This article appeared first January 10, 2017 at SharpenCX.com
Customer experience expert Mike Wittenstein sheds light on enhanced customer expectations, AI innovation, and more.
Big thanks to Mike Wittenstein for his willingness to speak with us and for his insightful commentary.
2017 will be a year defined by how well companies continue to adapt to customer expectations—like the ability to get good service at any time of the day, via any device.
Overall, it’s really just about providing a quality customer experience.
We touched base with leading customer experience expert Mike Wittenstein to learn how you can make your contact center adaptive to customers’ evolving omni-channel expectations in 2017. Here’s what we learned.
Q. How do you expect customer expectations to change in 2017?
A. Customers will expect most vendors to serve them as well as their favorite vendors do. Like the new cash register-less check-out at Amazon GO… why doesn’t Target offer that? Prefer the customized recommendations you get from Nordstrom? Why doesn’t Men’s Wearhouse do it that way?
It’s simply natural to let expectations creep between brands. After all, most people notice obvious differences—like the ones between businesses and brands—more than the little changes within them. The more adaptive companies will excel at keeping pace with their customers’ changing needs.
Q. What’s the most important thing contact center managers should prepare for in 2017?
A. Expect several cycles of change throughout the year, specifically related to the blending of roles between people and technology (chatbots, IoT, AI, etc.). 2017 won’t be a year of “one thing changes one time.” At most contact centers, there will be several waves of change within the 2017 calendar year.
While the technology is rolled out in phases, the people on the front line must adapt continuously. In my opinion, this will be a very exciting time for those agents who can learn to leverage technology to their advantage (i.e., to serve customers better). It will not be the technology or the agents that ultimately determine success. It will be the smooth and comfortable interface between the two that customers will notice—and respond to.
Q. How can companies create amazing customer experiences in 2017?
A. The answer to this question is the same as it was in 2016 and will be the same as in 2018 ?
The answer to this question is threefold:
#1: Deepen your customer profile. Customers expect an ever-more frictionless experience and more proactive service. You’re dead if you don’t know what your customers care most about.
#2: Serve before you sell. There are still many contact centers that put internal performance numbers ahead of customers’ needs. If continued for the long-haul, this is a one-way trip to last place. Put value creation for customers’ first and you’ll earn more customers.
#3: Think for yourself. There’s no best practice for the future. Listen to your vendors and your customers, but strive to infuse unique and tangible value into the brand experience you offer your customers. Nobody can answer that better than you can.
Q. What are 3 key trends that you anticipate for customer experience in 2017?
A. #1: Becoming more adaptive won’t just get the usual quick head nod; it will get attention and it will get done. Those who can change their internal capabilities to respond better to emerging customer requests (not just do what the budget or the process says) will be the winners.
#2: Stores are getting smarter. Machine vision, predictive analytics, interactive tech, responsive digital displays, and many other once-futuristic visions have become common in just a few years. The brands seeking to differentiate themselves through CX are putting their money on tech that lets salespeople serve better, not just sell more.
#3: Waiting is dying. Whether it’s online or in-store, waiting isn’t efficient for customers, businesses, hospitals, theaters, restaurants, and other businesses. Queueing tech like QMatic, TimeTrade, and others offer more flexibility around appointments. Video analytics and labor planning tools are matching staffing levels with customer volumes throughout the day. Higher levels of service and profit are the result of being more adaptive.
Q. Do you see a future where AI and robots can actually enhance the “human-to-human” connection?
A. Yes, and it’s already happening. Check out Tulip as one example. It’s a software solution based on letting the employees who are in the store run the store. Simply brilliant. For example, seeing a customer’s online look book as they walk into the store makes recommendations easier.
Knowing what equipment someone owns and what repair parts have already been ordered makes contact center troubleshooting faster, more accurate, and more profitable. As information from new sources (like robots, contact centers, traffic meters, machine vision, predictive algorithms, etc.) is fed to the contact center, the level of support rises—and so does its value to customers!
Q. How will companies need to evolve their CX strategies in 2017 in order to remain relevant?
A. Increasing the focus on your customers is essential. Know more of them by name. Visit them in their homes or places of work. Speak with them regularly (not only through surveys and contact center calls). Round out your understanding of how they use what you do for them to increase value for themselves and others in their lives. Armed with this kind of information, the choices of what CX improvements to make—and how to make them—become much easier.
Q. Can SaaS companies make these changes easier?
A. Absolutely. Organizations built on software-as-a-service platforms are more adaptive, by nature, than those built on traditional technology stacks. They can change more quickly. If the change is “right” for the business and for its customers, all is well. If the information a change relies on is incorrect or if the implementation is flawed, more “bad CX” can find its way to market. Because changes on a SaaS system are easier/faster, it’s important to develop check-and-balance steps so you don’t frustrate your customers. Experience prototyping is an excellent capability to hire in, or to develop in-house.
Q. Is there a measurable correlation between CX and revenue?
A. Yes, and that’s been well-documented by Bain, Forrester, Temkin Group, and many others. For CX to have a dramatic effect on revenue, it must meet these criteria:
• Long-term orientation. CX solutions aren’t quick fixes because the good ones usually require coordination between multiple departments. Also, they become part of the brand promise, so removing them angers customers.
• Great design. CX solutions need to be designed on purpose to turn heads, touch hearts, and make money. Unlike sales or staff reductions, the returns don’t come instantly. It takes some time to roll out great designs, and for customers to react to them.
• New metrics. Some of the older metrics that emphasize benefit to the company require augmentation with measures that accurately measure the value of an experience on customers. Without it, how can you know you’re doing (enough of) the right thing?
Collectively, we can expect several things in 2017:
• Customers will come to expect all companies to offer the same level of customer experience as their favorite company.
• The more effectively contact center agents leverage technology, the better customer experience they’ll provide.
• Customer experiences will improve through deeper customer profiles and serving before selling.
• As companies learn how to adapt to customer needs, they will rise above the competition.
• AI and robots will provide practical benefits to company employees to better serve customers.
• More companies will begin to realize the correlation between CX and bottom line.