Customer experience (CX) is one of the hottest topics in the business world. In a survey of marketers who handle CX in Gartner’s “Customer Experience in Marketing Survey 2017: Greater Expectations, Greater Challenges” (report available to Gartner clients), more than two-thirds said that their companies compete on the basis of CX. Gartner expects this to rise to 81 percent by 2019!
Despite the importance given to CX, improving it remains a challenge. Businesses struggle to connect the external factors influencing CX with the daily internal operations and processes that determine the experience. This struggle leads to uncertainty, inevitably delaying the adoption of simple measures that can directly result in better CX.
But, businesses can avoid these challenges with a simple change in perspective. There are many ways to improve customer experience while also improving the business’ overall efficiency.
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 of two types:
- Direct: When a customer calls a company’s service department.
- Indirect: When a customer reads a social media post about another person’s interaction with the company.
The best customer experience improvement strategy begins with getting the right software tools.
In this article, we’ll talk about five key tools that businesses can use to leverage CX to achieve better customer retention, lower operating costs, increased sales and faster growth—all as a natural extension of what they’ve already been doing.
Here’s a graphical representation of the tools:
Here’s what we’ll cover:
1. Mobile Customer Support
The use of mobile devices to improve customer experience was an early Gartner prediction that’s here to stay. Everyone has a mobile device and it’s the first thing they often turn to when they’ve got a problem. And this is what businesses have to take advantage of — customers using their mobile devices to search online for customer and product support.
But 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, with incorrect display/difficulty to navigate being one of the top concerns.
While mobile web browsers have gotten better at rendering online content on small screens, it’s still not as perfect as on a desktop or laptop. 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.
For many small businesses, instead of revamping their current mobile web design, it makes more sense to opt for customer service platforms that have very specific mobile support capabilities. Here’s an example:
Example: Mobile Support in ActionZendesk is a customer service platform that offers advanced mobile support through its Mobile Help Center application. This allows users to turn existing and newly created support and service resource documents into accessible, mobile-friendly resources.
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’s 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. Gartner’s “Making Live Chat a Must-Have Engagement Channel” report (content available to Gartner clients) predicts that more than 85 percent of companies will offer a live chat feature on their website or mobile devices by 2022. This stems from the rising use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and WeChat by customers.
Since live chat answers customers’ immediate need for quick resolutions to issues, it’s an effective tool for improving CX. And many live chat platforms offer functionality beyond simple communication.
For example, some allow for co-browsing, which 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.
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 a 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 ActionCompanies using solutions such as Salesforce.com Service Cloud Software can offer customer an improved CX from anywhere. With freedom of mobility and consolidation of agent efforts, agents can engage customers better.
The solution includes a self-service option for customers, a knowledge base, an agent collaboration tool and a social media integration. All of these features help increase engagement, boost sales, reduce repeat questions and use Tier One agents’ time more efficiently.
3. Self-Service Management
Self-service resources are support information that’s posted online for customers to find and use themselves, such as knowledge bases and frequently asked questions (FAQ) pages. Compared to all other service channels, the majority of consumers prefer self-service.
And so do vendors. Gartner’s “Why You Need to Rethink Your Customer Self-Service Strategy” report (content available to Gartner clients) notes that some vendors may deflect up to 90 percent of telephone calls and deploy customer self-service instead.
However, businesses should be cautious of the plan backfiring. It’ll be detrimental to offer self-service resources that are incomplete, unclear or don’t answer the actual question. This can result in customers getting frustrated — which hurts the CX. It also usually results in an irate phone call to your company, which is best avoided.
That’s why companies should offer effective self-service resources to provide customers a good experience. They can do this by analyzing their self-service resources using specialized metrics such as Level Zero Solvable (LZS). The metric helps companies gauge and improve resource usability and completeness.
It’s also important to efficiently manage your internal and external library of support topics in the knowledge base. You can try solutions that specially offer knowledge management as they can help you:
- Allow agents to collaborate on improving support resources in real time (otherwise, the resources would be static and could only be updated or 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.
Like the other tools mentioned here, self-service reduces agents’ time spent on other channels, letting them focus on more complex issues. And in the long-term, up to 75 percent of customer engagements will be via self-service. (Source: Gartner’s “Market Trends: Virtual Customer Assistants Will Deliver Millions of Dollars in Cost Benefits to CSPs,” content available to Gartner clients.)
Example: Self-Service in ActionTeamSupport Software‘s knowledge management application allows companies to select internal resources that can be used by the public as a self-service resource. The application organizes topics and presents them to customers in several ways, such as by product feature or modification date.
4. Social Media Support
Social media is where people share their experiences with their friends, family and acquaintances. But these groups include people who could be your customers, both current and prospective. It also houses your competitors, whom they can switch over to in a heartbeat. That’s why social media is a veritable minefield of CX potential.
However, your business can’t risk delaying a social media presence. This delay means you’re losing prospective customers and harming CX by being unresponsive to customer complaints and queries.
That’s why it’s vital to closely monitor the conversations occurring on social channels. Marketing and customer service teams should monitor the channels jointly. 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.
A social media support application relieves companies from a lot of manual customer support. For example, the application actively monitors new posts and customer comments. An advanced function that’s gaining popularity is sentiment analysis, which analyzes customers’ language to judge whether it’s a compliment or complaint. This helps prioritize responses.
Some applications automatically convert social media complaints into a trouble ticket, which is then assigned to an agent in the queue.
Example: Social Media Support in ActionConversocial helps companies manage their social media interactions by intelligently prioritizing tickets and issues. The software ensures that important tickets aren’t overlooked or delayed. It also compiles all interactions with each customer on a single 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. This support platform allows customers to contact the company on all, or one of many, service channels. Offering multiple choices ensure that most of customer preferences are met.
The benefit of omnichannel support is that it also lets customers pick a conversation up where they left off on a different channel. Whether it’s by social media one day and phone the next day, agents have full access to the customer’s interaction history. This allows them to service the customers in an informed manner.
The key to omnichannel support is a centralized customer support platform. It boosts CX and makes agents more efficient with readily available information at their fingertips. In addition to customer support, the platform helps research and development and marketing teams get a holistic view of customers, helping them improve their customer-centric strategies.
Example: Omnichannel Support in ActionZoho CRM is one example of online CRM software that offers a full suite of applications such as self-service, call center, social media support and knowledge management. The omnichannel support platform integrates conversations from chats, emails, social media, phone etc., into a single portal for the agent’s benefit.
Conclusion and Next Steps
Companies that want to improve the experience they provide can choose one, some or all of the tools we talk about here: mobile support, live chat, self-service management, social media monitoring and omnichannel customer support. Here’s how you can reap the most benefits from these tools:
- Identify our problem area: It’s best to start where you’re facing the most problems—the area that troubles your customer and agents. Start by digitizing this support channel and augment it with mobile support, a knowledge base or live chat option.
- Shop for a suitable solution: Once you know which support channel you need to add/improve, the next step is browsing for solutions that fit your requirements. You can start by checking out the FrontRunners for CRM list for the top rated and reviewed solutions. In addition, check out specific CRM solutions such as customer experience software, help desk software, knowledge management system, live chat software and mobile CRM software. You can also categorize solutions by your specific industry.
- Talk to an advisor for more clarity: It won’t hurt to get some extra expert advice, especially when it’ll help you address your unique needs. Our advisers are available for a free FastStart consultation at (844) 852-3639. Before that, you can also check out the free pricing guide for CRM solutions that’ll help you set a budget.