Customer experience (CX) is one of the hottest topics in the business world. Since the mid-2000s, the term has been appearing with increasing frequency in a variety of discussions centered on corporate strategy, customer service and general business management.
Despite the attention it receives, the topic of improving customer experience is still a source of great consternation. Businesses often struggle to connect the dots between external factors influencing CX and the daily operations and processes within the company that determine that experience. This struggle leads to uncertainty, inevitably delaying the adoption of simple measures that could lead directly to better CX.
However, the “analysis paralysis” that businesses face can be avoided by a simple change in perspective. The fact is, there are many ways businesses can improve the customer experience they provide while simultaneously improving the efficiency of the business as a whole.
What Is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is the overall quality of all the interactions a consumer has with a company and its products and services. These include pre- and post-sale interactions, and can be either direct—e.g., when a customer calls a company’s service department—or indirect, such as when a customer reads a social media post about another person’s interaction with the company.
Customer experience (CX) is the overall quality of all the interactions a consumer has with a company and its products and services.
The best customer experience improvement strategy begins with getting the right software tools in place. With these tools, any business can leverage customer experience into better customer retention, lower operating costs, increased sales and faster growth—all as a natural extension of what they’ve already been doing.
Five Key Tools to Improve Customer Experience
1. Mobile Customer Support
According to the Pew Research Center, in all of human history, no technology has been adopted more quickly by more people than the mobile phone. The same Pew research reports that over 91 percent of U.S. adults now own one.
But even more deserving of the business world’s attention are the facts about what exactly consumers are doing with these devices. As Software Advice found in a report on mobile CX, 63 percent of consumers use mobile devices a few times a month or more to search online for customer and product support.
So when these consumers use mobile devices to seek information and ask for help on company websites, what kind of CX are they having? In many cases, not a good one:
CX Issues When Seeking Information on Mobile Websites
The reality is, most of the online universe was designed to be searched and viewed from the full-size displays of desktop and laptop computers. Mobile Web browsers have gotten better at rendering online content so it’s accessible on small screens, but this is clearly not perfect. And when customers have a bad CX on a mobile device, they’ll often call the company directly—increasing demand for the more costly Tier One agent support.
Companies can design their websites to be as accessible to mobile customers as possible using methods such as responsive design. However, such incremental changes often aren’t enough, and many companies opt for customer service platforms that have very specific mobile support capabilities.
Example: Mobile Support in Action
As one example of a customer service platform with more advanced mobile support, companies using Zendesk can take advantage of its Mobile Help Center application. This allows users to turn existing and newly created support and service resource documents into accessible, mobile-friendly resources, as shown here:
2. Live Chat
Live chat is a quick and easy way for customers to contact a company and receive an immediate response without leaving the company’s website. It is particularly popular with online retailers, who use live chat to answer shopper’s questions in real time—ensuring nothing stands in the way of their purchase.
Live chat is also popular in many other industry segments. Most importantly, live chat is very popular with consumers in regard to customer experience. In fact, Software Advice found in a recent survey that 56 percent of U.S. adults age 18 to 34 prefer live chat over the phone.
Since improving customer experience is largely about catering to customer preferences, and many customers have a preference for live chat, it follows that this can be an effective tool for improving CX.
Indeed, many live chat platforms offer functionality beyond simple communication. Some, for example, allow for co-browsing: This lets agents take temporary control over the customer’s browser and lead them to different products and pages on the website, helping customers find answers more quickly and improving their experience.
Other live chat functions help the business more directly. Contextual information, presented in the agent’s UI (user interface), can inform the agent what pages and products the customer has already viewed. Historical customer information can also be included, giving the agent insight into that customer’s previous purchases, previous chat sessions and any other records stored in the company’s customer service or customer relationship management (CRM) software.
Example: Live Chat in Action
Companies using a solution such as Engage Live Sales Chat Software receive many direct benefits, in addition to offering their customers an improved CX. By including contextual and historical information about the customer, agents are better able to engage them. This engagement can increase sales, reduce repeat questions and use Tier One agents’ time more efficiently.
3. Self-Service Management
Self-service resources are posted online to provide support information that customers can find and use themselves. The most common examples of self-service resources are knowledge bases and frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages. Compared to all other service channels, the majority of consumers in a recent survey we conducted prefer self-service.
Consumers’ Preferred Means for Accessing Support Information
It’s worth repeating: the best way to improve CX is to cater to specific consumer preferences. In this case, it’s quite clear that providing self-service resources should be an effective way to improve CX.
