CX Becomes Essential as Contact Centers Become the Face of the Company

Companies struggled immediately after the coronavirus took hold, but now contact centers have rightly emerged as centerpiece of companies' customer communication efforts, the CEO of Cyara told attendees at his company's Cyara Xchange virtual event this week.

"At the beginning of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty out there. You saw call volume go through the roof, contact centers falling over, and really long wait times," Alok Kulkarni, CEO of Cyara, told the virtual audience of about 1,000 people.

"In the last few months, I've spoken to a lot of our customers. Almost every one needed to move thousands of [agents] to work from home in weeks or days," Kulkarni said. "As offices and stores shut down, contact centers became the face of the company. It was the only way that these companies could communicate with their customers."

Despite all of the digital channels, like chatbots , it was at times like these that humans craved the human touch the most, Kulkarni added. "Humans craved empathy, which is what contact centers were able to provide."

At the same time, companies that moved to the cloud, with strong digital and automation capabilities, have been the most successful during the pandemic, Kulkarni said. "The companies that leaned into these trends and practices were the ones that were able to quickly pivot."

Now, as COVID-19 starts to wane across the country, contact centers can improve customer experience further by focusing on key drivers, said Maxie Schmidt-Subramanian, a principal analyst at Forrester Research.

"Customer experience is how customers perceive their interactions with your organization. It's all about perception. It doesn't matter that the customer gets something from the firm. What matters is that it is perceived as a good experience."

She stressed that customer experience isn't just customer service, it's any interaction with the company.

A great customer experience has three characteristics, which Schmidt-Subramanian refers to as the 3 Es:

  • Effectiveness: Customers need to receive value from the experience.
  • Ease: Customers need to receive value from the experience without difficulty. and
  • Emotion: The experience needs to create an emotional connection with the customer.

"Emotion is a really important key," Schmidt-Subramanian said. "This can actually have the biggest impact on loyalty."

The emotions that positively affect the customer experience the most are feeling appreciated, happy, and valued. Those that negatively affect the customer experience are feeling annoyed, disappointed, or frustrated.

The customer experience is lacking in most instances, Schmidt-Subramanian said. In the most recent Forrester Customer Experience Index, no industry rated excellent; only luxury auto manufacturers, multichannel banks, digital retailers, and auto/home insurers ranked good (average ranking). Ranking worst were the federal government, utilities, and airlines.

Companies should improve customer experience because doing so drives important business goals—revenue, costs and risks, Schmidt-Subramanian said.

Improving the customer experience can have a tremendous impact on customer revenue—anywhere from millions to billions, depending on the industry.

To improve customer experience, focus on the key drivers and build a CX discipline, Schmidt-Subramanian recommended. "Then you can deliver good customer experience, not as an accident but as a consistent thing."

Among the key drivers that she identified were the following:

  • Agents who can answer all customer questions, resolve problems quickly, and solve problems themselves without a supervisor. "Nothing is worse than being transferred from person to person and not finding a solution," Schmidt-Subramanian said.
  • Clear language and communication that delivers on the 3 Es.

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