We all want to improve the customer experience.

But what are the factors that determine whether our customers are delighted – or disgusted – when they contact us?

A 2017 Deloitte survey of 450 global contact centres found that key drivers for a positive customer experience are:

  • Quality and accuracy of information – 66%
  • Ease of interaction – 62%

It’s hardly surprising that customers want to quickly and simply get the information they need, and they want agents to be able to swiftly resolve any issues conclusively.

But what other factors are at play here?

How can organisations review their operations and meet rising customer expectations?

Empowering technology

Customer service agents can be hamstrung by technology. If the software gets in the way, the most qualified and experienced agents will be unable to give customers what they need. Your contact centre software should enable agents to do their job efficiently. Connections between applications should be effortless. Typical requests should be easily processed without skipping a beat – or putting customers on hold.

Informed and experienced agents

Your customer service agents are on the frontline, facing your customers every day. They are some of the most important people in your organisation, so you should aim to hire the best people to carry out this essential work.

Bad contact centre interactions are commonly cited by customers as a reason to switch to a competitor. A Harris Interactive survey found that 89% of consumers switched to a rival after a bad customer experience.

Empathy in action

Customers often make contact during difficult moments, when they are most concerned, worried, confused or angry. Empathetic agents who can respond sensitively to customers may be able to defuse tense situations and navigate customers towards a satisfying resolution.

Cliff Condon, Forrester’s chief research and product officer has spoken about the power of emotion as a component of customer experience: “If brands want to break away from the pack and become CX leaders, they must focus on emotion. Best-in-class brands average 17 emotionally positive experiences for every negative experience, while the lowest-performing brands provided only two emotionally positive experiences for each negative one. Emotion is critical to a brand’s bottom line.”

Agents that can build bonds with customers may bring other benefits. ‘Liking’ is one of the six principles of persuasion identified by Robert Cialdini in his book, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion. The principle posits that people are more likely to buy from people they like.

While the principle has been demonstrated in numerous studies, one famous example involved studying negotiations between MBA students. The first group was told: “time is money. Get straight to business.” Approximately 55% of those students reached an agreement. The second group was encouraged to take the time to share personal information and get to know the counterparty. These participants did significantly better, reaching agreement more often (90%) with deals that were worth 18% more to both groups.

So while you may want your agents to clear calls quickly, there is immense value in taking a little time to listen to your customers and build relationships.

Choose your solution

Communication preferences are a very personal thing. Forcing customers to use your preferred channel is a great way to annoy customers. If people prefer email or online chat, don’t push them to pick up the phone. Give your customers as many options as possible.

Consistency in communication

However, your customers choose to communicate, ensure everyone gets the same experience, from agents using the same language and approach, who all have the same capabilities. Beyond the contact centre, it’s worth considering how your agent’s language and style matches your brand identity. All aspects should be harmonious.

Continuous improvement

Customer experience isn’t a one-off project. It’s a process of continuous improvement. Organisations must track, analyse and report on CX metrics.

We hope you found this article useful. We’ll be looking at the intersection of customer experience and contact centres again in the coming months.

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