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Contact Centre Solutions Apr 18, 2017

How innovation and digital technology can improve the customer experience

By Hamid Gharib Principal Researcher, BT

As customers move increasingly towards digital and mobile technology, they want to interact in new ways.

They’re using different channels to interact with brands and switching between them throughout the customer journey.

As a result, many corporates are starting to look at how well their customer interactions match up to expectations. It’s no longer about simply fixing faults and making improvements. Customers want better, more personalised and more complete experiences that surprise and delight them.

So delivering a great customer experience is key, and organisations need to recognise its importance in improving customer advocacy and reducing costs.

We’ve spoken to Hamid Gharib, one of our principle big data and customer experience researchers, about the customer experience challenges faced by organisations today.

What kind of technology is available to improve customer interactions?

There are lots of technologies available in the digital world. Omni-channel, automation and self-service technologies that enable proactive contact are all capable of improving customer advocacy while keeping costs down.

One of the key technologies which we’re starting to see being used is advanced user interaction and transactions through micro-apps technology. During an interaction with customers, you might promise to carry out an action, e.g. deliver an item, visit the customer, or fix a fault.

The interaction becomes more memorable and helpful by creating a recap – one which is visually appealing and personalised - listing details of the promises made. These recaps are sent directly to customers and accessed through mobile apps.

Quite often, a bad experience comes following a fault with a product. What can be done to improve the customer interactions in this scenario?

One of the most frustrating things for customers can be the experience of trying to describe a fault. But through video technology, it’s now possible for your customer advisors to proactively take control and see what’s going on.

This can be done through the video cameras on a customer’s smart phone, and it enables service teams to provide richer support and often guide customers to do what’s needed to fix the issue.

This typically leads to faster and more accurate problem resolution, and therefore, drastically improves the experience into one which is positive for the customer.

Consumers now expect an integrated experience across all channels, but this can make it difficult for brands to offer a seamless, yet still personalised experience. What type of technology can brands implement to drive this experience?

Omni-channel and self-service are two technology areas which drive such an experience.

The latest generation of Customer Relation Management (CRM) systems provide the capability to bring data together from various channels (e.g. voice, social media, email, SMS). This enables customers to engage with brands in whichever way they want, and receive a consistent experience when doing so. In addition, the customer journey can start on one channel and continue on others depending on customer preference or changing circumstances.

The next generation of customers expect to choose when and how they interact with brands. But when your business has millions of customers, it becomes difficult to manage. How can organisations deliver choice to their customers while still keeping control?

A good example of this is how service companies often need to visit customer homes. This can become a tricky balance between providing flexibility to customers and opening up your business to costly inefficiencies.

Visiting customer homes in order to install or repair for example, is traditionally carried out through whole or half day appointments (or at best a timeslot may be given on the day), even though the actual delivery or repair may take minutes to carry out. For customers, having to commit this much time is frustrating and disruptive.

Organisations can improve on this experience by creating more accurate, shorter appointments that are tailored to the specific task. This can be done through analysing different SLAs, demand and supply configurations, and proactively visualising the new service model (taking into account constraints such as travel and delays) to validate the desired customer experience.

You allude to automation, so do you think that machines are the answer to driving a better customer experience, or will consumers still want the human touch?

It has to be a balance. Machines can help with improving customer experience, and depending on the nature of the query they can also simulate the experience of a human customer service advisor. But in more complex cases, machines are much better placed to conduct the initial interaction and then hand over to a human advisor to complete it. That way, human advisors spend their time dealing with the complex cases that need the attention and human touch.

Machines can also be used to provide support for human advisors when interacting with customers. For example, providing background information about the customer or summarising a recent conversation.

Whether using machines alone, or alongside humans, means the wait time for customers is reduced, and often the interaction is more accurate, providing a major productivity gain for service organisations in particular.