VoiceSage’s John Duffy shares some fascinating details of an important industry-wide probe into what’s happening in terms of current customer contact centre outreach
Ever conscious of the need to be as competitive, relevant and visible as they can in a super-connected world, brands are being much more personal in terms of their outreach. That’s great – and what’s better, companies are getting a lot better at measuring the impact of that customer contact.
This is one of the main conclusions of a market analysis exercise we’ve carried out in partnership with the UK Contact Centre Forum [http://uk-ccf.co.uk]. The result, our 2017 UKCCF Proactive Customer Service survey, also clearly shows that proactive service is starting to play a key role in forward-looking Customer Experience (CX) strategies, as it offers so many potential benefits for both brands and their users. And brands, by the way, also now include not just the commercial but the public and even non-profit sector, too.
Let’s put this in some context. In 2012, only one in three companies asked by analyst leadership group Gartner expected to compete for business primarily on the basis of great customer experience. When the analysts went back to ask last year, they found that number had shot up to nine in ten.
Clearly doing CX right is an increasingly important factor in brands’ plans to secure more market share. But how is that translating to company operations on a day-by-day basis? We received responses from over 150 practitioners that provide some intriguing insights in to that question.
Most queries initiated by the customer
The research had two parts. In the first, we looked at the nature of our respondents’ businesses, what communication channels they use, the extent to which they map out and personalise customer journeys, and how many interactions it takes to resolve issues. In the second, we examined what’s taking place when it comes to moving to a more proactive way of doing this vital outreach.
The survey user base was broad and, we think, highly representative. There was interest from everyone who looks after the provision of accountancy services to building management systems, cruise holidays and more, while in the public sector, we got answers back from professionals in adult social care, environmental and neighbourhood services, and council tax and housing repair requests.
Many organisations use integrated information and contact routing systems
When asked whether the brands and public sector entities analysed their customers’ journeys, going so far as to map out what an ‘ideal journey’ might look like, the majority, 56%, report that yes, they do map the customer journey, while a further 20% said that they were working on it. Only 24% said that they did not map it. That suggests some education work on the benefits of better mapping is required, it seems.
Next, we looked at whether agents had access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue – and if so, over which channels? The answer was fairly reassuring: nearly 56% of the sample said that they can give a team member ‘immediate access to previous conversations with customers about the same issue and across all channels’. That shows a reassuringly high percentage of organisations have deployed integrated information and contact routing systems. A further 18% said that they were working on developing these capabilities, also a positive for anyone committed to seeing better CX in our industry.
But how personalised are these communications? How is the sector doing on delivering those tailored incentives such as the special offers, preferential upgrade prices, loyalty bonuses that are so effective at enhancing customer experience? That Gartner statistic tells us that brands are highly aware of how important that factor is. We asked if organisations were able to deliver personalised communications to improve customer experiences, by technology or other approaches. The answer: personalisation is genuinely happening out there; a high percentage, 69%, confirmed they do, while a further 21% say that they offer limited personalisation.
When asked whether organisations proactively contacted their customers, the answer came back most definitely – 75% said they are. Meanwhile, the vast majority – 87% – think that proactive will save on resource by curbing inbound contacts, potentially equating to millions of pounds saved each year for large customer contact operations.
Rise of alternative delivery channels
How is that proactive work being carried out? Even in 2017, the phone remains the biggest channel, and the most popular choice for anything proactive by 60% of organisations, followed by email (26%), post/letter (8%) and SMS (6%). In non-proactive outreach, phone scores even higher, at 75%, and email, 18%.
The research then 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’d used SMS as a Proactive Service tool, 30% said that response rates are getting either ‘Better’ or ‘A Lot Better’. Interestingly, 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.
What’s more, the survey flags the growing role of SMS, in particular with those yet to embrace proactive, showing a strong preference – 37% compared with 31% for phone (and 17% for email). Meanwhile, a very high 71% told us they are convinced SMS technology would mean less in-bound calls for their teams, while greater use of the combination of text plus social media would mean agents could juggle 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’.
Overall, the research demonstrates that not only do brands and organisations map out the customer journey, they are also doing great work empowering the contact centre personnel and support systems by giving them access to other information to improve customer experiences.
What’s more, personalised outreach is becoming increasingly BAU – Business As Usual. The data also shows the benefits and opportunities that proactive offers, and a willingness by practitioners to embrace new mechanisms as a way to become fully omni-channel.
And in parallel to all the positive results, new technologies such as SMS, voice and social media are gaining momentum, as they are a proven means of allowing contact specialists to handle more calls more easily and more cost effectively – all of which is much better for both the business and the customer.
You can download the full research report and the conclusions discussed by visiting here.