these companies will have islands of CSRs that can do only e-mail, or chat or social, and customers will have to interact with different people, which is a jarring experience," she explains.

Growing repeat business

An online ticket retailer's experience provides a good example of how much difference an integrated contact center can make. The company was using an e-mail system to interact with customers, but the system was unable to provide information about a customer's previous purchases or even to direct the e-mail to the right agent. The company deployed LiveOps Social, a product that includes messaging, as well as LiveOps Chat & Email.

With the LiveOps implementation, the company was able to provide delivery alerts, order confirmations and promotions. In addition, it could segment customers and send targeted promotions. As a result, repeat customer sales increased by an impressive 30 percent. In addition, LiveOps keeps records of customer interactions and provides visibility into databases containing customer histories.

Ruckstuhl advises creating a customer journey map when considering contact center solutions, to get a clear view of how the customer will be cared for. "Are the CSRs only trained to answer certain questions through a certain channel, and then have to hand the person off again?" she asks. "What happens when the customer uses another channel or posts an angry public message?" In a situation where a customer is upset and posts a Tweet, for example, the ideal response is for the CSR to shift into chat mode. "This type of ‘channel pivot,' as it is called, takes the customer out of the public domain, where they can do a lot of harm, and then the problem can be resolved."

Finding the answers

Few experiences are more frustrating to customers than not being able to find the information they want, whether they are in self-service mode or getting answers from a company. SunGard K-12 Education provides financial solutions for K-12 school systems, and wanted to improve its customer service with a better search engine for its information resources, one that could be used by both its employees and its customers.

The company carried out a fairly lengthy search to identify the right search software solution, selecting Coveo based primarily on capabilities and also on price. "We had a number of other criteria," says Ed Krzyzek, manager of BusinessPLUS customer support at SunGard K-12 Education. "We wanted a very friendly search interface, and to be able to aggregate information that is stored in a variety of locations."

Coveo is helping in several ways at the company. "Our previous search engine crawled only the database containing our knowledgebase and articles, and the CRM system," Krzyzek says. "Coveo indexes everything, and the product did a fantastic job of pulling everything together."

SunGard K-12 Education has chosen to allow customers to search the same knowledgebase that its employees use, with very positive results. "In the past, our customers were not able to find the information they needed through our search engine," Krzyzek says. "Because of that, they leaned more on our staff. Now that information is available at their fingertips." As a result of that approach, internal support costs have gone down.

Good outcome

At the same time, SunGard K-12 Education did not want to improve efficiency at the expense of customer service. "When we first launched, we brought all our customers together and gave them a demo of Coveo in real time," Krzyzek says. "The response was very enthusiastic, and we began getting e-mails from customers, some of whom have very high expectations, saying the application was phenomenal."

Like other customer interactions, search should provide the same experience across all channels. "Customers should get the same answer in a community environment, self-service or from a CSR," says Diane Berry, chief marketing officer of Coveo. "In addition, Coveo presents content without requiring a separate search-for example, if an employee is in Salesforce responding to a customer, he or she automatically sees relevant case information in a sidebar."

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