By 2020, customer experience (CX) is predicted to take over price and product as the key brand differentiator.
That’s because customers who feel good about their brand interactions and have positive experiences are more likely to:
- Demonstrate brand loyalty (86% of customers),
- Spend more money (140% more),
- And remain a customer for longer (74% chance).
So, how do you improve call center CX and customer service in the contact center? First, we need to talk about exactly why call center customer experiences are so vital to your success. It has to do with your call center being the main point of interaction with your customers.
Why You Need to Focus on Call Center CX
In the U.S. alone, organizations lose more than $75 billion a year due to poor customer service, according to NewVoiceMedia. And for 85% of customers, it only takes one bad customer experience to stop doing business with a company. Worse yet, 80% of those individuals tell others about their poor experience.
That’s why call centers are so vital. By putting a human being on the phone with your customers, your company has the ability to satisfy their needs and impact their emotions—either mitigating their negative emotions or delighting them. According to a report by Calabrio, customers want to be heard by call centers:
- 58% of customers believe that calling is the way to get the best and most efficient customer service
- 50% say that their loyalty is earned when a company listens to and acts on a complaint.
- 48% are more loyal when they can contact a company quickly and easily.
- 35% of customers would be critical of a company if it were too difficult to talk to a human.
There’s really no doubt that a call center CX strategy is vital to your company’s success. That’s why leading companies are tracking and measuring their call center CX to help them improve customer service overall. The key is to tie your CX initiative to ROI so that you can directly correlate (with KPIs) the revenue or cost efficiency of the process to your CX goals. The intention is to transform the abstract concept of CX into quantifiable results that can be measured, monitored, and managed.
By measuring and putting a call center customer experience program in place, a company is able to increase their overall level of customer service systematically and consistently. Without this system and process, it’s almost impossible for call center managers to know if their service is meeting the needs and satisfying the emotions of their customers. This can cause your customers to jump ship (Accenture recently stated that $1.6 trillion is up for grabs from customers switching from one company to another) in search for a better service experience with a competitor.
There’s good news for companies who focus on improving customer service and call center CX a priority. Within three years, companies that earn $1 billion annually, on average, can potentially expect to earn an additional $700 million from their investment in the customer experience.
Fortunately, there are measurable and effective ways to improve call center customer experience in your call center.
How to Improve Customer Experience in Call Centers
While improving CX for call centers is often classified as an intangible concept, that’s not the case. There are systematic methods for measuring and improving the customer experience in call centers to produce quantifiable results. Results from a HyperQuality study show that when you work to improve call center CX, you can achieve ten times greater return on investment (ROI). The key is to take it one step at a time and build a call center CX strategy.
Understand the Customer Journey
Firstly, you need to map out the given journey of your customer—the entire customer arc of engagement. This means every point of contact from the initial communication through point-of-sale and beyond. You’ll want to look closely at the customer’s first entry point into the call center, and then consider each multi-channel transaction or touch point along the way—phone call, email, onboarding series, digital advertisement, etc.
Be sure to consider every customer interaction and see how at every point of the journey you either meet or exceed the customer’s expectations.
Align Your Business Objectives with Your Call Center Performance
In essence, you need to align your overall business objectives/goals with your call center performance. You’ll want to take a step back and look at your call center holistically, so you can determine how it fits into the larger company’s operations. Drill down into each phase of the customer journey and determine the overall company goal aligned with the call center goal for that stage.
These goals will help you make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to meeting expectations. Studies show that when employees know what’s expected of them, it increases their job satisfaction, which in turn, translates to improved customer service coupled with a better customer experience.
Realize that Customer Experience Requires Multi-Channel Support
According to an Ovum study, just two years ago, only 25% of consumers reported using one or two channels when seeking customer service, while 52% reported using three or four channels. And you can expect omnichannel support to continue to grow. Features such as web chat and text messaging have become expected services as customers want their needs on any given touch point.
The key is being consistent with your customer service across all the channels your call center utilizes for communication. According to a YouGov survey of 1777 US and UK consumers who messaged a business, “43% hated repeated information across agents, 28% struggled with speed of response, and 23% were stumped by the relevance of a response.” There’s demand for a truly unified communications experience that offers seamless omnichannel interactions through technology.
