Getting the Customer Journey Right

Customer ServiceDoes your organization have a Chief Customer Officer, or a Customer Experience Manager charged with improving customer experiences across every interaction? A few large companies do, but it is a rare sight in small- and medium businesses (SMBs).

The marketing and sales departments will use a large chunk of their budgets to attract and interact with customers and prospects, but pay scant attention to any billing issues. The IT department will be focused on ensuring that corporate communications and the company website provide the information that customers and web visitors are looking for, but not attempt to improve up-sell or cross-sell opportunities. Product development and manufacturing units will strive to create products that appeal, but give little thought to customer sentiments on social media. Finally, the finance department will strive to collect payments, but pay little attention to complaints. Everyone thinks about the customer, but few companies have anyone exactly tasked with, or rewarded for coordinating the efforts and making sure that customer expectations are set and met end-to-end, across departments.

Short of reorganizing the whole company around the customer journey, is there a technology fix, to streamline the customer journey?

The main problem relates to the ability to maintain customer interaction history between departments, across different media and relating to different issues. The ‘customer journey’: starts out looking for a product or a service (increasingly on the corporate website or that of a supply chain partner); identifying a specific offering, perhaps chatting with a contact center agent; ordering from a sales rep or online; and finally receiving the first bill from the accounting department. But it is often a deeply frustrating experience, from the customer perspective.

Often, web site information is not updated or sufficiently precise to induce a customer to place an order; the agent or IVR (interactive voice response) system takes too long, and customers may have to explain what they are looking for several times to receptionists, call center agents, and sales reps. On top of that, the back-end ordering system used by the finance department for billing may not reflect the special deal offered by the sales rep, resulting in a different price, wrong or delayed delivery, etc. This multi-media, cross-department dialog is fraught with human and mechanical errors — and when customers contact the company again to complain, they have to start all over again. Addressing these issues should be a priority item for corporate management, and there is much room for improvement!

Recent research from Genesys, a provider of contact center technology found that:

  • Only 28% of European and North American contact centers offer SMS or have a web chat function, only 20% have a smartphone function such as an app, and only 32% have any social media capability
  • The multimedia, mid-thirties Generation Y uses phone calls only as the 4th communication channel, but only 27% of call centers can monitor and coordinate customer interactions across different communication channels (web, chat, SMS, voice calls, email, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ etc.)

Ensuring a smooth customer journey is hampered by delayed upgrades of the roughly 700,000 corporate contact centers worldwide, due to the financial crisis, which has forced companies to hold back on CAPEX spending and sweat their PBX and IVR equipment longer.  Capacity-wise, the OPEX-friendly answer is a hybrid cloud extension, providing cheaper, faster and flexible services to existing infrastructure. But companies also need to adopt an end-to-end perspective on the customer journey: setting customer expectations and providing feedback and follow-up.

Managing customer journeys should demonstrate one company and one journey, ensuring that the full interaction history is available to all customer-facing functions (just think what that could do for patient-nurse and doctor relations in hospitals).

Additionally, creating centers of excellence in customer contact requires integrated workforce optimization allowing for real-time analysis of customer interactions, trend spotting, and change management. The optimal customer journey could involve: a sign up on the website; welcome via email; provisioning on back office system with frequent and proactive progress notifications and lowest customer effort – but that is still a rare feat in today’s on-line environment.