Today world-class consumer service requires a sophisticated approach and unswerving commitment to consumer centricity. With recognized product names like Crock-Pot®, Holmes®, Margaritaville®, Mr. Coffee®, and Oster® among its family of brands, Jarden Consumer Solutions (JCS) strives to make highly intuitive products that simplify the lives of their consumers. For JCS, true brand alignment means a more intelligent CX, as well—one that connects the dots of consumer touchpoints, for meaningful strategy that drives growth. Here Wendy Shlensky, Vice President, Analyst and Advisor Relations, HGS, talks to John Gibney, Senior Manager, Consumer Service, JCS, who shares key consumer care insights from the front-line vantage point of today’s consumer-centric strategy and digital innovation.
Wendy: Can you share the trends you’ve seen in consumer service?
John: It’s an exciting time for consumer service professionals. Consumer service has played an increasingly influential role in consumer decision making. Today, consumers are putting their dollars behind companies providing world-class service. Brands are investing more in CX, specifically the technology, business intelligence, and tools. As a result, expectations and experiences are evolving rapidly. Companies are now evaluating consumer service through the eyes of the consumer, whereas historically service was viewed through a company’s lens.
This perspective shift, to a more consumer-centric experience, can be seen in three ways:
- Success—Today, a company’s CSAT, NPS, and consumer effort scores are factors determining consumer service success, whereas, traditionally, company operational and financial metrics determined an organization’s success.
- Cost—The conversation should focus less on the cost of consumer service itself, and, ironically, more about the cost of not providing a high level of consumer service or experience. A good CX collaboration has to find ways to quantify the value of supporting a product the right way in terms of brand equity, future sales, and direct-to-consumer sales. ROI often supports what everyone inherently knows are the right things to do. As more and more data points become available, CX groups are nicely positioned to take a new kind of leadership role in the greater organization.
- Scope and Connecting the Touchpoints—Consumer service has really grown into something bigger and more holistic, with channels and expansion of channels as a big part of that. In the past, consumer experience was focused on individual channels—what we call dots or touchpoints. The trend—addressing the CX opportunity—is setting up support systems, whether through chat engagement, SMS engagement, or any new or legacy channel, so that your operations and reporting are meaningful and holistic. Over the past five years, we’ve seen rapid development in this area. When you talk about channels of chat, SMS, and voice, it’s become less about the dots. Consumers are evaluating service based on the connection or seamless transition between those dots. And technology is rapidly evolving as a significant enabler of that. With today’s available technology, service enhancements, and analytics, we have a better view of the consumer.
Wendy: How essential are digital CX tools in today’s marketplace? How essential are digital CX tools in your environment?
John: Consumer service is more and more influenced by digital, although it’s not taking the place of people. Today’s brands are investing in centralized hubs—specifically knowledge bases of consumer data, product service and knowledge, and CRMs.
Tools are definitely growing in importance, but the tools are still secondary to how they are being used to enhance overall CX experience. Today’s specialized agents are able to put to work omnichannel solutions and channel pivoting to optimize and expedite CX based on organized data, to drive CX success, and repeat success.
At JCS, we try to provide a world-class experience in existing channels and expand gradually. From our perspective, growing a multi-channel strategy can be a little less intimidating if it’s incremental and more agile to manage. Let’s say you have voice and email and a growing web presence, and your consumer wants to engage in chat. We focus on making chat an exemplary experience, versus trying to roll out three or four new channels. From my perspective, this deliberate, incremental approach—one that focuses on above-average experience in new channels—should actually help shift consumers to the channels, as opposed to providing too many choices, which can be intimidating for consumers. With that approach, you’re not meeting expectations in any channels.
Our approach is test and learn, with an emphasis on the learn. It’s not test and go or no go. Once you are ready, then you promote and incentivize to help shift your consumers to the new options. You always want to be where your consumers are, when they want you to be there. But there’s nothing wrong with helping consumers shift and showing them benefits of new channels. It’s also about first impression, so experiences exceed expectations and drive return traffic.
With any digital approach, keep in mind the shift to internal, controllable feedback. For example, a consumer leaving a bad review requires a digital channel, like Chat or SMS, placed correctly, so that the complaint is sent directly to the organization. This creates a situation to do two things: keep a post that could negatively affect sales of a product review, and, at the same time, create the possibility for a positive review if the situation is handled well.
Wendy: Do you see the role of BPO service delivery changing in the industry? And if so, why?
John: I see the nature or role of those BPOs will likely change. Consumer service is becoming increasingly complex. In the past, we leaned on BPOs for transactional consumer conversations, and those interactions are drying up through automation. As we make that transition from high-volume transactional work to low-volume complex work, our agents, employees, and leadership have to evolve with that business change.
Ultimately, from my perspective, the BPO-client relationship has become more consultative and less transactional at the consumer level. Today BPO partners are more involved in strategic thought leadership, and they are hiring higher-caliber employees. Agents are now trained as subject matter experts for particular processes. By the same token, BPOs carry their own specialization. I think the industry is moving toward brands having multiple BPOs and in-house teams and using them in different ways based on the strength of each particular BPO. For example, companies don’t need two BPOs investing in speech and analytics. With complementary areas of focus, these BPOs can make up different components of a larger strategy. At the same time, you need a holistic view, with strategy that pays time and attention to comprehensive contingency planning. That way, each BPO partner and client group has knowledge and competency in all areas.
Wendy: What do you see as the future of consumer care?
John: In my view, the future is about consumers communicating through their common, preferred, and familiar platforms. Consumers will be reaching out to companies through a platform they are on daily—whether that is Facebook, WhatsApp, or SMS. Engaging through known applications will reduce learning curves and help provide a consistent experience, which we believe will lead to credibility, trust, and, eventually, loyalty. Catering to preferences supports our end goal, which is always to build loyalty and advocacy. Loyalty and advocacy lead to more interactions over time, which build long-term consumer relationships. Everyone talks about journey mapping. We have moved from linear journey models to circular or looping journey models. This helps everyone remember that our goal is to promote future interactions and engagements, with consumers, their family, and their friends. We look at the positives of this circular consumer journey, with the goal to expand and not terminate the relationship.
Looking ahead, the bar will be raised even higher for a shorter wait time. A consumer wait time of three minutes is significantly different today than it was 10 years ago. And tomorrow’s consumers will expect even faster service, with accuracy and an experience that also caters to preferences gained from insights. To stay ahead of the expectations curve, we are focusing more and more on connecting the dots of omnichannel touchpoints, agents, and employees, to drive a world-class consumer experience.