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Wed 27 Dec 2017 02:10 PM

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2018 Predictions: Yaser Alzubaidi, Avaya

Telecoms: Getting customer experience right in 2018

2018 Predictions: Yaser Alzubaidi, Avaya
New solutions: Customer experience delivery is rapidly evolving

Harry Gordon Selfridge, the founder of the Selfridge’s department store in London which opened in 1909, came up with the immortal phrase: ‘The customer is always right.’ But Selfridge couldn’t have imagined how challenging meeting customer expectations today would become.

Avaya’s recent Customer Experience in Banking Survey shows, for example, that one in five customers in Saudi Arabia, and 16 percent in the UAE, would share bad experiences banks on social media. These numbers may not seem high, social media as a feedback medium didn’t even exist until a few years ago.

With Snapchat and Instagram yet to appear, many retailers from 2009 wouldn’t have anticipated how important social media would become. Interaction on social media and web chats were available to enhance the customer experience, but for the most part businesses weren’t adopting them. The concept of seamlessly integrating various channels and devices to deliver end-to-end experiences? Not so much.

Companies now compete in an era of countless customer touchpoints, tasked with matching today’s rapid pace of innovation and anticipating customers’ evolving needs. This has made the concept of an omnichannel customer experience integral for success.

Research shows, however, that companies are still struggling to get omnichannel right. Avaya’s study found that getting the same level of experience and service regardless of contact method was the key priority for customers in the region. Unfortunately, 44 percent of companies struggle to provide seamless, omnichannel customer experiences. In the finance and utilities industries, this number is as high as 90 percent.

To address this challenge, we anticipate companies in 2018 looking at five key principles.

While customer feedback is essential, it is the frontline staff, the feet on the street, who best recognise the necessary tools needed to reach new levels of customer experience.

Consider that 84 percent of contact centers globally are adapting to meet the needs of millennial workers. Giving field agents a sense of ownership and arming them with the right information on their desktops will help them explain how to personalise services and engage with customers at a closer level. Agents can potentially sell more when they’re able to make customers feel better about their overall experience.

Rather than forcing a customer to go through countless individual interactions, choose to put customers on a journey. Customer experiences rarely start and stop with one interaction, and it is key to identify several important customer journeys and customer preferences. By understanding where the customer has been, channels can be linked with context, or self-service assistance can be deployed to improve low customer experience scores.

Breaking internal silos can help create orchestrated experiences where executives look at organisational processes as a team. Departments working in silos all stop short of delivering ideal customer experiences when their processes are not stitched together. This also applies to customer resource management systems and contact center processes. They must all complement each other to drive better customer and business outcomes.

Gartner estimates more than 50 percent of chief information officers will have artificial intelligence (AI) as one of their top five investment priorities by 2020. AI is expected to assist greatly in understanding the customer journey. Through augmented reality and bots, more processes can be automated It is important to keep in mind, however, that this won’t replace the need for human interaction, simply that advanced automation and analytics, when used in the right ways, can lead to richer and more effective experiences between customers and representatives.

Lastly, ownership, budget and getting a project off the ground can be done either by way of a proof of concept, or segmenting a certain group of interactions. Bridge the gap by assessing if new roles or skillsets are needed to keep up with the change. Taking things one  step at a time and proving a return on investment against identified use cases before moving on are essential.

A shift needs to occur in 2018 to innovate customer experience and improve lifetime value. This will require research, and at least a few bold moves. But if it is inclusive of input and bridges critical gaps it will work. As Selfridge once noted, the recollection of quality remains long after the price is forgotten.

Yaser Alzubaidi, Sales Leader, Engagement Solutions, Avaya