Breaking the Catch 22
Social media has a tremendous power to create legions of brand advocates or destroy all goodwill, seemingly overnight. For example, fast food brand Wendy’s has earned a cult following through its online tongue-in-cheek commentary and customer engagement. On the other end of the spectrum, 2017’s Fyre Festival – a brand built entirely on selling the high-end, luxurious experience – was toppled by a customer Tweeting a single photo of a cheese and tomato sandwich. In the digital era, customer interactions that go viral can have a significant impact on the bottom line.
In fact, according to the NICE inContact CX Transformation Benchmark study, 83 percent of customers who have exceptional experiences are more willing to recommend that company on social media, and 81 percent who have a bad customer service experience say they are very likely to switch to a competitor. And, there’s a compounding effect – advocates create more advocates, while detractors create more detractors. This means contact centers need to get customer interactions right not just the first time, but every time. As consumer expectations increase and competition intensifies, the contact center’s margin for error shrinks.
At the same time, however, contact center professionals are under more pressure than ever to reduce costs by deflecting customers to self-service channels. This creates a catch-22, where contact centers need the resources to ensure consistent, powerful customer experiences that live agents provide, while simultaneously limiting the overhead required to bring it to life. Caught in the middle are the customers themselves. This is where directing customers to efficient, lower-cost agent-assisted digital channels can help.
Here are a few high-impact ways to delight customers with lower-cost digital channels, which can generate positive word-of-mouth buzz that is amplified through social media, and reverberates across your customer experience strategy:
1. Win with Chat Interactions
Issues brought to the contact center cover the entire spectrum of urgency, from the quick and simple to the deeply complex. Depending on where on that scale an issue falls, customers need to be routed to the most effective channel to ensure a speedy resolution. Steering appropriate issues to chat frees up agents to dedicate the time, expertise and resources to solving high-urgency issues with a greater degree of success. In fact, more than half of U.S. consumers surveyed are highly satisfied with chat interactions, and global consumers give chat a strong Net Promoter Score® of 21, plus, chat enables agents to support 3-4 customers at any given time. One NICE inContact customer has found that chat accounts for 40 percent (and growing) of contact center inquiries, and, their agents enjoy interacting with customers via chat.
Note, as the conversation between customer and agent develops it may require the transition from a chat to a phone call, thus the need for omnichannel functionality. One of the fastest ways to turn a customer off from your brand is to lose the context of the interaction when moving between channels – everyone dislikes repeating themselves. It might seem simple, but fast and efficient interactions via chat, which are seamlessly and contextually elevated to a phone call, can mean the difference between a glowing review or scathing feedback.
2. Integrate Text for Consumers on the Go
Brands have a long history of following their customer base – Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram have become standard vehicles for brand communication. In this regard, integrating text functionality into your omnichannel strategy should be a priority. Today’s customer audiences are increasingly mobile-savvy, so if a customer has a question on the go, text is the natural outlet. From the agent perspective, there is effectively zero difference in how they would handle incoming inquiries, as text appears in a window the same way a chat does – along with any relevant customer context.
One example of an organization who has leveraged this successfully is fashion brand Vera Bradley, who has so far seen a zero percent abandonment rate through text. In the age of convenience, customers have grown accustomed to having multiple communication options at their fingertips, at any given time. Contact centers need to offer any and all channels their customers want to use. A customer spotlighting that they couldn’t reach your brand through their preferred channel could deter others down the line.
3. Customers Are Social, So Are Your Agents
When an agent connects with a customer, whether that be via voice or digital channels, they have the potential to create a customer for life. But customer preferences are changing, Millennials and Gen Z have significant buying power and are masters at navigating digital channels. Integrating social functionality not only is a cost-effective way to maximize agent impact, but it enables them to engage with customers in familiar ways. As mentioned, Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger are popular options.
But the channel is only half of the puzzle – there is nuanced language etiquette that applies, like emojis or images, which Millennials and Gen Z often rely on and relate to. However, as with all channels, success in social channels also hinges on your contact center’s ability to move them to a different channel quickly, if that would be more effective. Customers put a high value on brands that understand their preferences, but it shouldn’t come at the cost of a positive and seamless resolution.
Strike the Balance that Puts Customers First
Through social media, customers have a megaphone to share their thoughts, experiences, and opinions on brands. These stories can go “viral,” creating a wave of goodwill or animosity that can impact a brand’s ability to attract and retain customers for years. Starting with the contact center, brands have an opportunity to create advocates at the smallest scale, which can have an outsized impact. A flexible, open cloud customer experience platform can set your contact center up for success, giving both customers and agents access to a seamless digital channel experience.
Chris Bauserman is VP, Product and Segment Marketing at NICE inContact, a NICE company. Chris has successfully driven technology strategy and go-to-market (GTM) growth initiatives for software startups and large enterprises over the past 20 years, focusing on solutions that help organizations improve customer experience. He currently leads product marketing and market intelligence for NICE inContact, a leader in cloud contact center software with the world’s #1 cloud customer experience platform.Chris Bauserman