Customer expectations are rapidly evolving. Contact center strategies, unfortunately, are not. The result is a rapidly widening gap between what customers expect from the organizations they deal with, and the what those organizations think those expectations are.
A dramatic drop of the Contact Center Satisfaction Index for 2013 provided clear evidence of this gap. The authors of the report noted the increasing importance of the millennials demographic and changing expectations brought about by mobile computing platforms and the phenomenon of channel switching. Channel switching occurs when a customer chooses or is compelled to move from one form of communication (ex. web) to another form of communication (ex. voice). Research conducted by the CEB shows that more and more consumers are looking to web self-service first to resolve their issue, resorting to calling only when they cannot resolve their issue online. The increased customer effort required as a result negatively impacts customer loyalty and negates any potential benefits achieved by delighting the customer during a specific interaction.
Word of mouth marketing (WOMM) is still considered to be the most effective way to market practically any product or service. Whether the increased effort in dealing with an organization is actual or perceived, customers are far less likely to remain loyal to that organization and its products and to recommend them either to family, friends and colleagues. Worse, research conducted by Virtual Hold Technology has shown that customers will positively recommend an organization and its products to 7 people on average, but will negatively recommend them to 10 people on average. They are also more likely to share their negative experience using social media, which has the potential to reach hundreds if not thousands of contacts.
This is where the Net Promoter Score (NPS) becomes invaluable. The NPS provides a strong indicator of customer loyalty and whether that customer will in turn recommend the organization and its products (a promoter) or either not recommend or negatively recommend that organization (a detractor). Customers who don’t have an opinion either way are classified as passive. Because customers are more likely to vocalize their negative feedback, the detractor scale is much wider, ranging from 0 (the worst) to 6 (neutral). Promoters score a 9 or a 10. Organizations strive to have the majority of their customers score a 9 or 10, with that percentage increasing over time.
Despite concerns that the NPS question may be confusing for some, and perhaps not provide as clear a picture of customer loyalty to an organization and its products or services, it remains nonetheless a widely used and accepted metric in most industries. Moreover, there is a correlation between Customer Effort Score (CES) and the NPS. Customers who expend less effort in their relationship with an organization are more inclined to remain loyal to that organization, and in turn more inclined to promote them to their contacts. Removing barriers that make interactions between a customer and the organization then becomes a key strategy to reducing the CES and increasing the NPS.
To eliminate these barriers, organizations have to take a fresh look at how they are interacting with their customers. Delighting the customer on each and every interaction, which has been the common wisdom shared and measured by contact center vendors for decades, has not been effective in reducing effort because it focuses on the individual interactions, not the customer journey. Fundamentally, then, the first call resolution metric widely adopted by contact centers and promoted by contact center vendors is flawed. A customer may get a specific issue resolved on a call or via email, for example, but that issue or a related issue may come up again a few days later. From the customer’s perspective, their issue was not resolved.
Understanding how a customer interacts with an organization and uses its products and services provides an ongoing indicator of overall customer effort and provides clues as to ways organizations can better respond to customer needs while evolving their product and service offerings. Tracking customer touch points with the organization (ex. web, email, chat, phone, set top box, social media) and connecting those interactions with big data and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) solutions provides context to the customer’s evolving journey with the organization. This context allows organizations to derive key points in the customer journey and can provide valuable recommendations and insights into ways to continue improving that journey. This includes removing barriers to interacting with the organization and making the ongoing relationship as effortless as possible.
Platforms such as Virtual Hold Technology’s Navigator allow organizations to capture and analyze each interaction with a customer, capture key moments during these interactions, and then provide recommendations to improve the overall experience by identifying opportunities to reduce customer effort and maintain customer loyalty. A constantly improving journey with lower overall effort required by a customer to maintain their relationship with an organization will translate to a higher percentage of net promoters overall. These promoters will then be more likely to recommend the organization and its products and services to their family, friends and colleagues, by word of mouth or through social media channels. The end result is reduced customer churn and a corresponding increase in new customer acquisitions.