Differentiating your Customer Experience While Maintaining Profitability

Alice Sesay Pope, Head of Contact Center Operations & Customer Experience, First Horizon National Corporation
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Alice Sesay Pope, Head of Contact Center Operations & Customer Experience, First Horizon National Corporation

The impact of digital technology has permanently altered the way we approach customer experience. Digital innovations have heightened customer awareness and expectations and with the proliferation of social media channels and improved mobile devices, customers are today hyper-connected.

Think about this—67 percent of Americans own mobile phones, which equates to some 224 million users accessing mobile phones to swipe, search, click, play and pay.

Have you noticed that most mobile phone owners keep their phones nearby at all times, usually no farther than one foot away?  

As result of this disruptive technology, companies no longer define the value of their brands—customers do. Consumers want experiences, both explicit and implied, which are customized to their needs and requirements.

Simply put, people want companies they do business with to touch them on their channels of choice and meet their evolving needs. So how can companies keep up with these continuous changes?

Corporate leaders face the dilemma of selecting the right platform and addressing changing customer expectations while meeting their profitability guidelines. The fast adoption of mobile usage and the “mobile phone addiction” of our culture drastically change the strategy direction of contact centers and customer experience.

And because digital features are continuously being enhanced across geographies and industries, more customer service and sales transactions occur digitally.

As a customer experience executive, I am constantly facing the challenge of keeping pace with customer expectations, operating within budgetary guidelines and selecting the appropriate technology for our industry, geography and customer base. My experiences have taught me a great deal about how companies can take the right approach by balancing people, process, and profitability—when selecting the right technology and how to meet customer expectations—utilizing social media servicing strategies.

 Corporate leaders face the dilemma of selecting the right platform and addressing changing customer expectations while meeting their profitability guidelines 

Customer experience leaders frequently utilize buzzwords such as multichannel or Omni-channel, and social media, which is now a standard servicing channel. To uphold brand perception, customers desire consistent experiences in their channels of choice.

A customer’s experience is rarely private. We know customers use social channels to amplify good and bad experiences. For this reason, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Google Maps and Yelp are full of unresolved issues.

Furthermore, social media helps in reaching out to younger audiences. The number of people interacting with brands on social media increases dramatically between 18 to 25 year olds. When social media servicing is executed effectively, self-service communities can reduce pressure on customer care teams because consumers trust customers’ sentiments.

Company leaders must establish the right social media team from the outset to include customer service specialists, marketing, IT, risk, compliance and legal experts to develop the social media servicing strategy.

In addition, the same people who respond by phone and email are not necessarily the right people for social media customer care.

We can establish rules, policies and terms of engagement for social media, but in the end, the agents need to respond as people. And this is not always easy for those who have been accustomed to using analog mediums like phone scripts for years.

The ideal candidate for a social media care professional is someone with an appealing personality who displays a bit of fun attitude and is knowledgeable about the platform that they are engaged with. They should feel comfortable being unscripted, but understand when to make better connections.

If customers have an emotional attachment to products, make sure your social media professionals have that same passion for the organization’s products or services. We must create and execute ongoing training programs at the highest level to enable our employees to engage customers and empower our professionals to act as customer’s advocates.

The following steps incorporate aspects of the Six Sigma methodology. I recommend using this adapted process to launch a social media servicing strategy or any technology enhancement.

Define: The problem statement that exists within the current social media servicing strategy should be clearly identified. Seek to find qualitative and quantitative statements, such as, “Today, our company receives approximately (insert number) of complaints on (insert number) of social media platforms that we do not support. These platforms are (insert social platforms),” or, “Most of our competitors have social media servicing channels with specific hours of operation that are limited to Monday-Friday 8am-9pm CST.”

In this phase, it will also be important to define the social media scope and objective. Understand risk, regulatory and compliance requirements that are applicable to your industry.

Create an organizational structure that supports a social media implementation.

Measure: We must establish a current state assessment of the social media program and acknowledge our gaps. Identify the process breakdowns or obstacles to providing a great customer experience.

Analyze: The most prolific social media channels should be identified. Identify current tools to monitor and engage customers and establish metrics to manage social media servicing performance and criteria for success.  

Implement: Integrate technology and infrastructure, and recruit and train dedicated resources. Recognize that the most qualified and effective social media professionals may not currently exist in your organization.  

Evaluate: Determine the number of response times, the number of interactions, the number of followers, total reach, the number of influencers, the number of issues, complaints and/or compliments logged, etc.

Launch initially as a pilot and meet daily to assess progress and make adjustments to the project plan as needed.

Control: Ensure that there are methods to monitor progress and mitigate risk. As the pilot becomes successful, increase scope and reach.

Most companies consider customer experience as a differentiator. Staying current on the evolution of new and improved customer channels can help organizations establish solid foundations to differentiate their customer experience from competitors and also create brand ambassadors. These ambassadors will swipe, search, click, play and pay to amplify positive information about your brand and can help justify the expense of the technology implementation and improve your bottom line.

Are you using the right process to select and implement a game-changing technology?

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