cx for better or worse

CX: For Better or For Worse

Those of us who find ourselves so enamored with CX that we’ve embraced it as our chosen career might, at times, feel a bit like we’ve entered a marriage.

Those of us who find ourselves so enamored with customer experience (CX) that we’ve embraced it as our chosen career might, at times, feel a bit like we’ve entered a marriage.

by Ginger Conlon

We stay, for better or worse. And we’ve seen both. In honor of CX Day, let’s gaze amazedly at a few of the areas we’ve enjoyed — and endured —since our unspoken vows brought us here.

The Better

CX is more important, and strategic, than ever before. In many organizations, CX has moved from grassroots to the C-suite. Within the 58% of companies surveyed for the upcoming report “The state of customer experience,” the head of CX reports to the executive board or CEO. Survey respondents said the Chief Experience Officer (23%) typically leads CX functions, followed by the Head of Customer Service (22%) or Chief Customer Officer (20%).

Customers are spoiled for choice. Consumers today can interact with companies on their channels of choice — from voice to bots to social to virtual home assistants — when and where it’s convenient. While voice still leads as a favored touchpoint among 68% of consumers surveyed, nearly two-thirds have interacted with companies via email. And nearly half have used live web chat over the past year. More than 10% have even used voice assistants, such as Alexa, for customer service — and satisfaction is greater than all the other digital channels, with 46% of consumers saying they’re highly satisfied.

Cloud technologies support innovation. Maintaining quality of service while operating aging technology is one of the top challenges facing CX leaders today, according to the survey. Those using cloud models are faring far better. Companies are most likely to deploy future-forward CX assets, such as digital engagement tools, chatbots, and analytics and reporting dashboards, in the cloud.

CX leaders said the top benefits of moving to the cloud are better access to data insights across channels and the ability to add new features or capabilities more quickly. Those advantages are among the reasons that, of companies using on-premises technology, approximately 70% are considering moving to cloud-based platforms.

The Continual Work in Progress

What gets measured gets done. Despite CX leaders’ best efforts to deliver empathetic customer experiences, frontline contact center employees are still focused on their abilities to get things done. When asked their greatest strength as contact center employees, more than half of agents cited their thoroughness and completeness. One-third said it’s their efficiency, speed and adherence, according to the report “Human values: The operating system of a high-performing contact center.” Only 9% said their greatest strength is quality, empathy and listening. Compensation and recognition were issues noted. Agents are still rewarded on adherence to efficiency metrics.

There’s still a service gap. More than ever before, the majority of consumers want to be listened to, heard and understood when interacting with their preferred brands — and it matters more to them than being served quickly. While consumers strongly dislike having to repeat themselves, they said a first-contact resolution is the most important outcome of a CX interaction. Businesses, on the other hand, prioritize professionalism and friendliness, according to the CX leaders who responded to “The state of customer experience” survey. Just 41% of those executives said their company is extremely effective in providing a first-contact resolution.

Walking the “personalization versus privacy” tightrope. Consumers want personalization, but they also want to protect their data. Globally, consumers said respect for their data privacy and personal information is the number one social, ethical or environmental issue they expect companies to care about and advocate for. Businesses are aligned: Almost 60% of CX leaders said this is a topic their company prioritizes and evangelizes.

On the flip side, 80% of consumers said they’re more likely to purchase additional items, make recommendations to friends and colleagues, and devote a greater share of wallet to companies that consistently personalize their experiences. More than half of consumers appreciate companies retaining their purchase history for future personalization. Nearly half appreciate an agent having access to their personal preferences.

Some 45% of CX leaders said their companies offer customers an extremely personalized experience; for one-quarter, the customer experience is still “somewhat” or “not at all” personalized. And 34% of CX leaders said managing data privacy and compliance is the greatest challenge facing their company’s customer experience function.

To beef up their capacity, CX leaders also said their top strategic priorities for this year are enhancing data capabilities for real-time insights, analytics and reporting, and upgrading customer privacy and compliance tools.

The Worse

The waiting is (still) the hardest part. Call volumes have increased exponentially, and voice remains the most popular channel, but long hold times negatively affect satisfaction. Despite speed-of-answer SLAs, the average wait time during normal hours is 10 minutes, according to survey respondents. At peak times, callers may wait an average of 15 minutes; even off-peak callers can linger on hold for up to eight minutes.

Eighty percent of consumers, on the other hand, said any hold time over five minutes is unacceptable. Are businesses listening? Perhaps. The top benefit they hope to achieve by deploying chatbots is to reduce the amount of time spent on hold. Many have found consumers to become more patient when they have the option for a callback.

Bad behavior is on the rise. Consumers aren’t just more assertive than ever; many are also downright rude. Consumer behavior is reverberating in the contact center, and it’s even more evident in social channels. CX leaders report that resilience is fast becoming a key trait among frontline contact center staff.

Your Love Language

Like any relationship, the one between company and customer is nurtured through mutual respect, hard work and commitment. But CX leaders who stick by their customers through the ups and downs — for better or worse — using CX strategies and technologies to support them along the way, are the ones who will feel the customer love come back to them over the long run.

customer expectations - Ginger ConlonGinger Conlon, an award-winning editorial leader, currently serves as president of DMCNY, thought leadership director at Genesys, and an advisor on the Environmental Defense Fund’s Digital Advisory Council. She also serves on the Marketing Advisory Board for Baruch University’s Department of Marketing and International Business. In her distinguished career covering the marketing industry, she has served as U.S. editor of The Drum, as well as chief editor of Direct Marketing News, 1to1 Media,and CRM magazine. She was honored with a DMCNY Silver Apple award.

Photo by Hisu lee on Unsplash.

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