Three Ways to Reduce Customer Effort and Build Customer Value

How hard is it to be your customer?

If your service organization is like many others, you put too many obstacles between a customer inquiry and its successful resolution. Perhaps your customers must hop from one disconnected communication channel to another. Perhaps your agents must weave through multiple, inconsistent systems. Maybe your IT team struggles with changing business requirements and an interminable backlog of requests. How can you reduce customer effort and build up the long-term relationship with your customers?

The goals of any customer service organizations typically fall into three categories:

  • Improve customer satisfaction, by increasing metrics such as NPS scores or First Call Resolution rates.
  • More productive employees, by improving metrics such as Average Handle Time or Occupancy, or meeting your SLAs.
  • More revenue, by cross-sells and up-sells. In service-oriented industries like healthcare or government, it’s instead about “conversions,” such as increasing enrollment in programs or services. 

If that’s our customer service mission, then it seems crazy, in this digital age, to see what our customer service reality is. So many contact centers are falling short of these goals.

  • Customers are dissatisfied, because they have a disjointed, disconnected customer experience when they make contact, especially across more than one channel.
  • Employees are unproductive, because they deal with overly complicated systems that get in the way of delivering a high-quality customer experience.
  • Conversions don’t happen, because with so many offers coming and going as your organization evolves, contact centers are often the last to know about them—even if they’re expected to lead in execution. That’s because whoever is in charge of maintaining those systems can’t keep up with the backlog of requests.

In other words, the effort that customers must put forth to get what they need from your business is growing every day. We often fail to deliver customer service suitable for this digital age, putting up obstacles that require sometimes Herculean levels of customer effort to work through our own quirks as a service organization.

To deliver a great customer experience and overcome these obstacles, your customer service should invest in three areas: the Power to Engage, the Power to Simplify, and the Power to Change.

The Power to Engage

Customer service has long stopped being confined to phone calls. Nearly three quarters of all customers use three or more channels for customer service issues. Whether it’s mobile apps, social media, instant message, video chat, co-browsing on your website, or even in-person – your customer service needs to be able to switch between these channels without restarting their conversation with you each time.

You need to break down the organizational silos that force your customer to run these obstacle courses. If you can empower your employees with the right information, guidance, and authority, and connect them to centralized information no matter what the channel, then your agent can connect the dots instead of hoping the customer can do it.

The Power to Simplify

Take a walk around many contact centers and you’ll see some decidedly un-digital artifacts. Screens are crowded with way too many applications. Sticky notes and workarounds get tacked to cubicle walls. Many have binders full of company policies, procedures, or special product offers. Manual processes and paper shuffling take care of whatever agents can’t by themselves.

To solve this problem, at a minimum your contact center needs a unified desktop that pulls all your customer information into one view. But even that’s not enough simplifying, because you’re still overwhelming your agents with information. You should provide intelligent guidance to your agents so they can make sense of that information. Tell them what to say next, step by step, based not only on the customer’s issue but also based on your business goals for that specific customer. Automate busy work and take care of decisions that don’t require their experience, so they can spend less time escalating or chasing workarounds and more time delivering a quality customer experience.

The Power to Change

Any failure to adapt to changes – limited time offers, new policies and procedures, exceptions to the rules – is a terrible blow to your customer’s expectations. Yet every customer service organization faces change. Whoever’s maintaining your systems, in traditional do-it-yourself software development, is constantly struggling to keep up with the requests.

You need to eliminate the lag time between when your business decides it needs a fix in place, and when you can deploy those changes to your business. You want those changes – those new products, decision points, and processes – to propagate across all channels, so you aren’t simultaneously reprogramming how you interact with customers across separate silos of disjointed customer experiences. For that to work, you need an environment in which business and IT can work together, with a common understanding of the steps in place from point A to point B. That way your team can rapidly adapt and quickly deploy changes.

You can’t expect success if you’re putting your customers through an obstacle course in today’s Digital Age. By engaging customers, simplifying operations, and quickly adapting to constantly changing market needs, your digital transformation can reduce customer effort and grow total customer value.