Evolution of the Customer Experience and Impact on Businesses

The customer experience has grown into an all-encompassing vision for businesses. Where once it was the responsibility of a single department, it now comprises all functions and levels within an organization—from marketing to IT to operations to sales.

Before the Digital Age, customers interacted with companies at their brick-and-mortar stores, by (snail) mail and through their call centers. This often meant that customer service took a backseat to growing profits. But this worked out OK for businesses because the customer was fairly removed from product design, had few alternatives, and had a limited ability to spread any negative feedback.

Now that society is more connected, and the flow of information has intensified, companies have been compelled to rethink their customer service strategies. As far back as 2013, CMO reported that 76 percent of retail customer touches take place through websites, followed by 73 percent through email messages, 50 percent with in-person store visits and 43 percent through mobile. Now, growing profits means providing an experience that meets or exceeds customer expectations. Otherwise, you may be called out on social media platforms or be replaced by a competitor.

Opportunities in a connected world

The digital expansion of customer touch points adds complexity to the customer experience, but it also offers a variety of channels for reaching your key targets. Through social media, your website blog, forums, YouTube and many other channels, you can engage with customers and immerse them in your brand. With interesting, relevant and informative content, you develop trust and then loyalty.

What’s important is that you don’t let content about your brand move beyond your control. Consumers are constantly exposed to information that may make them reassess their choices—don’t let your brand take the fall. We are in an era of non-stop evaluation. Companies must use advanced analytical capabilities to follow and guide customers through the journey.

Accenture research shows that two factors are key to the customer experience: 1) trustability, and 2) continuous, complete and fast service. The consulting firm also found that a good experience with one company drives customer expectations for all other companies. This means that businesses should take note of best practices and deploy them in their operations.

Overall, a customer-centric organization will adopt customer experience management as a formal business process that is focused on developing deep, broad, long-term customer relationships.

Impact of improved customer experience

After implementing a differentiated customer experience strategy, you can expect significant positive results, per Accenture, such as:

  • New customer acquisition: Better customer management can lead to a 10 to 12 percent improvement in customer acquisition.
  • Customer retention: Higher customer satisfaction results in a 10 to 15 percent increase in retention.
  • More purchases: Nine out of 10 customers experiencing increased satisfaction would buy 8 to 10 percent more products from a company.
  • Lower costs: Organizations that manage the customer experience well can expect the costs of acquisitions and service to decline by 5 to 8 percent.

Expect these sorts of successes if your company has evolved to the point where all stakeholders across the organization are aligned to deliver a stellar customer experience.

Customer Service: Stand Out or Become Irrelevant

What does it mean to stand out in the customer service space? According to ContactBabel’s “The US Contact Center Decision-Makers’ Guide 2016,” it requires four principal assets: omnichannel support, quality management, real-time speech analytics, and other technologies that improve the customer journey.

If your contact center is missing any of these four components, it may one day become irrelevant to consumers. This could spell the demise of your brand, as the customer experience is primed to overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator by 2020, according to a Walker report.

In fact, McKinsey tells us that maximizing satisfaction with customer journeys has the potential to improve customer satisfaction by 20 percent, and increase revenue by up to 15 percent while lowering the cost of customer service by as much as 20 percent.

Here’s how these four principal assets make customer care highly satisfactory at every touchpoint on the customer journey:

Omnichannel: Integrated next-generation solutions (think unified communications—UC) in the contact center expedite resolution time by enabling an entire organization to work on a single communications platform using multiple communication channels. You’ll eliminate customer frustration with being put on hold or being transferred from agent to agent, especially when the interaction’s context is not transferred. In a UC-enabled environment, agents can see the presence/availability of their associates, and send instant messages or text messages as needed to speed resolution. Live screen sharing or instant messages enable collaboration with knowledge workers who can address customer questions.

