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Keeping people at the front of your customer experience strategies

As digital tools are helping brands to deliver personalized experiences like never before, it is worthwhile to remember that the end goal is not to maximize the technology but rather to deliver great experiences for our customers. With that goal in mind, we must never forget that in addition to our various digital touchpoints with customers, human interaction is still pivotal and we must include our human representatives in the equation.

A recent study conducted by Aberdeen Group noted that the top 20 percent of companies with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain 89 percent of their customers. For the other 80 percent, customer retention rates hover at 33 percent. The difference is huge. As technology is increasingly enabling customers to resolve many of their simpler tasks through self-service digital channels, the trend also means that the frontline customer service teams are now getting a much higher volume of the toughest queries. Think about the self-checkout lanes in the supermarket – we only turn to the cashier when the system locks up and we can’t complete our own self-checkout. That’s a moment when service matters. The big question is: Are you empowering them to be effective at that pivotal moment?

I once spent a fair amount of time with the digital marketing leader of a major “do it yourself” retail chain, who acknowledged that the digital marketing department in his company had advanced so effectively that customers were coming into the store with knowledge far beyond the service reps in the store aisles. That’s because they had done their research on the company’s digital channels and only required answers to higher magnitude questions once in the store aisles to pick up their materials. The brand had not accounted for its front-line service agents in the total customer experience design – and ended up with a self-inflicted customer experience wound that landed on the in-store staff.

To correct the issue, the retailer installed connected internet touchscreens throughout the store and hired seasoned “do it yourselfers” to access digital channels for educated conversations with shoppers right at the point of their queries. Customer satisfaction jumped when the service agents were included in the overall experience design.

While the front-line service reps should be designed into the overall customer engagement model, they are not a digital channel and shouldn’t be treated like one. Personalized service excellence is their goal, and customer data and digital technology should support their ability to meet customers’ needs right on the spot.

When I’m in Nordstrom and the shopping assistant can check inventory from their mobile device in seconds, that’s enablement. When a flight attendant noticed that I was flying on my birthday and rallied the other passengers into a rousing round of “Happy Birthday,” it was technology that enabled her to create the memorable experience that I still share with others. When an online hotel reservation system included a question about my reason for the trip and then the front desk clerk wove that reason into her check-in welcome dialog, those are the little things that matter. None of them were reading off a script, and all of them received the right data from back-end systems to create memorable interactions with the customer.

Sunrise Senior Living, a Sitecore customer offering comprehensive senior services and residency ranging from assisted living to rehabilitative care, has embraced this true omnichannel mindset to create a productive “conversation starter” for inquiries into their services. Realizing that its corporate website is a primary starting point for those researching assisted living solutions for their loved-ones, Sunrise embedded a “care questionnaire” into the web experience and then passes the data from completed surveys to its service reps, referred to as senior living counselors, for follow-up.

Now, instead of a prospect cold-call, the first call is a warm initial conversation that helps potential customers make tough life-decisions with more peace of mind. Sunrise Senior Living, which hires “the very best team members who have a natural serving heart and a commitment to providing the very best in service and care,” has seen its embrace of the holistic experience – including human service representatives – pay off.

 When brands understand that interactions with customers will sometimes be digital and others will be in-person, and when they work to align all of those touchpoints, that’s when the magic (and the customer retention!) happens. Not only do digital interactions become personalized, employees are empowered to offer experiences that exceed customer expectations. Often, people are the most impactful part of brands, so for brands to be successful and enhance the total experience, they must find the right combination of technology and people.

These are just a few examples of a personalized customer journey that combines the best of technology and people. Here’s a starter list of how to make sure your CX strategies are connected to your brand’s biggest asset – your people:

  1. Build person-to-person engagements into plan: It’s not just about digital channels. It’s about connecting every channel!
  2. Empower your people: When a customer service representative delights, surprises, and carries on the conversation, it can make the difference between customer churn and customer loyalty.
  3. Get context at the speed of micromoment: Customers make decisions in-the-moment based on information you give them, so dish up the right information at the right time to keep them moving forward.
  4. Embrace the uniqueness of people: Don’t have your teams read from a script. While it’s tempting, it’s more important to encourage authentic interaction.
  5. Use digital to reinforce, not replace, the relationship: Technology will give you all sorts of data, so loop those learnings back into training strategies.

Above all, it’s about connecting the digital and physical worlds to provide a seamless experience for customers. By using information collected across digital channels during in-person interactions, brands can delight customers with those extra special touches and, in the process, earn a customer’s business for life.

By Scott Anderson , Thursday, August 24, 2017

Posted: Thursday 19 October 2017