Customer Experience Management – Moving from Strategy to Practice
Customer Experience Management – Moving from Strategy to Practice
By Donna Fluss
Innovative applications provide an outstanding customer experience while reducing operating expenses, increasing customer retention and improving service quality.
A great deal has been written about customer experience management (CEM) during the past couple of years. There is no doubt that CEM is a great concept that can translate into an effective strategy. It is also clear that CEM is a business strategy that must be enabled by technology and supported by people with the right skills, and best practices.
Contact Centers are Essential Contributors to CEM Strategies
Contact centers are finally being recognized for their essential role in generating revenue, retaining customers, building customer loyalty and the brand, in addition to their traditional function of addressing customer interactions and handling inquiries. It’s taken more than 30 years, but corporate executives and senior managers in sales and marketing now realize that contact centers are a mission-critical component of the company’s service delivery chain, as they generally interact with customers more than any other part of an enterprise. This is typical in both business-to-consumer and business-to-business organizations.
The case study below reflects the direct and significant impact of contact centers on customers and the rest of the enterprise. Within the next ten years, contact centers will become the enterprise’s primary source of customer data and analytics. This will allow companies to optimize the contributions of contact centers to their customers and the rest of the organization. This enterprise transformation will be enabled by many applications, including contact center performance management, both real-time and historical/classic.
Cast Study: Using Real-Time Contact Center Performance Management to Improve the Customer Experience
Proactive identification of business issues is a goal that continues to elude enterprises around the world. In the ideal scenario, management is made aware of a potentially damaging public relations, product, operational, systems, or support issue, or customer concern within minutes of complaint calls or emails arriving at their service and support organization. While it’s better to prevent an issue from happening at all, the reality is that mistakes and misunderstandings do occur and enterprises need to be positioned to rapidly identify and address the situation before it becomes costly or embarrassing, hurting their bottom line, brand image and even the stock price.
Transitioning to a Proactive Service Orientation
As the primary interface between an enterprise and its customers, contact centers are positioned to function as a company’s early warning system. While most contact centers today are excellent at tracking known issues, they lack the applications and processes to identify and communicate emerging issues in real time. To deliver this critical capability, contact centers need to alter their operating procedures, invest in systems that identify issues in real time, and have access to key managers and executives throughout the company. Transitioning to a proactive approach requires a business transformation, accompanied by changes in the culture of both the contact center and the greater enterprise.
Enterprise-Wide Uses of Real-Time Performance Management
Almost every department in an enterprise – sales, marketing, manufacturing, R&D, operations, credit and IT – impacts the customer experience. While the contact center handles calls, emails and chat inquiries from customers, the majority of customer issues are caused by an action or policy in another department. Real-time CCPM solutions give contact center management an objective and quantifiable method for identifying, capturing and communicating customer or operational issues quickly enough to prevent them from causing more damage.
A leading telecom provider in the United States learned from an independent third-party survey that they had received one of the lowest customer satisfaction ratings in the country. (While this case study is about a US-based company, these issues apply to cellular providers around the world.) As wireless services are viewed as a commodity, this dubious honor put the company at great risk of losing millions of customers they had fought hard to acquire. (The only thing that prevented this debacle was that their competitors were rated almost as poorly.) The company had to move quickly to stem their losses, dramatically improve service, and identify all of the underlying causes of customer dissatisfaction. Sure, they knew about some of these issues, but others came as a surprise.
The company instituted many programs and systems, including proactive problem identification and service modules to immediately identify bottlenecks in their sales, fulfillment, and customer support organizations. These solutions were implemented in four months and helped deliver substantial operational, cost and customer satisfaction improvements. Benefits included the ability to identify and remedy a new problem in less than one minute, instead of 35 minutes; a 33% reduction in order fulfillment time; a substantial decrease in abandoned calls, resulting in approximately $280K in incremental revenue; and more than $130K in staff savings. Even better, the next time the survey was conducted, their customer approval rating was higher and their service continues to improve each year.
The best contact center solutions help managers improve productivity, reduce operating expenses, enhance the customer experience and increase revenue. When used properly and supported by management, as was the case for this telecom provider, real-time CCPM delivers on all of these goals.