Quality management: Quality management of customer service begins and ends with visibility into all the channels and interactions involved in customer care. To provide an excellent customer experience, businesses must be able to keep track of each contact across the customer life cycle from a single location. This means that agents need to be supplied with tools that allow them to quickly get up to speed on a customer’s history.

Real-time speech analytics: This technology, known as RTSA for short, analyzes voice data on the fly and can make corrective suggestions not only after a call but during it as well. Agents get screen pop-ups, for example, if they make a mistake informing a customer about a discount amount or promotion. The technology can also identify potential concerns, like stress indicators, such as a raised voice, cross-talking, speaking rate and call quality. Agents and their managers are proactively alerted to issues before they escalate and risk customer satisfaction.

Advanced technologies: Several tools to improve customer satisfaction in the contact center were mentioned above. There are also several tools that you would be wise to jettison from your facility lest they stall good service. These legacy solutions include any that uphold siloed communication channels. Replace them with a CRM that is integrated with your other contact center systems. Don’t neglect to also unify siloed back-office data that can impede CRM initiatives and thwart efforts to improve customer service. In addition, consider replacing your traditional phone system, which is likely costly and inflexible, with Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology. VoIP provides free long-distance calls and gives staff freedom to work anywhere with a computer and an Internet connection.

Social Customer Service in the Contact Center: 7 Best Practices

A formal customer service social media group could be a boon to your contact center. It could be tasked with developing an efficient strategy to manage channels like Facebook and Twitter—to benefit customers and the business.

Assign members to the group who are socially savvy. For the uninitiated, social media can be intimidating, so give some of your in-house millennials (who grew up in the Digital Age) a shot at wrangling the social beast. Be sure, as well, to add experienced customer service staff to the team.

When handled skillfully, customer service via social media can enhance the customer experience and even create brand loyalty that is infectious. This is the potential impact of 24/7 customer access, instant communication and quick problem resolution.

In a nutshell, social can be a valuable ally for your brand, so it’s worth making the effort.

A very public forum

Social media is also a highly visible forum for disgruntled customers to complain.  A gripe can speed around a social platform, spreading vitriolic negativity wherever it goes. This is even more of a reason to manage social media for your brand.

You need to be where your customers are—both to boost engagement and to thwart destructive comments. And your customers are on social. In one JD Power survey of more than 23,000 online consumers, 67 percent of respondents claimed to have contacted a company via social media for support.

Customer expectations are rising when it comes to social media. It used to be a pleasant surprise when a brand responded to a customer care issue on social media. Now, it’s become de rigueur for companies, meaning that sites such as Facebook and Twitter have become important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service.

Social media and customer lifetime value

With social media in your pocket, you have a better chance of retaining customers—because you have a better chance of keeping them happy.

Here are seven ways to provide great customer service through social media:

  1. Choose the right platform(s): Determine where to focus your social media time and resources by searching for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. If your customers aren’t talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations and add something of value.
  2. Monitor for mentions: Use available tools to automate the process of searching for mentions. Collect and analyze customer activity to better understand their issues and to respond appropriately. Use insights to make decisions for improving customer service.
  3. Respond quickly: Your company size and industry vertical will affect your social metrics. You may need to sift through a lot of “noise.” You may also need a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn certain messages into tickets—with a caveat: In the fast-paced world of social media, speed of response is critical, so assign priority accordingly.
  4. Adjust your tone: Be friendly, but not too friendly. While chumminess, including emojis, is acceptable between friends and family, don’t necessarily expect a warm welcome when they come from your business. As a general rule of thumb, keep language concise and professional, but avoid canned responses and be personal. You may have to strike a different tone with each customer, adjusting based on the responses you receive. What tickles one person might offend another.
  5. Take heated issues offline: Customers can be unfair and demanding. Tactfully and quickly, take negative conversations offline before they do damage to your brand. Placate the customer while signaling to online observers that the issue is being handled. Don’t simply pass the customer to another channel, like email, as that can come off as rude and non-empathetic.
  6. Leverage your database: Save yourself time and make life easier for your customers by linking to knowledge base articles. Rather than explaining complex processes over social media, provide easy guides built to help. Furthermore, use your CRM software to leverage customer histories that can add value to social media conversations.
  7. Know when to switch to crisis mode: One or two complaints are manageable. If 100 customers are mentioning the same problem, it’s a crisis for your brand. Make sure you have a planned response: Have a trusted PR firm on retainer, or a company leader prepared to address customers directly.