76 percent of users think that technology helps create a good experience for the customer, and 48% think that innovation is important if it improves customer service and experience. Just be sure that any technology you implement aligns with your business objectives and meets your customers’ needs.
According to Aberdeen, best-in-class CX leaders are investing in:
- Artificial Intelligence: AI is ranked as the number one technology being adopted by enterprise organizations, to improve CX. Firms using AI enjoy 2.5 times greater customer satisfaction rates (9.7% vs. 3.9%) and drive 2.4 times greater year-over-year increase in annual revenue (9.2% vs. 3.8%).
- Real-Time Decision Assist & Guidance: A subset of AI, this technology helps CX leaders automatically monitor customer and agent conversations in contact centers to maximize employee productivity and assist in customer interactions.
- Social Collaboration and Engagement Tools: These are tools that help companies facilitate communication and collaboration between employees. When implemented correctly, call centers enjoy 31% greater annual improvement in employee productivity.
Put a Face to Your Customer
You won’t be able to improve the customer experience in call centers without knowing who your customer is, at a personal level. This requires you to put a face to your customer by creating a persona, so your agents can envision exactly who they’re communicating on a daily basis. The more detailed you can be, the better.
For example, you’ll want to do more than just state that your primary customer is a woman between the ages of 18 – 30 and living in the city. You’ll want to create a persona like this:
- Ashley Smith, 23
- Single, living in a two-bedroom apartment with two roommates
- Loves to go to the bars and clubs after work and on weekends
- Works multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet
By visualizing your customer as a real person, the call center customer experience will show improvements as your agents won’t be dealing with a faceless individual, but with a persona or profile that puts a voice or face with the situation they are being asked to deal with.
Build Emotional Connections with Customers to Improve CX
One of the most powerful ways to improve the call center customer experience is to build emotional connections with your customers. When customers perceive agents as being attuned to their emotions, they’ll feel better about the quality of their experience with your call center. It’s all about the human touch and meeting emotional needs.
For optimal results when it comes to building emotional connections with customers, you’ll need to begin with goal-setting, quality assurance monitoring, and agent self-scoring. In this way, managers can more easily help agents improve their level of awareness and empathy to help build those emotional bonds.
There are quite a few ways that your call center agents can build emotional connections and customer sentiment in customer service centers including:
- Anticipating customer requests: If your call center has the right measurement tools and quality management in place, you should be able to recognize patterns in the customer journey. This will then help your agents anticipate customer requests, which will shorten resolution time and help the customer feel appreciated.
- Delivering explanations and justifications: Providing customers with greater context through facts, explanations, and justifications about what’s happening, why, and how it can be resolved improves the emotional connection between agents and customers.
- Educating customers: Customers enjoy leaving a customer service call with more knowledge than when they began. It can provide them with a sense of empowerment.
- Providing emotional support: Teaching your call center agents to listen and let customers know that they hear and understand their challenges, puts them at ease and connects them together. A little empathy can go a long way.
- Offering personal information: Sharing personal details about simple things such as the weather, city or experience can be a basic way to create an emotional connection.
The point is to get away from robotic customer experiences which follow a script, and instead implement emotionally intelligent tactics. Meanwhile, keeping an emphasis on the tone and flow of the conversation.. Research has shown that 38% of the way a message is interpreted is influenced by the tone in which was communicated.
Determine How You’ll Measure CX
Finally, you can’t determine how to improve your customer experience without consistent data. There are many areas of customer service that your call center might consider measuring. Old measurements include abandonment rate, call wait time, length of call, etic but those metrics are no longer relevant. The problem is they focus on getting customers on and off the phone, not improving the experience.
Instead, it’s now all about emotive CX—how a customer feels during and after a contact center interaction. To measure this, you need to use self-scorecards.
How scorecards improve call center CX is by helping make agents self-aware of the impact of their customer interactions. After which, agents can decide how well the customer interaction went by determining if they:
- Initially recognized the mood of the customer— whether positive or negative.
- Changed the overall mood of the customer, moving the needle in a positive direction.
- Was able to satisfy the customer’s needs both functionally and emotionally.
