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Reinventing the Customer Support Experience: Why Companies Need to Stop Trying to Control It

By Kam Rawal / Oct 23, 2017

As both a customer support executive and a consumer, I tend to view my experiences with brands in my personal life through two lenses. As a consumer, I want to speak with someone immediately, who can help me with whatever issue I have, and who is polite and respectful. I don’t want to be transferred and then put on hold.

But from the perspective of the brand, we typically worry about efficiency within our contact centers. Traditionally, we’ve asked ourselves: How can we get customers to do what we want them to do so that we can optimize our use of customer support resources?

Right KPIs, Wrong Customer Experience Design

When customers are frustrated with the customer support interaction, the business suffers. Companies are starting to realize that controlling the experience based on key performance indicators (KPIs) that focus on efficiency, such as average handling time, isn’t leading to more satisfied and loyal customers. 

In the face of higher customer churn, increasing escalations, poor reviews, and more, many contact centers are now focused on also measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT) and loyalty (often Net Promoter Score or some other loyalty related measurement). But their CSAT and NPS scores, along with reviews, churn and escalations aren’t improving. If anything, they are getting worse over time. Why is that? Because it’s not the KPI you measure that makes the difference, but the design of the experience itself.

Contact centers are now focused on measuring CSAT and NPS, but scores aren’t improving. Why? Because experience design matters.

Put Yourself in Your Customer's Shoes

To truly impact customer-facing metrics, contact centers have to rethink the customer support experience—this time from the perspective of the customer. 

Here’s an example of a frustrating experience: A customer calls with a question about a roaming plan. Currently, there’s no option for roaming plans on your IVR, so the customer has to guess at the right selection and chooses “Change my plan.” When the agent answers, the customer explains that she wants to add the 30-day Latin America plan while she’s traveling there. The agent isn’t allowed to handle call and roaming plans and transfers her to a different sales group, where she has to wait on hold until an agent is available. Once she completes the purchase, she has a question about how to use the plan. So she calls back into the support center. The agent doesn’t know the answer but refers her to the website. Once on the website, the customer is unable to find the answer to her question and picks up the phone to call your company… again.

Let’s stop here. In rethinking this journey from the customer’s perspective, there are a number of ways to make sure the customer reaches someone who can help as quickly as possible. To have the best customer experience, let's get rid of the IVR! If we were really focused on customer experience why would we have it? (I know that's not always possible.) Other options include speech recognition technology for IVRs as well as technology that can help identify who is calling and get her the help she needs. There are knowledge systems that can help the agent answer all of her questions without making her switch channels. You could also offer a proactive chat conversation on the app or on the web page to her once you’ve activated her plan to walk her through the settings. This would reduce or eliminate additional contacts as well as reduce cost and ultimately deliver a better customer experience.

There are a number of ways to re-architect the experience. By tracking customer-performance KPIs, you’ll know when you’ve designed it correctly. Is your CSAT finally on the increase? Is your NPS higher? Is churn down?

Aim Higher

One final thought: while rethinking the interaction from the customer perspective can help you make the experience easier and more convenient for the customer, don’t stop there. Why? Because easy and convenient are rapidly becoming table stakes.

Your real aim should be to make the experience authentic and memorable for the customer. Think about what would it take for the experience to actually inspire loyalty to the brand? That is the pinnacle that every customer experience should be aiming for.      

Kam Rawal is Head of Global Services at AppDirect.

This post was originally published on LinkedIn. Click here to read it.