Use these seven social media best practices to deliver great support on the social platforms that your customers already frequent. You’ll build stronger relationships and create more loyal customers.

Your Contact Center Has a Bright Future

Trends in the contact center space include customer demand for self-service: what many customers today consider the quickest and easiest way to resolve issues. When customers do personally reach out to companies, they are often rankled by the service they receive. In fact, the majority are dissatisfied. Does this mean your contact center’s days are numbered? On the contrary!  There’s good reason for optimism.

First of all, today’s contact centers are focused on providing a valuable customer experience. Quality is paramount. This is why many companies that shipped their customer service organizations overseas have pulled them back to shore. Customers just weren’t happy with language barriers and cultural differences that often came to light.

Improvements in meeting customer expectations are reflected in the multiple communication channels many contact center facilities now provide to “be where their customers are.” Customer preferences are considered a top priority. This means that interactive voice response (IVR) systems are now easier to navigate, and customers receive callbacks rather than waiting on hold for a customer care Communicator.

And while contact centers are responding to consumer demand for self-service options, the top-notch ones continue to provide live Communicators for more complex issue resolution. While research shows that customers prefer to resolve their own problems when possible, a personal touch is desired when things get complicated. This approach means that today’s Communicators develop expertise regarding their company’s products and services.

Today’s leading contact centers also ensure that Communicators can leverage intelligence across the organization—from data collected in corporate networks to staff in other departments. This requires integration of internal systems and intelligent routing capabilities, which—if not already in place—are on the docket for contact centers eager to respond at the highest level to customer needs.

A 2017 report by JLL Research on U.S. contact centers states that the contact center industry showed steady growth across global markets in 2016, outpacing economic growth. The U.S. contact center industry maintained the largest share of the global market, with 1.5 percent annual growth in contact center spending. In 2015, the U.S. market supported 2.6 million contact center employees—a gain of 34.5 percent over the past five years.

The report also revealed that third-party providers, which represent 25 percent of the contact center industry, are expected to increase revenues as corporations turn to outsourcing basic business and analytics functions. North American contact center outsourcing providers had 2015 revenues of $9.4 billion—up 22.3 percent from 2013.

Even online businesses that have moved away from contact centers in favor of social media and virtual help centers are coming back. In fact, an Econsultancy article reveals that 76 percent of companies learn about website problems as a result of calls to their contact centers. In addition, many Web transactions are still completed with the help of a customer care agent, and many customers will go elsewhere if the interaction is not smooth.

The contact center is actually more of a central hub than ever because customers expect to be able to jump to a live Communicator from any channel. The contact center is also the place where businesses are bridging gaps between online and offline channels, giving companies the complete context of their customers’ interactions. With these insights, the contact center is shaping the customer experience with extraordinary service that should bring customers back again and again.

Five Ways to Meet Customer Expectations in the Digital Age

We all know by now—at this point in the Digital Age—that customers are strongly influencing how businesses operate. Events have transpired to flip the traditional sales model on its ear.

Whereas companies used to hold at least some of the cards—developing “solutions” for customers who didn’t know how to solve their own problems—now consumers are armed with data to define solutions for themselves.

The new reality is that consumers today are self-reliant, mobile and demanding. They can quickly do their own research on-the-go via the Internet, but then they expect prompt delivery of the products and services they desire. Along the way, when they bump up against your brand, they expect a personal and stylized interaction.

