Article

Delighting customers with modern customer experiences

Customers today want an experience that identifies with them.

By Tim M. Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor, AVOA

Published October 15, 2020
Last updated October 21, 2020

The customer has changed and so have their expectations on what customer experience means to them. As these expectations change, so must the company and their approach to customer experience.

There was a time when hyper-personalization and chatbots were the leading methods to engage with customers. Today, customers are looking for a very different approach that addresses two key attributes: Access to information and speed to resolution. On top of it all, customers want an experience that identifies with them regardless of the means or department they engage with.

Removing the fragmented customer experience

Customers will engage with a company in many ways and through different channels. They may use a mobile application or speak with a customer service representative. Likewise, they may engage through marketing, sales, or social media. Regardless of how they engage or the department they engage with, the customer is still working with the same company and expects a degree of connectedness behind the scenes.

Over time, it is common for the customer’s experience to be a mishmash of disjointed interactions with little continuity. Any given customer may be connected through a loyalty program or support agreement, but little else. In the advent of regulatory, compliance and privacy requirements, the customer may even be reduced to a simple number. But from the customer’s perspective, they are the same person at every touch point — and it’s important for the company to recognize that.

Customers are looking for a seamless experience across the entire customer journey — and each customer may take a different journey. The information they provided in one scenario should carry to the next experience. The silos of disjointed systems in the past can’t keep up, and companies need to rely on a more integrated approach.

The silos of disjointed systems in the past can’t keep up, and companies need to rely on a more integrated approach.

The integrated approach needs to support an omnichannel customer that may first engage via chatbot, then switch to a live person only to follow up with email. All the while, the information about the customer and their inquiry are quickly following a path to resolution.

Access to information

The customer, those supporting the customer, and those systems with which the customer and agent engage need to have immediate access to relevant information. While that sounds relatively straightforward, for many companies it requires crisscrossing a number of system integrations. Accomplishing that is rarely seamless or speedy.

Chatbots are a common way for customers to engage with a company, as they can quickly solve common questions leveraging machine learning and automation. But is the chatbot programmed in a way that actually addresses the customer’s inquiry? And what if the question goes beyond the chatbot’s capability—will the system automatically identify the challenge and hand off the conversation to a live agent? Does each involved party have the context and access to backend information they need?

This is where integrated systems come into play. Integrated systems that understand the customer journey and support an omnichannel experience provide ready access to automation, like chatbots, and to support agents. In the end, the information is accessible for everyone who needs it, whether it’s the customer, the agent, or the company.

Speed to resolution

Access to information is one thing. Speed to resolution is another. Customers are expecting immediate resolution of their question or issue. Ironically, technology often gets in the way.

Slow websites, poor search capabilities, interactive voice response (IVR), phone trees, and conditioned response chatbots are only a few of the ways that technology can exacerbate the problem. How many times have you needed to navigate a phone tree that ultimately did not have an option for the issue you were calling about? Or engage with a chatbot that misunderstood your issue? These are just a few frustrating examples we can all relate to. In addition, it is too easy for customers to switch to a competitor after a bad experience, and prioritizing speed to resolution can help avoid this.

It is too easy for customers to switch to a competitor after a bad experience, and prioritizing speed to resolution can help avoid this.

This is why modern customer engagement systems are important. Unlike the patchwork systems of the past, these modern systems start with the customer experience and work from there. In doing so, they are oriented with the customer first, then engage the appropriate backend systems that best address the issue in the way the customer wants.

A modern approach to customer experience, with solid processes that account for the customer’s perspective is powerful. Integrating your customers’ preferred channels, keeping information accessible, and employing a philosophy that keeps them at the center is a surefire way to keep your customers happy. Customer experience is a key differentiator, and at the end of the day, better CX means your customers will stick around — and have good things to say about you.

About the author

Tim M. Crawford, CIO Strategic Advisor, AVOA

Tim Crawford is ranked as one of the topmost influential CIOs and regularly quoted in the Wall Street Journal, CIO.com, Forbes, SiliconAngle and TechTarget. Tim is a strategic CIO, executive coach and advisor that works with large global enterprise organizations across a number of industries including financial services, healthcare, major airlines and high-tech. Tim’s work differentiates and catapults organizations in transformative ways through the use of technology as a strategic lever. Tim takes a provocative, but pragmatic approach to the intersection of business and technology.

Tim has served as CIO and other senior IT roles with global organizations such as Konica Minolta/ All Covered, Stanford University, Knight-Ridder, Philips Electronics and National Semiconductor. He is a board advisor to Latent AI and a member of the Wall Street Journal’s CIO Network. Tim serves as host of the CIO In The Know and CxO In The Know podcasts. The weekly podcasts interview CIOs and top executives to discuss the top issues facing them today.

Tim holds an MBA in International Business with Honors from Golden Gate University Ageno School of Business and a Bachelor of Science degree in Computer Information Systems from Golden Gate University.