At our February 7 webinar, Andrew Kokes, HGS Global Head of Marketing, and Henry Bruckstein, Founder, CANAM Research jointly presented the results of our first-ever “State of Customer Experience” Survey of nearly 100 customer experience executives, vice presidents, and directors. The webinar theme revolved around the art and science of improving how today’s customers interact with businesses. At the event, attendees gleaned compelling insights into issues like how companies leverage performance measures, reporting and analytics, and outsourcing strategy. We started by gathering new “findings within the findings,” by polling attendees with a basic CX assessment: “Have you had a frustrating customer experience in 2018?” Not surprisingly, 92% of our audience responded with a resounding, “Yes.” With our clearcut mission that optimized CX is essential, Poll Two advanced to measurement, and “What is the metric you would use to measure the success of our customer experience program?” The majority of our attendees—46%, responded “Customer Satisfaction,” with 38% prioritizing “Net Promoter Score” and 15% answering “Customer Effort.” With our final poll, we assessed artificial intelligence (AI) and bots and their role in delivering stellar CX: “We agree AI and bots are critical for performance. How important are they to optimizing the customer experience?” While 50% of our attendees agreed with this importance, 33% of our respondents strongly agreed, while 17% remained neutral on this issue. At our QandA session, Henry and Andrew answered some pressing questions from our attendees.
Q1: If AHT isn’t the most important metric, what metrics and reporting do you suggest we focus on?
Andrew A: Average Handle Time is a great leading indicator for your business. You have to measure AHT. If AHT is suddenly going haywire, it can tell you that there is something happening with your business. If one day calls take twice as long as they used to, you need to know that. It’s important. But, is it the primary driver of your customer experience? Probably not. More likely it’s something like how much customer effort it took to get the right answer. Or, your driver might be looking at churn and connecting that to customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Score (NPS). These are still very important metrics for people to manage to keep a pulse on the organization.
Henry A: I agree 100% with Andrew, and I also suggest that this is a great place to create a harmonious relationship between your contact center and the office of your customer experience head. You want to share key metrics. As an organization is doubling down on NPS, then this data will be tracked at all interaction points with your customer. Also, start to think about areas like self-service. How do we include that in the mix? How do we get an accurate pulse on that, as well?
Q2: How do you suggest we stay on top of emerging trends and best practices? We are already overwhelmed with the day-to-day.
Henry A: The most interesting thing we uncovered in the HGS study is that there is a chasm between customers and their channel preferences and brands that are saying, “Sorry, you have to use the voice channel.” The other interesting fact is that about 88% of companies that were on the Fortune 100 list 60 years ago are no longer with us. That is just absolutely startling. When you consider that channel chasm, part of the challenge is exactly this one question: How do we get started? Take a look at the value that organizations like HGS bring. Of course they bring the technology and people. But with organizations like HGS, you are also on top of the industry trends. You see what’s working and not working across multiple organizations, multiple contact centers, and multiple industries. Ultimately, you are bringing some really cool solutions to play. I think organizations like HGS bring a little bit of push in the right direction, or at the very minimum, a better strategy or a better idea of what’s possible.
Andrew A: I echo everything Henry said. The mission of the organization should be to bring you those best practices, help to keep you up to date on trends. It’s not the business of every customer service or customer experience manager to understand the latest in what’s happening from a people, process, and technology perspective. But, certainly, the outsourcing partner should fundamentally aim to continue to bring you some of that value-add.
Q3: What are bots?
Andrew A: Maybe you have seen some recent Facebook news about how Mark Zuckerberg has launched some chatbots into Facebook Messenger, and they are doing some automated interaction. There are all kinds of social bots and chat bots. These bots are fundamentally just artificial intelligence, trainable pieces of technology that can do interaction. Some of them are more sophisticated than other pieces of technology and programming, and some of them are self-learning. Sometimes a customer asks a question and the bot can’t answer that question. Once that question has been answered a couple of times by a human, the bot will now come to a faster, more accurate answer to that question. The next time a customer asks the same question, the bot will pick up and answer for it. Other bots require more training and support.
Q4: How do you bring it all together on your way to really empower your agents?
Andrew A: It is all really complicated—from how you hire, train, manage the quality and interaction; add new technologies; and adopt different methods of interacting to how do you actually provide that great customer experience. It’s an ongoing evolution, focused on continuous improvement and leveraging data to find those opportunities to improve. It can be very complicated and very overwhelming for new companies and new staff members to learn. In fact, it’s increasingly getting more and more complicated—this art of how a customer interacts with a business. And businesses have to do this at scale and they have to do it consistently. They want to do it in a way that doesn’t damage their brand. They don’t want to end up in social media as somebody who provides a bad customer experience. It helps to have a partner that specializes in customer experience and managing day-to-day interactions. I think when you have that kind of partnership you can really make some magic and create those great customer experiences.
Henry A: Let’s say you are able to figure it out yourself and 10 years ago you had the perfect contact center. Then comes along Mark Zuckerberg and creates this whole new channel called Facebook, now what do you do? Now we have AI and bots, and I don’t even know what’s going to come a year down the road, let alone five. It’s essential to stay on top of trends and vet those hundreds of technology solutions that a contact center VP or Director has at their disposal. It can be more than a full-time job and requires an army—a highly trained one at that.
Q5: The silos you describe are very true for my organization. What’s the best way to start striking those down? Andrew A: Today all organizations, particularly large organizations, struggle with this. As they continue to grow, they often have these different silos, whether it is marketing or customer service. Do they connect, and do they talk to each other? You may have competing groups, like HR or finance. Potentially, everybody’s got their own agenda and benchmarks. It’s important for businesses to be able to rally around important metrics. If 89% of CEOs believe that the way to compete and to differentiate your business is on the experience that your customers have with your brand, everybody in the company that touches and provides customer experience needs to understand that – 65% of companies surveyed believe the contact center is critical to that. Everybody needs to rally. NPS as a whole or customer churn and retention metrics need to become larger organizational metrics to break down the siloes. And the contact center should be right in the center. The contact center is the focal point of not just providing experience but also listening to the customer and getting some of that voice of customer feedback and using those analytics to inform the rest of the business.
Henry A: There is a perfect opportunity to align the organization against one or two key metrics. The question was asked earlier, what metrics we should use. Let’s say you choose NPS. This is a great time as you mentioned to align all the groups whether it’s Marketing and Sales and your Customer Support. How do you then operationalize all the great analytics and data you have? One way is through the voice of the customer and making it not only be heard but be actioned upon by getting it to a product manager.