Fail to understand and/or adapt to the new rules of customer engagement at your own peril. Your key targets are texting, tweeting, browsing and chatting, often using self-service channels, peer-based communities and social networks to find service. A poor response from you and they’ll simply go elsewhere.

To make sure you know how to deliver great service and build strong relationships, take a look at the following five consumer expectations for contact centers, based on an Aspect report:

  • Understand preferences and personalize interactions: Sixty-eight percent of consumers say they’re annoyed when they have to repeat themselves. This means you must maintain the context of every interaction with customers, including between channels. Use this information to dynamically adapt a self-service menu or provide an agent with a customer history. Leverage it further to proactively deliver a service before a customer asks for it.
  • Offer mobile channels: Customers want to interact with brands any way they prefer—from SMS to voice to chat to social—on their mobile devices. Deploy mobile apps that create a seamless transition when customers call into an IVR or connect with an agent.
  • Enable self-service: Provide an omnichannel self-service offering. It’ll lower your costs while aligning your contact center with customer preferences. Another benefit is that this option elevates your agents to experts on complex issues, since most people contact companies only after exhausting other potential resources.
  • Don’t be a time drain: Yes, consumers want fast and easy access to information; after all, they’re only human! Some 66 percent of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to win their favor. As many as 45 percent of U.S. adults will abandon their online purchases if they don’t receive a quick answer to a question. Consider that lowering customer effort can be as simple as being where they are. For instance, embed an instant chat button on your website or streamline self-service menus based on frequent behaviors or a recent transaction.
  • Educate: Well-informed customers are more likely to become loyal brand advocates—veritable extensions of your customer support team. Plus, by offering relevant information, you help your customers discover new and improved ways to use your products or services.

Of course, to meet these expectations, you’ll need to access modern technologies and tools. For example, a workforce optimization solution can be the cornerstone of agent performance and productivity, leading to better customer experiences. In addition, plan to optimize your CRM system using experience continuity data to intelligently route inquiries. You can also deploy cloud, hosted or hybrid solutions to gain flexibility and enable rapid adoption of new features that will keep you competitive.

The Contact Center as a Career Option

Many of today’s youths have been leveraging the services of contact centers for years. Since their mobile devices are always close at hand, any product or service issue is quickly directed to one of these centers. Quite a few of these same young people have also worked as agents—or Communicators, as we call them—in one of these customer care facilities. According to a USA Today article, an estimated 5 million Americans are employed in about 66,000 contact centers in the United States.

Contact center leadership criteria

If your goal is to become a customer service manager, you should be able to integrate and manage customers, constraints, quality and people—to achieve business goals. Being able to lead effectively also requires the ability to analyze and troubleshoot complex problems.

Job advancement will further depend on your knack for influencing, negotiating with and persuading others. Can you motivate employees to achieve business goals? That, and an ability to assess a situation, propose solutions and choose the best option, will put you in good stead as a management candidate.

Effective communication, including the ability to express thoughts clearly, as well as to listen carefully and respond appropriately, is a skill of particular value in a contact center leader. It requires accurate conveyance—using proper grammar, spelling and sentence structure—of business information through communication channels such as email, chat and instant messaging.

Another general vocational criterion for success in the contact center is, of course, a desire to provide service to customers—and contribute to the common good. Consider the focus of a contact center: Inbound centers administer product support or information inquiries from consumers. Outbound centers are operated for telemarketing, solicitation of charitable or political donations, debt collection and market research.

Developing leadership competencies

Good leadership within an organization is the foundation for strategic efforts to challenge competitors, build talent and install optimal processes. When Communicators strive for advancement, contact center leaders should be there to help them develop the skills that will be used later to build a more robust contact center.

Proper coaching and training now will allow future frontline contact center managers to handle responsibilities that encompass the fast-paced turnover of systems, processes, technology and resources.

