By Hovav Lapidot
What if a methodology existed that could not only help you provide better customer service but also understand a customer’s intent and act upon it to ensure that the customer’s objectives are achieved? The key to achieving this increasingly important business goal is to harness customer dynamics, the ongoing, multifaceted interactions and transactions between customers and organizations across multiple channels of communication (phone, chat, email, and Web). Hidden within customer dynamics is a wealth of information about how companies can improve products, understand what services customers want, identify problem areas in operations, and understand why customers switch to competitors. Optimizing your company’s customer dynamics provides you with the ability to serve your customers via the channel they prefer in a cost-effective manner; you will also gain a clearer picture of how you can improve business operations without sacrificing service, enabling you to take action to positively affect your business results.
Intent: The driving force behind customer dynamics is intent. Customers contact a company when there’s something they want to accomplish: solving a problem, getting an answer to a question, voicing a concern, or buying something; that’s their intent. There are objectives that businesses want to accomplish too, including controlling costs and increasing revenue. To truly understand customer relationships, an organization needs to address both types of intent.
The reasons for this are straightforward. First, if you don’t understand what a customer wants, how can you meet their expectations? Second, if the company’s intent stands in the way of taking care of the customer, undesirable interactions are bound to happen. The first step is capturing intent: collecting the raw material of customer interactions across all touch points, including phone calls, emails, and chat sessions.
Insight: The next step in optimizing customer dynamics is analyzing this unstructured information to understand intent and extract insight. Why did the customer contact us? Did we satisfy his or her intent? Are our processes helping or hindering? To extract insights, you need to look at customer interactions in different ways: across and within contact channels, by customer and type of interaction, and by individual agents and groups. Analyzing interactions across all channels yields insights that are not apparent when looking at isolated interactions. For example, without cross-channel analysis, you might consider a customer who called customer service and got the information he needed as a successful interaction resolved with one phone call. But with customer or cross-channel analysis, you would see that before calling, he had endured an unsuccessful attempt at chatting with your Web agent, had emailed your contact center and not received the proper information in return, and finally called as a last resort. This is not exactly the success story you may have originally thought.
Impact: Once equipped with insight, you have a much better understanding of what needs to be done, and with the right tools, you can act decisively to impact customer dynamics. You can adjust processes so that self-service channels work better, proactively reach out to customers, and allocate agent resources more effectively. Optimizing customer dynamics can also help agents effectively recognize cross-sell and up-sell opportunities in real time. Solutions that provide real-time analysis of interaction-related data and deliver real-time guidance to contact center agents affect your efforts to improve the customer experience as well as improve operational efficiency and sales results.
Many organizations are not fully aware of the implications of customer dynamics, so they are limited to quick-fix customer service that addresses each interaction as an isolated conversation, without looking at the entirety of its interactions with each customer. Contact centers must eliminate this mindset and implement practices to continually improve customer satisfaction and business results in the following areas: compliance, operational efficiency, customer experience, and sales and marketing effectiveness. Customer dynamics optimization is the methodology that can help make that happen.
Hovav Lapidot is the director of strategic marketing for Americas at NICE Systems.
[From Connection Magazine – October 2010]