Benefits of Real-Time Problem Identification
Proactive problem resolution benefits agents, management, the contact center, the enterprise and customers. It helps the contact center by deflecting negative interactions, growing sales, increasing first call resolution rates, motivating agents to manage their own performance, improving agent and supervisor productivity, and reducing the cost per interaction. Real-time CCPM empowers agents by giving them the information they need to manage their own performance; this improves morale and job satisfaction and reduces staff attrition.
From an enterprise perspective, timely awareness of issues allows a company to fix small problems before they grow into large ones that touch thousands of customers. This has an impact throughout the company. It reduces damages from errors, minimizes the number of products that need to be fixed or replaced, prevents the operational nightmare of product recalls, reduces losses and legal costs from lawsuits, and helps to avoid regulatory problems that often arise when things go wrong. It has the added benefit of allowing a company to avoid negative news reports. Few will fault a company that rapidly identifies a problem, takes responsibility for it (which they can do only when they know about it), and then works quickly to get it resolved.
The most significant benefits of proactive customer care are felt by customers. Today, service is the primary differentiator between otherwise commoditized products and services. It does not take much to convince a customer to look elsewhere for a replacement product. Increased competition in many markets means that there is almost always a lower cost provider. In general, customers who are satisfied with a product will not look elsewhere unless motivated by a company error or a change in their lifestyle or needs. Real-time performance management cannot prevent changes in customer requirements, but it can identify them rapidly, giving a company the chance to respond on a timely basis. It can also prevent mistakes from impacting large numbers of customers and driving them to competitors. Additionally, there is a huge difference between a service experience where a customer calls/emails and reports a new problem to an unprepared agent, and one where the agent is aware of the issue and has the right information and perfect resolution to satisfy the customer.
Most organizations that have implemented real-time CCPM have done so in response to serious service and operational issues, as was the case with the telecom provider described above. However, the best way to avoid costly service issues is to implement an early warning mechanism before any problems arise. Figure 1 below presents a few best practices to help you successfully implement a real-time CCPM program.
Real-Time vs. Classic Contact Center Performance Management
As contact centers extend beyond their traditional role of addressing customer interactions and selling – which is a necessity for any company dedicated to implementing a CEM strategy – they require applications to capture and report all of their activities and contributions. Contact center performance management addresses the need to align contact center and enterprise goals and to capture and report data on contact center performance.
There are two types of contact center performance management: classic and real-time. While there are substantive differences, they have complementary functions and each provides actionable data to a different management segment. See Figure 2.
Classic performance management pulls data from various enterprise data sources and is usually updated on a next-day or intra-day basis. It is retrospective or reactive in nature and used by contact center managers and enterprise executives to evaluate performance and trends in contact center operations, processes and training. Classic CCPM tends to be strategic, assisting management in making long-term changes and decisions, such as enhancing the effectiveness of enterprise and departmental strategic initiatives. When utilized properly with a timely review process, classic CCPM can help align the contact center with enterprise goals. The output from classic CCPM is primarily in the form of scorecards and reports.
DMG Consulting defines real-time performance management as “a set of processes that empower line managers and supervisors to make ongoing tactical adjustments and improvements in real time to achieve departmental and enterprise goals.” It is more tactical than classic CCPM, enabling contact center managers and supervisors to monitor and evaluate agent and team activity and performance in real time. This allows quick adjustments that can have an immediate impact on results. Typically, real-time CCPM applications concentrate on KPIs where immediate intervention can alter the outcome. Some of these KPIs include: average speed of answer, schedule adherence, call volume, hold time, average talk time, occupancy rate, revenue per agent, sales conversion rate, dollars collected and dollars promised. Real-time CCPM addresses agent, team and contact center activities through dashboards and alerts, usually updated in fifteen seconds or less.
There is no way to prevent every challenge that arises as enterprises increase the role and contributions of contact centers, but there is a cost effective way to rapidly identify issues and minimize their impact on your business and your customers. Contact center performance management is a “must-have” application for any company dedicated to providing an outstanding customer experience and process improvement. Classic/historical CCPM provides a framework for retroactively analyzing and responding to trends in performance. Real-time CCPM gives enterprises the ability to rapidly identify and remedy customer, operational, process or system issues, before they become unwelcome trends.