While formal training can build the awareness and fundamentals necessary for leadership, more valuable yet may be learning by observation and imitation. Apply the following principals to your actions to guide the development of leaders within your contact center:

  • Immerse yourself in the business: Knowledge is power. Understand and be able to articulate the business strategy to better execute the cadence of the organization.
  • Coach and mentor: Promote accountability in direct reports through action and results. Teach others what you’ve learned. Help people discover and explore their strengths and improve on weaknesses.
  • Network/build meaningful relationships: Do this at all levels of the organization, especially with customers and suppliers to build influence, branding and alignment.
  • Align with critical organizational core competencies: Take identified core leadership skills and create your own unique, appealing know-how.
  • Set standards for performance: Lead by example and influence people to act the same way. This requires building credibility by being authentic and fair, and inspiring those around you to meet the standards you’ve set.

These principals cannot be executed in a vacuum. Your organization needs to be set up with systems and norms that can be enacted regularly to develop leaders from within and close any management gaps.

Small Gestures to Make Customers Feel Valued

We live in a data-driven and digital-first world, making it easy for companies to overlook the value of genuinely connecting with customers.

Even as consumers yearn for self-service options to speed up transactions with brands, and even as they opt to research products and services long before contacting a vendor about a purchase, they still welcome small gestures of appreciation from the businesses they patronize. What’s more, they develop loyalty to the brands that show them respect by going the extra mile to meet their needs.

Consider how top customer service companies like Amazon, Nordstrom and Hyatt Hotels work harder, smarter and more effectively to satisfy their customers, making them feel valued and prone to repeat business. For example, on top of offering incredibly fast response times and seamless returns, Amazon empowers employees to sacrifice an immediate sale or their time for the sake of resolving a customer’s issues. When customer satisfaction is a company’s primary focus, customer retention is often a given.

Businesses without the processes or machinery to compete with multibillion dollar companies like Amazon are not, however, without resources that can impact customer relationships just as notably and favorably. Sometimes a personal touch—from a friendly smile to remembering a customer’s name to a waived fee—goes a long way toward building a lasting relationship.

For example, some insurance companies give their associates the option of sending customers celebratory or sympathy cards, or the authority to send a hand-written message.

Developing the necessary customer-centricity that encourages customer devotion to a brand must start at the top of the company hierarchy. This is where strategies for understanding and meeting customer need must start and then flow to employees, aligning them with the vision. This may mean loosening the reins of scripted interactions, which also means boosting hiring practices to ensure that the right people are in place—with the right emotional predilections—to address customer concerns with aplomb.

Companies that limit customer service due to time or budget constraints are missing the opportunity to grow their business. Remember when Starbuck Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz closed all Starbucks locations for three hours during normal business hours to give employees a refresher course on the art of making expresso? He also discussed the importance of getting to know customers and greeting them by name.

Yet, simpler measures—like bringing hotel guests extra towels, or presenting restaurant patrons with a free drink on their birthdays—can be just as effective.

Don’t neglect to leverage your company’s data to deliver personalized services. For example, your customer relationship management (CRM) solution makes it easy to map a customer’s phone number or email address with a customer record. Airlines do this all the time to automatically alert passengers of a flight delay or cancellation. When a passenger calls in, an automated system recognizes them and can quickly offer assistance.

If you notice a gap between customer expectations and the customer service you provide, make it a priority to get a leg up on your competitors by showering your customers with tokens of appreciation for the value they provide to your business. Small gestures will go a long way toward enhancing the customer experience and reducing customer churn.

Is Private Customer Information Secure in Your Contact Center?

Cybercriminals are on the prowl, just waiting for some human to slip up and give them access to proprietary company data. As is usually the case, human beings—who are both emotional and non-automated—are the weakest link in the security chain. Do your employees have the training and tools to thwart invasive actions from criminals? Would they recognize, for example, an email ruse—one containing malware—from a hacker?

While increased IT spending on security has closed some doors to criminals, windows can be jimmied open—especially where humans are part of the defensive framework.

