Delivering a great customer experience is an important priority, but VoiceSage’s John Duffy wonders how organisations are using technology to make good on that commitment.
In 2012, only 30% of companies surveyed by Gartner expected to compete for business primarily on the basis of delivering superior customer experience.
But when the analysts went back last year, they found that number had risen to 90%. Clearly, delivering great customer experience – CX – is an important priority for brands. But is that priority being delivered day to day – and how are organisations using technology to deliver CX today, in the current UK marketplace?
We have some answers, thanks to an extensive market analysis exercise we carried out in partnership with the UK Contact Centre Forum. Top line, the survey revealed that brands are getting far more proactive, that landline remains the biggest customer outreach method, that SMS is emerging as a compelling communications channel – and yes, ‘omnichannel’ is actually happening, with organisations empowered with increasing access to conversations across many media, starting to make it happen. We also found a large number of organisations have deployed integrated information and contact routing systems.
The survey base was broad, which means this feels like a definitive snapshot of the market – with responses coming back from everyone from providers of accountancy services to building management systems, cruise holidays and more. And we also heard from the public sector, answers were recorded from adult social care, environmental and neighbourhood services, as well as council tax and housing teams at local government level.
The road to omnichannel is finally opening up
A key question the research posed: are organisations using technology to facilitate access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue – and if so, over which channels?
The answer was mixed as this still seems to be a common challenge, judging from comments. As one survey CX practitioner, when asked to describe their single largest challenge, put it, there’s still a hill to climb for some CX teams in terms of “tracking history along the entire customer journey”.
However at the same time, the overall results on this point were very positive; nearly 56% of our sample said they can give a team member immediate access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue and across all channels. This shows a high percentage of organisations have deployed integrated information and contact routing systems.
A further 18% said that they were working on developing these capabilities – another positive proof point of real moves to omnichannel.
Proactive: starting to build
When it came to more proactive outreach which anticipates customers’ requirements, the survey shows organisations making headway here too, with 75% saying they do just that with their customers. As one respondent said, “A must for us is a proactive dialler.”
Meanwhile, a huge majority – 87% – think that proactive service will save on in-bound contacts to their organisations, potentially equating to millions of pounds each year clawed back for large customer contact operations.
How is that proactive work being carried out? Simple, with automation. “We would not have the capacity to be proactive without email and text reminders for the renewal of services, for example.”
However, even in 2017, a standard phone still remains the main outreach mechanism, easily coming through as still the most popular choice by 60%, followed by email (26%), post/letter (7.5%) and SMS (6%). In non-proactive outreach, phone scores even higher, at 75%, and email 18%.
The research also looked at two emerging proactive service channels, SMS and Automated Voice. Over half of respondents (51%) use SMS, while 72% said they thought the use of text for proactive contact to be either ‘Effective’ or ‘Very Effective’. Of those who had used SMS as a method, 30% said that response rates are getting either ‘Better’ or ‘A Lot Better’. Intriguingly, the results show that 53% of people that don’t currently use SMS thought that, if they did, it would be Effective or Very Effective.
The survey also highlights the growing role of SMS, in particular with those yet to
embrace proactive who show a strong preference for that channel (37% compared with 31% for phone and 17% for email). Meanwhile, a very high 71% believe SMS technology would mean less in-bound calls for their teams, while greater use of SMS plus social media would mean staff could manage more interactions.
Finally, 19% say that they have used Automated Voice, with 58% reporting it to be ‘Effective’ in achieving what they wanted, while 75% say that response rates after its introduction are getting ‘Better’ or ‘About the Same’. Interestingly, one responded noted that a proactive service challenge was specifically in linking systems to IVR in order “to deliver information that is personalised to that moment of the customer journey”.
All in all, the 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey shows that organisations are doing some real heavy CX ‘lifting’ by empowering organisations with better support systems to improve customer experiences.
A quality customer experience makes for happy customers, as we all know, so it seems CX tech really is getting taken seriously by business at last. This is shown by a willingness by practitioners to embrace new channels to make omnichannel a more realistic proposition.
At the same time it looks like newer technologies like SMS, voice and social media are making inroads, emerging perhaps slowly but steadily as a reliable means of allowing brands to juggle queries more easily and cost effectively.
As one respondent commented, “Transformation of the IT solutions and general business transformation into the digital world” is the key opportunity for 2017 when it comes to CX. We’re not going to argue with that.