The Directors Club of the U.K. recently held its inaugural National Customer Show in London. The event was well attended and attracted sponsorship from some of the biggest vendors in the contact center industry; among them were platinum sponsors Interactive Intelligence and salesforce.com, and session sponsors Nexidia and SwordCiboodle. I noticed three common themes, covering very different aspects of managing the customer, and I’ll hit the highlights of each.

Social Media

These days you can’t escape discussions about social media and the impact it is having on how companies interact with customers and prospects. As I recently wrote, social media is here, and millions of people are using it to communicate with friends, colleagues, businesses and even government. But all the hype, statistics and YouTube videos are masking the realities of business use. My research shows that as yet social media has had little impact on the contact center, and at the show I found confirmation of this point. I also heard more people than usual, even from salesforce.com, uttering cautionary words about social media. The reality is that business use outside of marketing and training videos is still low and consumer use is largely confined to complaining. Several people picked up the latter point; whereas in the past one complaint was heard by a few tens of people, now a single complaint may be heard by thousands (and potentially by millions) of people. Companies need to be aware of this; they need to monitor comments and take positive action about them and do whatever is possible to not let the things that generated the complaints happen again. So the message was monitor social media, have a process and people in place to take appropriate action and have a process to address the root cause of customer issues.

 Contact Center Analytics

Throughout the show, and at one session I chaired, I heard conversations about the need for companies to review their existing metrics and add new metrics that reflect their business goals, rather than settle for efficiency metrics that just show how well things are or are not working. The general consensus seemed to be that no one metric is going to fit the bill for all companies. Yes, net promoter scores add insight to potential new business, and having good customer effort scores makes sense from an efficiency and customer perspective because making it easy for customers to interact with your company is likely to generate more business at lower costs. But companies need a balanced set of metrics from contact center analytics that I recently researched that reflect their business and priorities. I was pleased to find considerable support for my view that having “metrics for metrics’ sake” is pointless and that companies need to have in place processes that ensure action is taken based on their key performance metrics.

 The Customer Experience

As a concept, customer experience management is going the same way as CRM, in that it means many things to different people. For me it is about proactively managing the experience customers receive at any touch point. So when it comes to the most popular channel – calls to the contact center – CEM is about how agents handle each and every customer call.

This theme was echoed during one session I attended that connected customer experience with agent empowerment. My benchmark research into CEM has shown that the major influence on the customer experience is the agent’s attitude. The discussion took up the theme that if agents are not empowered to handle calls effectively then customers are likely to go away unhappy. Empowerment seemed to come down to doing some basic things well: process (not doing dumb things), training and coaching, motivation, and setting rewards and performance metrics that positively encourage agents to do a good job and deliver to the company’s business requirements.

Personally I like the theme “take the dumb out of handling customer interactions.” Too many times companies do dumb things: asking customers to repeat information they have given before, having metrics that drive agents to do the wrong things (keep calls short rather than solve the problem), using IVR menus that don’t match what customers want to do, providing inconsistent information on different channels – the list goes on. If companies would stand back and examine objectively the dumb things they are doing and put them right, we would all get a better experience.

In this day of social media fixing broken processes is even more important. Dumb things will end up exposed in public. This begs the question of who should be responsible for social media, because one dumb response can cause more trouble than the original issues. As a result companies need to pay more attention to interaction-handling than ever before.

Are you ready to cope with this new environment? Can you be certain that interactions are being handled consistently and effectively across all channels? How is social media impacting customer experience and do you use analytics to gain better visibility to what you do not know. If so, I’d love to know how you do it.

Regards

Richard Snow – VP & Research Director