Even though 9 percent of IT budgets were allocated to security in 2016, up from 4 percent in 2014, according to the SANS Institute, cybercriminals will, no doubt, continue to get around the even-more-advanced protections supported by these investments.

Yet, with a renewed focus on security threats, contact center leaders can reduce the risk that “social engineering”—attacks that involve tricking people into breaking normal security procedures—will dupe their employees.

Primarily, companies must create a culture where security is a top priority for all staff. Not only will security improvements protect your business, they will protect your customers, thus enhancing the customer experience. Indeed, consumer research shows that customers are well-informed about security issues, and that as many as 70 percent of them are uncomfortable sharing sensitive information, especially over the phone.

Yet they still do it. Forward-thinking organizations, however, will take steps now to enhance their security protocol with technology—before consumers opt for other ways to make their purchases. Better security will help people feel more comfortable engaging in phone transactions, resulting in increased customer satisfaction … and increased spending.

Currently, organizations are not taking adequate steps to prevent negligent employee behavior. In fact, a study conducted by Experian Data Breach Resolution and Ponemon Institute, found that 60 percent of the 600 individuals polled—who work at companies with a data protection and privacy training program in place—don’t believe their employees are knowledgeable about security risks.

This means trouble, as the study also brought to light the fact that 55 percent of the companies surveyed have experienced a security incident caused by an employee.

Surprisingly, although employee-related security risks are the No. 1 concern for security professionals, according to Experian/Ponemon, only 35 percent of respondents said senior management makes it a priority. This indicates a gap between awareness and action.

To narrow the gap, consider taking the following steps:

  • Move beyond simple employee education practices to mandatory security training that covers a complete roster of risks that lead to data breaches. Critical areas should include phishing and social engineering, mobile device security and cloud services safety.
  • Provide incentives to employees for being proactive in protecting sensitive information or reporting potential issues. Incentives can be financial and/or part of performance reviews.
  • Develop and implement consequences for negligent behavior that causes a data breach.
  • Vet technology solutions that allow customers to enter sensitive information via keypad, so employees don’t see the information. Credit card numbers are sent directly to processing and the contact center Communicator receives notification of approval.
  • Ensure that, even if the human element is misled, measures—like simply leaving the data in some format unusable by criminals—are in place to prevent the looting of payment cards and personal information. For example, replace sensitive data with a unique and meaningless equivalent, known as a token, that has no exploitable value.

The best way that contact center leaders can combat employee susceptibility to social engineering is to acknowledge and prepare for the likelihood that staff can thwart protective security measures through negligence or malicious intent.

Alleviating Emotional Exhaustion in the Contact Center

Working at a frontline customer-facing job involves a high level of emotional exertion. Burnout, or mental exhaustion, and turnover are, therefore, statistical inevitabilities of contact centers.

Customer care Communicators are expected to display socially appropriate emotions and suppress negative ones. They are asked to create empathy, rapport and trust with customers and to appear happy and eager to serve. At the same time, they must continuously manage customer interactions and resolves issues—work which is generally acknowledged to be tedious and stressful—while being constantly monitored for adherence to procedures and schedules.

Communicators often have to deal with impatient, rude and aggressive customers on top of everything else. In fact, a Psychology Today study of call center workers in the U.S. found that some Communicators averaged up to 10 hostile encounters per day with customers.

Symptoms of burnout can manifest themselves in a demoralized and cynical staff that fails to provide meaningful interaction with customers. This will, of course, negatively impact service levels and customer satisfaction, as well as brand reputation and overall profitability.

What’s more, a University of British Columbia study on the effect of rudeness on call center employees reveals that employees respond to customer rudeness with similar discourteous behavior, creating a downward spiral in civility, substantially reducing service quality.

