5 Areas to focus on for customer engagement
This week’s Eptica Customer Day brought together customer service professionals from multiple sectors, enabling them to compare best practice and learn from each other. It was also a great opportunity to tap into the experience that Eptica has gained working on multichannel customer experience strategies and implementations around the world. My thanks again to all those who attended, in particular to our keynote speaker Adrian Swinscoe and guest speakers Andrew Babbage from Laithwaite’s Wine and Sue Turk and Matt Bailey from Bristol Wessex Billing Services Limited, who presented case studies on the benefits they are receiving by using Eptica.
Looking at the day as a whole, I saw five themes that ran through the conversations and presentations:
1. Customer service should be everywhere The traditional view of customer service is that it is solely the responsibility of the contact centre. Given its central importance to every organisation this is starting to change, meaning that more and more companies are benefiting by joining up customer service systems, processes and knowledge with the entire business. Examples included integrating with back office functions (such as delivery systems), to remove silos – by doing this Laithwaite’s Wine has reduced back office costs. Other companies are sharing knowledge management systems across departments, and extending it to front line employees, such as shop staff, who can access it via tablets or point of sale technology.
2. Focus on the marginal gains As Adrian Swinscoe pointed out in his keynote presentation, minor improvements can make a huge difference to the customer experience. He recommends that companies need to adopt British Cycling’s approach of aggregating marginal gains, looking at where they can make multiple, small improvements that together add up to major advances. This extends to technology as well – optimising Eptica’s software through regular reviews and talking to agents can reap big gains in efficiency and service levels.
3. Chat is coming The benefits of chat are increasingly recognised. It combines the immediacy of the telephone, with the audit trail and written strengths of email in a channel that is easy to use by consumers. More and more organisations are therefore either trialling or rolling out web chat, and are looking at how best to deploy it within their multichannel infrastructure. There was much talk about video chat and whether that will deliver additional benefits when it comes to the customer experience, balancing cost against the additional engagement it provides.
4. Put your agents first to get best results Contact centre staff are not robots. They need to be provided with the right tools, information and training if they are to both do their best and remain motivated. Their skills and inclinations vary – some are better on the phone, while others prefer written communication channels. The vital thing is to understand their individual strengths and give them the opportunity to focus on what they are best at, while still ensuring that all types of interaction are successfully covered. One idea to keep agents happy was for the whole team to focus on a particular area (such as complaints) in the morning, before handling more positive communications in the afternoon.
5. The call centre is dead The traditional telephone only call centre is on the way out. Today, companies need to offer a full range of channels to their customers if they want to retain them. Importantly, introducing new channels, such as social media or inbound SMS, can’t be at the expense of shutting down older ways of making contact. Indeed, some companies still receive a large percentage of interactions through the post – while others are actually implementing fax for the first time to meet customer demand. Consumers will judge you by the channels you offer, so cover all your target demographics and be driven by customer requirements.
Whatever sector you are in, the customer experience has never been more critical to business success. As the discussions at the Eptica Customer Day showed, companies that invest in improving customer service are seeing real benefits when it comes to greater loyalty, increased efficiency and closer engagement with consumers. The day sparked some great discussions, and I look forward to next year’s event to see how our customers have further enhanced the customer experience within their organisations.