However, this can also backfire. When companies offer self-service resources that are incomplete, unclear or do not answer the actual question, customers may become frustrated: an immediate blow to CX. And this is usually followed up with a call to the company on behalf of the irate customer.
Thus, companies need to offer effective, usable self-service resources in order for them to provide customers the experience they want. One way to achieve this is to analyze self-service resources using specialized metrics. Level Zero Solvable, which helps companies gauge and improve resource usability and completeness, is one metric that can be used.
Another key to producing self-service resources that improve CX is effective knowledge management, meaning management of the information in a company’s internal and external library of support topics. There are many customer service platforms that offer this functionality, allowing companies to turn their existing knowledge resources into highly effective CX improvement tools. They can, for example:
- Allow agents to collaborate on improving support resources in real time (otherwise, the resources would be static, and could only be updated and changed by those with administrator rights).
- Track which topics agents reference most often, which in turn can suggest that more—or better—self-service resources are needed to address those topics.
Of course, as with the other tools discussed here, self-service also reduces demand for support agents on other channels, letting them focus on more complex issues.
In fact, as a report Software Advice published last year shows, companies that implement self-service see improvements in their service departments’ performance across the board: For example, 76 percent of companies polled saw “significant improvement” to their first-call-resolution rates.
Example: Self-Service in Action
TeamSupport Software includes a powerful knowledge management application that lets companies select which of their internal resources can be used by the public as a self-service resource. The application can organize topics and present them to customers in several ways, such as by product feature or modification date.
4. Social Media Support
Social media is a place where people share their experiences with their friends, family and acquaintances … but they also share with your customers, prospective customers and soon-to-be-former customers, as well as the competitors they leave you for. Social media is a veritable minefield of CX potential, and businesses must tread carefully.
However, treading too carefully can delay a company’s entrance into online social spheres. This delay is often much more costly in terms of CX, as customer questions and complaints may pile up and give the impression that the company simply doesn’t care.
Clearly, companies need effective ways to monitor the conversations occurring on their social channels. This monitoring is often shared jointly by marketing and customer service departments. While marketing uses social channels to spread awareness about the company’s products and services, the service department monitors them for customers who need help.
With a customer service platform that has a social media support application, companies are relieved of much of this manual work. These applications can, for example, actively monitor all social channels for new posts and customer comments. And some offer sentiment analysis functionality, which looks at the language used in a customer’s comment and categorizes it—for example, as a compliment or a complaint. This helps companies prioritize responses.
Some social support applications can monitor social channels for complaints and automatically convert their text into a trouble ticket. That ticket then gets sent along to the appropriate agent queue.
Example: Social Media Support in Action
As one example, Conversocial Software offers a complete platform for managing all of a company’s social media interactions. It performs intelligent prioritization of tickets and issues, making sure important ones don’t get overlooked or delayed. It also compiles all of a company’s interactions with each customer onto one screen, simplifying agents’ workflow and allowing them work more efficiently.
5. Omnichannel Support
Our fifth essential tool for improving customer experience is omnichannel customer support. As the name implies, this is a support platform that allows customers to contact the company on all, or one of a number of, service channels. Giving customers many choices is a safe way to ensure that most of their preferences will be met.
However, the real CX-improving secret of omnichannel support is that it not only lets customers contact a company multiple times and through different channels, it also allows them to pick the conversation up where they left off. It doesn’t matter if the customer reaches out through social media or by phone, email or live chat—any agent can pick up the conversation on any channel and will have full access to the customer’s background information.
Omnichannel support would be impossible to offer without the help of a centralized customer support platform. And again, it offers benefits above and beyond improved CX: It also makes the workflows of service agents more efficient by presenting them with a complete picture of the customer’s former interactions.
Outside of support, departments such as research and development and marketing can also take advantage of this holistic view of customer data and interactions, which can lead to departmental improvements.
Example: Omnichannel Support in Action
KANA Express offers a full suite of applications, such as self-service, call center, social support and knowledge management. It creates an ideal omnichannel support platform by integrating all the conversations from these various applications into a single portal, placing all the information agents need to offer great support front and center.
Companies that want to improve the experience they provide their customers have a number of tools to choose from. These tools include customer service software applications: mobile support, live chat, self-service management, social media monitoring and omnichannel customer support. Each of these tools will not only work to improve your CX, but will bring other benefits, as well.