5 Tips for Improving Your Customer Experience—and Your Bottom Line

We all know it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep an existing one, but that doesn't mean it's any easier. Hooking a new customer is just the start of what hopefully will be a long-lasting relationship. These relationships, however, will take a lot of time and effort to build and maintain, which means that companies can't afford to be complacent in 2016. As we bid farewell to 2015 and welcome new challenges and set goals in the new year, here are five tips to stay ahead of the competition and keep your customers happy in 2016.

1. Keep your technology up-to-date to stay relevant with the Millennial workforce. Well over a half million people work in contact centers, 40 percent of whom are between the ages of 20 and 35, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They are the "Touchscreen Generation," who grew up with information on demand and with cell phones in their hands. Their expectations and experiences are drastically different from other generations, causing a cultural shift within the workplace and one that enterprises will need to adapt to.

Contact center technologies have been traditionally utilitarian—highly functional, but lacking modern, user-friendly interfaces and flashy features. With Millennials having limited experience with Windows applications, mainframes, and 3270 terminals, companies will need to explore new ways to retain these younger employees while providing a seamless, focused desktop for the worker.

2. Increase your customers' satisfaction while reducing your employees' effort. By utilizing technology intelligently, it is possible to bring even greater satisfaction to your customers without putting forth more effort. The Customer Effort Score (CES), helps companies understand how the customer perceives their experience relative to their expectations—regardless of the channel.

Companies will be eager to improve their CES scores in the new year. The most effective way to improve these scores is by implementing automated solutions. Integrating disparate applications and building connectivity to simplify workflows will automatically launch work processes based on "triggers" to create a better way of working. Contrary to popular belief, these technologies are non-invasive, have a small IT footprint, and are scalable to grow along with a business.

3. Engage with customers through a variety of channels. Our world has become more connected than ever. This is largely due to the ease of instantaneous communication. Your customers are accustomed to connecting with friends, family, and colleagues through their mobile devices, video, and the Web. Companies that can quickly adapt and connect these newer channels with more traditional approaches in the contact center, such as phone or email, will best serve their customers.

You may be saying to yourself, "More engagement channels means more money." Right? Wrong. Companies are using automated solutions to bridge these technologies to cost-effectively meet their needs. It will be imperative that companies utilize such automation in 2016 to win over their customers.

4. Discover what works and what doesn't. Companies need to better understand how to set up employees for success in order to keep them happy and improve the bottom line. Workforce analytics solutions are crucial for gaining insight into employee productivity and engagement. For example, you can use technology to gain insight into whether your employees are having a difficult time navigating desktop applications, user interfaces, or the customer dashboard. From there, you can adjust those distractions accordingly to simplify them for your employees, saving them time and you money. You can also learn the factors that lead to employee disengagement, such as disruptive company emails, unnecessary team meetings, mandatory breaks, system maintenance, etc.

Not only will you keep your employees happy, you will be better informed and make smarter business decisions.

5. Teach your employees that everyone is a salesperson. With the right tools, your customer service agents can learn everything they need to know about your customers to make a sale. Companies are creatively using automation to build rules and business logic to automatically present on-screen intelligent guidance to help agents promote new offers to customers while they are on the phone and during the "moment of truth," increasing average revenue per transaction and customer profitability.

Today's focus on driving customer profitability and average revenue per transaction is the catalyst behind companies getting more intelligent about the way their contact center agents engage with customers.The contact center was long thought to be a cost center, but today's executives see this as a gold mine for revenue generation in 2016.

In the past, executives had to reevaluate their talent base or modify their hiring practices to attract more sales-centric employees. Today, many are leveraging technology to change up how agents interact by using extensible business logic to deliver contextual intelligent guidance to the agent. This means using automation solutions to integrate legacy technologies and tapping into the array of data sources to better understand the customer.

The new year holds great promise and opportunity for organizations that seek to become more competitively differentiated by delivering world-class service. With the right vision, planning and innovation, your company can take agent performance to a new level. Focus on creating seamless customer journeys. Simplify processes, automate manual tasks, and arm your agents with the tools and customer data they need to give your customers a service experience that will create lasting and profitable relationships.

Anna Convery is executive vice president, strategy, and oversees global market development and strategic initiatives for OpenSpan (www.openspan.com), an industry pioneer in automation technologies that support transformation initiatives focused on driving revenue growth, customer lifetime value, and operational efficiency. She can be reached at info@openspan.com.

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