In this environment, what can contact center managers do to minimize burnout and create higher levels of employee engagement and customer care? Here are a few suggestions:

Hire stable employees: Assessing the overall mental stability of Communicator job applicants is critical for avoiding damaging interactions in the contact center. Weed out inappropriate candidates—those with predilections for anxiety, hypersensitivity, nervousness, moodiness, and low frustration or stress tolerance—using a personality assessment tool designed for your specific contact center. “Live bodies” ill-suited for the job will drag down the effectiveness of your entire operation.

Focus on quality, not costs: Emphasize customer satisfaction and first call resolution as your key performance indicators, not cost per call/interaction and average handle time. Otherwise, the work environment incorporates penalties for Communicators who do not hurry their customers off the phone to meet productivity standards. You create conflict stress for Communicators when you ask them to both act quickly and maximize customer satisfaction. Instead, empower Communicators with a mandate to do everything they can to satisfy the customer on the first call no matter how long it takes.

Lead by example: A Communicator’s tenure in your contact center is directly influenced by his or her supervisor. Supervisors who envision their role as enforcer/disciplinarian or who favor employees for reasons other than merit create apathy and frustration in their staff. On the other hand, supervisors who lead by example, coaching and providing constructive performance feedback, foster a sense of belonging among employees. Supervisors also must be given the time they need to coach, which may mean that contact center leaders need to increase the ratio of supervisors to Communicators.

How to Optimize Your Multichannel Contact Center

In response to customer demand, you’ve built multichannel support into your contact center. While the technology available today likely got you there easily enough, best practices for optimizing your multichannel service strategy have probably not been as easy to pin down.

Perhaps you’ve experienced trouble trying to link channels for reporting purposes, or train customer care Communicators on different channels, or maintain consistent answers across channels. Yet, now that multichannel contact centers have become the norm, best practices for tackling such concerns are emerging—such as unifying disparate applications.

Each new channel, like social media or SMS messaging, adds complexity to the contact center. When the various applications operate in siloes, support suffers. To improve the customer experience with your business, the applications must be integrated to ease communication. This allows you to tap into all the relevant data pertaining to an interaction and deliver it to the Communicator in advance, enabling him or her to more efficiently and effectively address the customer’s needs.

When customer information—from purchase history to social media activity to demographics—is made available at the Communicator’s desktop, you will begin to see an improved customer experience in your contact center. Customers aren’t repeating themselves, for one thing, leading to not only decreased frustration, but decreased average handling time (AHT) and increased first contact resolution (FCR).

What’s more, Communicators with a central user interface for accessing applications don’t need to dig for information while customers wait, which makes them more productive than their counterparts without central systems. This will also decrease AHT and boost customer satisfaction. Furthermore, providing your Communicators with a range of channels and content types will help keep them engaged. Plus, multiskilled Communicators provide you with resource flexibility at peak times.

Another challenge of managing multiple channels of communication is achieving a single view of the customer, so that contact can be tracked across channels. With a connected cloud service and CRM integrations, customers can call, then live chat, then email … without re-explaining their issues.

Although contact center leaders should ensure consistency in service across channels, and have an overall—not channel-by-channel—vision for the contact center, opportunities for improving the customer experience also exist within individual channels. We provide a few tips for maximizing the potential of various channels below:

Chat: Protect quality and attention to detail by handling no more than three or four Web chats at a time. Encourage rapport by integrating identifiers into the chat so the Communicator knows who the customer is from the get-go. Also, post hyperlinks into Web chat to route customers to rich media or a self-help page, which will enable self-service and decrease AHT. Develop policies for closing chats when it seems a client is no longer responding.

Social media: Leverage the skills of Communicators who already use social media extensively in their personal lives. Tailor responses to the individual but also keep a lid on drawn-out conversations; Communicators should focus on delivering service and, then, exit the social platform. Your integrated communication system should include the automatic forwarding of tweets and other social media messages to email to ensure they are not missed.  This is especially important if they contain negative material that must be addressed quickly to avoid damaging your brand’s reputation.

Text: Develop guidelines for “text speak”; the casual lingo used by customers isn’t appropriate for most businesses.