All of which breaks down to CX improvements in the contact center.
However, that’s just the start. There are many variables that influence the customer experience for both good and bad outcomes, and you need to be able to identify root causes to repair broken processes and procedures. That’s where call center quality assurance and assessment scores, such as the Net Promoter Score (NPS), can help.
How Improving NPS Through QA Can Drive Shareholder and Brand Value
The Net Promoter Score calculation (NPS) answers a very simple question, “How likely are your customers to risk their reputation to recommend your brand to their friends?” It’s an all-embracing idea that relates to customer service delivery as well as overall engagement. The goal being to find out if a customer is a promoter, detractor, or neutral.
NPS typically falls into two categories: Brand NPS (the holistic approach) and Transactional NPS (the detailed approach).
- Brand NPS asks, “How likely are you to recommend our company to a friend?”
- Transactional NPS asks, “How likely are you to speak highly of your recent customer service experience with our company?”
Both provide valuable information about the customer experience and how each interaction with the company influences overall brand loyalty. The call center plays one of the largest roles in how to improve your NPS score, as it’s typically where the most direct interpersonal interactions occur. This is where you can have the greatest impact on improving or hurting your NPS, particularly when situations become emotionally charged.
According to the London School of Economics, an average NPS increase of 7% correlates, on average, to a 1% growth in revenue. So, it’s definitely important. The problem is that the NPS is highly subjective, so how can you measure it in an effective way that correlates to shareholder and brand value? That’s where quality assurance comes into play.
Call center quality assurance is a series of checks and balances of the customer experience. Taking into account such things as agent performance and adherence to processes and outcomes, and it requires you to gather data, organize it, and report on outcomes.
When a tactical and strategic quality assurance framework is implemented, you’ll have a clear direction for improving your call center performance and thus CX and NPS by discovering:
- If there are any knowledge gaps that need to be closed
- What agent skill gaps require coaching
- Whether or not your agents have the authority to delight the customer
- If there are any broken or inefficient processes
- If there are desktop tool failures
- Whether there are environmental negatives having an impact
The ultimate goal of call center quality assurance is to promote a better customer experience, but that’s only possible if your CX is measured and correlated with an actual customer survey, ensuring your QA program is measuring impactful metrics.
The key is to make the facility of retrieving feedback a simple process for the customer. The surveys with the highest completion rates follow a few best practices. These include:
- Short: one or two concise questions.
- Simple: simple questions get bigger results.
- Immediate: the sooner you can get a customer to complete a survey, the better.
- Social: invite your customer to share their feedback publicly.
Some common survey methods include:
- A phone survey at the end of a call
- Email survey sent directly to the caller
- SMS survey link sent out after the call has ended.
- “Contact Us” page on your website
Best practices dictate that the quality manager should integrate surveys into the companies CRM to monitor and track NPS in a systematic method. If the result of a call is measured on a scorecard and also through an NPS survey after a call with an agent, and if they don’t correlate, can highlight a discrepancy between the impact of the agent through the customer’s experience which will require a focus on cx improvements within the contact center.
When you give call center agents the ability to take charge of their own performance, you increase morale, reduce turnover, and improve the overall customer experience. It also gives your agents a deeper understanding of the effect they have on the customer, which motivates them to be more productive and engaged in their work. In turn, creating improvements in NPS and call center customer experience.
To drive shareholder and brand value, you have to start with improving your customer service by focusing on the customer experience first and foremost—providing good experiences that satisfy customer needs and positively impact customer emotions. When you improve customer experience, you boost brand loyalty, encourage greater spending, and increase the longevity of your customers.
The key is to go about enhancing the customer experience in call centers systematically and quantifiably. This requires you to understand the customer journey, align all your business objectives, offer multi-channel support, put a face to each customer, and, most importantly, build emotional connections. Implementing these actions in your call center can ensure that every interaction meets or exceeds your customers’ expectations.
Just remember that improving call center performance and CX is an ongoing process that requires you to take a holistic and intimate view of your call center. Ultimately, it comes down to using a combination of self-scorecards, QA, customer surveys, and NPS to see if you are missing something that could impact the customer experience in the call center, and then implementing the appropriate tactical and strategic process to reach the outcomes you want.