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Hidden Ways Contact Centers Shape CX
Submitted by Altivon

August 24, 2017

Hidden Ways Contact Centers Shape CX
The name may change but the idea of customer experience continues to fire the imagination of those in contact center and other customer-facing roles. Every contact center redesign, retrofit and facelift seems to point to CX as one of the compelling reasons for change. As in the movie ‘Field of Dreams’ there is a sense that if you build it they will come.
Yet, sometimes the best technology and processes fail to deliver on customer experience goals. Often the fault lies in a mismatch between customer expectations and system implementation. Something hidden is shaping and impacting the experience.
Keep in mind that customer experience represents the entirety of all interactions between an individual and an organization. This includes everything from IVR effectiveness to wait time, agent demeanor, time to resolution and outcome. It includes interactions over the phone, through chat, in store and everywhere else. It combines subjective (anger, joy, frustration) and objective (problem solved, money owed) and is often judged differently by the individual and organization. Customer experience is also impacted by parts of the organization not often recognized as having a role – like invoicing, delivery, field operations, etc.
Because everything has an effect, contact centers can influence customer experience in ways that are not obvious. The more you know about your customers, the more you will be able to tune your technologies and processes to meet their needs. You may be surprised to discover the hidden ways you are already shaping customer experience.
Traffic Cop or Inside Guide
IVR systems are well understood and widely disparaged. They are a great example of how a promising technology poorly implemented becomes a detriment to good customer experience. All too many IVR systems come across as a tool for the organization to shunt customers into agent queues for their own convenience. This seems all but confirmed when the agent picks up but has none of the information provided by the customer through the IVR. Worse, some IVR systems seem setup to keep customers from ever reaching a live agent. Whether intended or not, the contact center has just turned the IVR into a traffic cop.
Alternatively, if the IVR system is tuned to provide the most efficient path to an informed agent, the customer now has an inside guide. Time devoted to mapping out the right customer calling tree is time well spent. Customers will have a smoother, faster interaction with the IVR. Any interaction that can be completed without an agent is. For those calls connecting to agents, a little more technology gives them insight into the customer’s journey to that point. In either case, the contact center has shaped the customer experience in a subtle but important way.
The early application of machine learning or Artificial Intelligence in the form of virtual agents, chat bots and other ways is most often directed at improving the IVR experience,  the ability to self-serve or at least delivery of a smooth and content rich transfer to a live agent.
Next Agent or Best Agent
Routing in various forms has been around for as long as the contact center. Many organizations have experimented with the best way to prioritize interactions. The reality is that there is no best solution for every organization or individual, but there are ways to optimize.
First in/first out routing is perhaps the simplest style. If the agent pool is homogenous in experience, talent and personality then this can be as good as any other style. The scheduling challenge is simply to ensure that the pool is appropriately sized to handle peak and trough volumes.
In reality, the next agent is rarely the best agent for any given interaction. The agent pool is diverse and so are the interactions. This presents the opportunity to tune routing based on one or more criteria. For example, the contact center can base routing on skills, improving the odds that agents can efficiently handle the interactions sent to them. The contact center can also choose to route based on interaction type, pushing chats to one group, emails to another and calls to a third, for example.
Some centers are shifting their focus away from the interaction content toward customer attributes. Customers who have reached a high buying level or have a desired demographic profile may get prioritized in the queue or routed to designated agents. Behavioral traits can also be matched between customer and agent to create the most effective interaction.
Routing is too important to leave to chance. A little time spent understanding interaction history, customer demographics and the agent pool can yield the insight required to select an effective routing strategy. Then implement it in a way that supports a consistently positive customer experience.
Lifeguard on Duty
Self service has gained attention over the past few years as growing numbers of customers take on simple problem solving. These systems empower customers and free agents for more complex issues.
When customers fail to find a successful problem resolution, they need assistance. The agent acts as lifeguard, able to see the actions leading up to the cry for help and coming to the rescue. By creating that bridge to assisted service, the contact center reduces frustration and increases efficiency for everyone involved. Technology and best practices combine in a powerful end-to-end interaction that supports a positive customer experience.
Callbacks are a great idea, when executed properly. They shorten queues and reduce the perceived wait time. They save phone charges for both the caller and the center. They show respect.  In some cases, they provide a life line in an emergency situation like roadside assistance during a snow storm. A callback easily addresses the big problem of waiting on hold using a mobile phone that is losing battery power.
The requirements are actually quite low—call the customer phone number at the time requested. As the contact center establishes credibility, the use of callback services should  grow.
Smooth Operations
Monitoring, recording and analytics are underappreciated tools for customer experience. These tools are generally deployed to improve contact center operations by enabling coaching and fine tuning of interaction techniques.
These same tools can be used to evaluate the customer experience delivered by individual agents and the organization as a whole. With a slightly different perspective, the contact center can judge effectiveness and contribution to customer experience.
Shaping the Future
In the investment world, there is an old adage that past performance is not an indicator of future results. In the contact center, past performance can be used to improve future results. Every customer interaction represents a learning moment via surveys, interaction analysis, agent analysis and situational review. Those contact centers that employ these feedback mechanisms have an opportunity to actively influence the future.
Technology and best practices make good customer experiences possible. A conscious implementation and review methodology focused on customer first, last and always can truly shape the customer experience. 

This article merely scratches the surface of what is possible and necessary to positively affect the experience provided to your customers.  Altivon stands ready to help you explore these concepts further. | 866-982-5848. 


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