Creating an effortless customer experience is one of the key imperatives facing customer service leaders today. Providing experiences without friction is a crucial step in enabling organizations to be more responsive and agile while improving employee productivity, satisfaction, and retention.
“The best and most effective way to improve the customer experience is to reduce customer effort,” asserts John Ball, senior VP of customer and industry workflows at ServiceNow, in his Knowledge customer experience keynote address.
“There's some really good research to back this up,” he adds, “ranging from entire books, like the Effortless experience ebook, to various studies that show the level of customer effort is more predictive of loyalty than even net promoter score.”
Effort level isn’t limited to how difficult it is to get a service agent on the phone. It also involves the effort required for customers to solve their issues across all channels, including self-service.
“One study showed that high-effort service interactions result in customers being 10 times more likely to be disloyal than in low-effort interactions,” Ball notes. “That's a pretty stark contrast. As customer expectations continue to rise with trends like direct to consumer, personalized self-service, and digital service from anywhere at any time, it's more important than ever to get this right.”
The path to creating effortless experiences, he says, involves:
Bringing together front, middle, and back-office teams
Having every customer service team member work from the same data source
Using artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning to prevent issues before they happen
Providing robust self-service channels
Total experience, beyond engagement
Reducing hold time and average handle time for customers was once the traditional battle facing customer service teams. In 2022, organizations are reassessing their approach to customer engagement and are monitoring customer satisfaction throughout the entire resolution process.
“The industry historically focused only on the first part of the customer experience, which is how the customer engages—how they make the request,” Ball points out. “It's only half of the story. The other half of the story is how you actually get the work done to fulfill the customer's request.”
As you might imagine, how you get the work done ties the customer service employee experience to that of the customer. Equipping employees with adequate resources and information to carry out their roles is an organization’s best way to achieve customer service excellence.
A lot of customer service tasks on the employee side are handled manually via swivel chairs, emails, spreadsheets, and phone calls. Ad hoc processes are glued together by front-line agents and middle-office workers. Issue data is siloed across numerous, disparate systems. All this leads to inconsistent service, frustrated employees and, ultimately, a lack of transparency for the customer.
Breaking down silos and enabling work from one system of record can take customer service teams out of the chaos and into a streamlined and efficient environment. Implementing this strategy and driving these efficiencies are achievements within reach. But collaboration and integration are crucial for success.
“It's all about harnessing the power of the whole company to better serve the customer. This means connecting the front, middle, and back office to work together to resolve customer issues faster,” Ball says.
“We do that by providing great, modern, omnichannel engagement that’s seamlessly integrated into one system of action that drives customer operations. That system of action is where we break down customer requests into the discrete tasks required to fulfill them. Then we automate and orchestrate those tasks,” he explains.
Proactive customer service
Imagine solving a customer’s problem before it happens. In 2022, this is a reality, thanks to proactive strategies for customer service.
To be proactive, all customer-serving employees—network operations, field service technicians, and customer service agents—must be in a position to discover an issue affecting customers. These employees need to be empowered to trigger a case the moment they detect a potential issue and have full visibility into its resolution.
“This allows you to deliver proactive service because when a service outage or degradation does occur, you know which specific customers are impacted,” Ball notes. “You can reach out to those customers and let them know there's an issue, what the status is, and when you expect to resolve it. You don't get flooded with calls, texts, and emails from customers trying to get a status update.”
This area of customer service management can benefit from automation. Automated workflows can connect the right teams and resources and help quickly resolve issues before customers experience them. There’s no need to wait for customers to report issues.
A proactive customer service strategy centered on connected teams and a single data model is a great benefit to field service agents. It provides workers with incident oversight, prescriptive checklists, and case-specific guidance needed to work faster and safer.
“A service-aware install base also powers a better after-sales support experience because we can tie together products the customer has purchased with the services they're entitled to, such as warranty and service contracts,” Ball points out.
“This is especially important in field service scenarios. We're sending the right technician with the right skills and the right replacement parts. This is critical,” he adds.
The continued importance of self-service
Self-service has become vital in today's world of direct-to-consumer and subscription business models. AI-powered virtual agents and a next-level self-service resource catalog can have a positive impact on customer engagement in this area.
These systems can provide a visual service catalog of common requests and services from which customers can choose—allowing work to be directly routed to the best-qualified teams for support and fast issue resolution.
“Customers simply don't always want to call or chat or search a portal for an answer,” Ball explains. “Our service catalog takes self-service to the next level. Think of it as a menu of the most common customer inquiries from which customers can initiate a request,” he adds.
“We can then guide them through the process, collecting all the information required, and then kick off a workflow taking their case all the way through to resolution,” he sums.
Watch the full customer experience keynote address. Registration is free.
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