2017 - Shaping the future of customer experience

Delivering a positive experience is the route to increasing customer satisfaction, loyalty, trust and advocacy. VoiceSage’s John Duffy looks at how organisations are using technology to push the customer experience bar higher

Customer experience is now a CEO-level initiative, with 89 per cent of marketers expecting the customer experience (CX) to be a primary differentiator this year, according to research firm Gartner. 

Turn the clock back to 2012 and only 30 per cent of companies surveyed by Gartner said they expected to compete for business principally on delivering superior customer experience. Roll forward. In 2016, Gartner carried out a similar survey and found the number had sky rocketed to 90 per cent. An increasingly competitive market place and consumer power, propelled by social media, have put CX at the top of the corporate agenda. But how are organisations harnessing technology to deliver on their CX promises in the UK today?

An extensive market analysis survey we conducted in partnership with the UK Contact Centre Forum throws some light on the subject. The big take-away is brands have actually become far more proactive in their CX initiatives. Surprisingly, the landline is still the biggest customer outreach tool, despite the rise in email, Internet and social media usage. However, SMS is fast surfacing as a compelling communications channel. In addition, the much talked about ‘omnichannel’ has become a reality, with organisations looking to connect with customers across different communications channels. As technology rapidly advances, a significant number of organisations have already deployed integrated information and contact routing systems.

Taking a broad survey base, we believe this survey shows a clear and true picture of the UK CX market right now. Respondents included accountancy service providers, building management systems and the leisure industry. In addition we also scoped the public sector, with responses from adult social care, environmental / neighbourhood services and council tax and housing teams at local government level.

A very high 71% believe SMS technology would mean less in-bound calls for their teams'

The omnichannel highway is gaining recognition

The biggest challenge for some respondents revolves around actually following the customer’s entire journey from start to finish – especially through the various communications channels available. However, that doesn’t mean to say that ominichannel tracking isn’t on the radar, and in many cases being utilised successfully. 

Customers increasingly want to engage with brands on social media, via the Internet, a mobile app, SMS, a bricks and mortar store or on the phone. They expect a seamless experience whichever channel they choose. 

Moving beyond channel integration, omnichannel enables agents to draw on past interactions and customer data to deliver a seamless experience across all an organisation’s CX channels. Omnichannel in the UK is undoubtedly moving towards this ideal scenario. Nearly 56 per cent of respondents said they can provide a team member with immediate access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue, across all channels. 

On the technology front, a large percentage of organisations have already invested in and deployed integrated information and contact routing systems. A further 18 per cent said they are working on setting up these capabilities, which shows organisations are currently working towards a seamless, integrated and consistent customer service experience across their channels. 

The growing role of SMS: those yet to embrace proactive, show a strong preference for SMS

The proactive approach to CX

The survey also spotlighted the fact that organisations are becoming more proactive in their outreach, identifying and responding to customer problems way before they become an issue. 

In fact, a hefty 75 per cent of organisations said they are now taking a proactive approach to CX, which can increase customer loyalty, decrease support calls and allow engagement with the customer’s conversation, particularly on social media. In addition, 87 per cent said the move will also enable them to make major savings on in-bound contacts to their organisations. Technology has enabled organisations to hit the ground running with a proactive strategy. Automation, for example, has enabled companies to send out email and text reminders of renewal of services or follow up on CX voice calls. 

Despite technological advancement, the phone still remains central to CX. In our survey it was the most popular communication channel used by 60 per cent of respondents. It was followed by email (26 per cent), post/letter (7.5 per cent) and SMS (6 per cent). In non-proactive customer outreach, the phone rated even higher at 75 per cent, and email 18 per cent.

SMS & automated voice emerge

The survey also examined two new emerging proactive service channels – SMS and Automated Voice. 

Over half of respondents (51 per cent) said they actively use SMS, while 72 per cent said they thought the use of text for proactive contact to be either ‘Effective’ or ‘Very Effective’. Of the organisations who had used SMS for customer outreach, 30 per cent said that they had seen improved response rates overall. 

The survey also shows that SMS is expanding its role in CX, in particular with organisations who have yet to take up a proactive approach – 37 per cent compared with 31 per cent for phone and 17 per cent for email. In addition, a staggering 71 per cent said they believe SMS technology could result in less in-bound calls for their teams, while greater use of SMS coupled with social media would mean staff could manage more interactions. 

On the automated voice front, 19 per cent said they had used the technology, with 58 per cent reporting it to be ‘Effective’ in achieving their goals. 75 per cent said that response rates following its deployment are improving. 

CX and IT working hand in hand

Today companies must do far more than merely respond. They must do so quickly, and with the relevant information to ensure the customer goes away feeling satisfied with the communication. 

The 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey underscores the fact that organisations are taking CX very seriously, with better support systems to improve and enhance customer experiences. At the same time they are also willing to adopt new channels to make omnichannel part of their overall digital transformation strategy moving forward.

SNS, voice and social media are all being taken up by organisations as a reliable and consistent way of allowing brands to answer queries faster, more efficiently and cost effectively. 

CX has become one area where organisations can truly differentiate themselves as businesses and realise the value it can create for their bottom line. Technology is helping to create a positive experience for the organisation and customer alike. 

Download the full 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey report here.

John Duffy, Enterprise Sales Consultant, VoiceSage
Image Credit: Georgejmclittle / Shutterstock