Customer experience is essential to customer retention. And, your business cannot grow if your customers do not remain with you. Here’s another pithy fact — customer experience is singular, not plural. Your customers should be having an experience with your brand (singular), not multiple experiences (plural).
If you doubt the truth of either of these facts, just review the latest statistics, further down in this piece, about customer experience. They prove that your contact center must eliminate channel silos to deliver an omnichannel customer experience.
Channel silos are becoming an increasingly prevalent problem that many contact centers are facing. These centers focus on providing exceptional customer experiences face obstacles around viewing data across all contact channels. The result is messages from customers being missed and efforts to resolve issues being repeated.
If you’ve ever communicated with a chatbot and then moved to a phone conversation where the agent did not have the information you provided for the bot, you know how frustrating it can be to explain your problem again. You are left with an agent producing the same solution that the bot offered, with the same outcome that did not solve your frustrations.
Contact centers are working on solutions to hit this problem straight on through omnichannel strategies, customer journey mapping, and customer experience platforms. The result is a team of agents equipped with everything they need to provide a seamless and uniform experience to customers without customers feeling frustrated that their needs are unmet.
The Era of Digital Disruption
Today is the era of digital disruption. Customers’ fundamental expectations and behaviors and the businesses who serve them are being shaken up by digital channels, digital capabilities, and digital devices.
This is being seen in the contact center industry, a sector not exactly renowned in recent decades for innovation. The industry is still primarily built around the telephone and toll-free numbers. Even the common term for the players in the industry, “call centers,” harks back to a bygone era when agents in these centers answered calls placed over landline telephones and nothing else.
A few of the industry’s digital disruptions include cloud technology, agents working from home on Chromebooks (phones and PCs converged into one device, and self-service bots.
Digital disruption in the retail space is creating opportunities for retailers to acquire customers, engage with existing customers and lower expenses.
Retailers are deploying virtual reality, for example, to enhance the online shopping experience. Apps in the clothing and cosmetic industries, in particular, are helping retailers show buyers what particular outfits and treatments look like on buyers.
Other retailers are embracing artificial intelligence to predict buyer behavior and to drive chatbots and voice-activated shopping. Retailers are not only adding virtual reality and augmented reality functionality to their apps. They are also upgrading their online and mobile payment methods to reflect the many ways that buyers pay for purchases.
Retailers also realizing that smartphones are here to stay, with a whopping 81% of customers consulting their smartphones before making a purchase.
Customer Experience and Channel Silos
One of the leading causes of poor customer experience with contact centers is channel silos. Channels, of course, are the methods that customers use to contact your contact center. Phone is a channel. Chatbots are a channel. Live chat is a channel. Email is a channel.
Each of these channels uses a distinct set of hardware, software and services to enable their functionality. And each of these channels creates and stores its own data. Contact centers are in the decision-making business, and to help customers make those decisions, contact centers need access to all of the data from all of the company channels.
And this is where things come unstuck. Look at many companies today and you’ll see that each channel stores its data in its own repository. These data repositories are like grain silos, scattered across the countryside. They are not connected. They are incapable of sharing information with other silos.
Data silos exist for a number of reasons. They occur when a contact center’s data systems aren’t integrated with other data systems, usually as the result of architectural incompatibility. These problems may exist in the applications, data or infrastructure, although the data architectural layer is usually the primary culprit. This is typically due to the limitations of traditional data modeling techniques.
What this means in practical terms is that an agent who talks with your customer using your phone channel does not know that the customer was just interacting with your website using your chatbot channel. The agent doesn’t know because the data for each channel is held in different channel silos.
The result is that your agent will deliver a sub-par customer experience. They can’t possibly deliver the best service when they do not have all the facts.
Types of Channel Silos
Data silos are a major challenge because there are so many channels. Each channel has its own unique silos.
Siloed operations channels. Picture all the activities that keep a retail store up and running and you have a picture of data silos. You have a people management silo. A supply chain silo. A cash operations silo. Plus, silos for data related to inventory, master data management, promotions and pricing, and plenty more.
Siloed marketing channels. Marketing has its own data silos as well. Think agents, brokers, resellers, wholesalers, affiliates and retailers.
Siloed sales channels. Then you have the many channels involved in selling products and services, including sales outsourcing, self-service kiosks, eCommerce, direct marketing.
Siloed customer support channels. The days of customer support being delivered over just the phone are long gone. To the one channel, we now have email, social media, live chat, chatbots, forums and message boards, self-service knowledge bases and on-page widgets.
How to Break Down Your Channel Silos
The first step is to map your customer journey. The only way to eliminate channel silos is to first understand how customers interact with your company. According to Salesforce, customer journey mapping (also called user journey mapping) is the process of creating a visual story of your customer’s interactions with your brand. This exercise helps you step into your customer’s shoes and see your business from the customer’s perspective.
The next step is to create an omnichannel strategy. Start by listing all of your channels, the purpose that each one plays in your overall strategy, and who on your team has ownership of the channel. Then, create if/then statements to create the path of communication that a customer takes when interacting with one channel. This helps your entire team understand the customer’s experience should they come in contact with the same customer elsewhere. A good CRM helps you streamline this process.
The final step is to deploy a customer experience platform. A customer experience platform integrates the data in your channels and organizes all of the virtual touch-points, allowing your agents to help your customers with confidence. Arming your contact center agents with this platform gives your customers the positive customer service interactions they expect.
Six Vital Functions of a Digital Customer Experience Platform
A digital customer experience platform is a software application that helps a business measure, analyze, and improve the customer experience. The platform collects and analyzes data about each customer’s interactions with the business, interprets that data, arrives at insights, and recommends responses.
A digital customer experience platform serves six vital functions.
- Real-time interactions: The platform organizes and manages customer interactions in real-time, in one place. Because it is real-time, it helps your customers while saving them precious time. Contact centers have previously relied on historical data, whether it be two hours or two weeks old. Customers can do a lot of interacting with your company in a matter of minutes. With real-time interactions, your agents will be able to pinpoint your customer’s last interaction and the result instantly.
- Cross-channel visibility: The platform gives your business visibility into cross-channel communication between your customers and your agents. The platform overcomes the pervasive challenge that contact centers face with a lack of internal communication between agents in multiple channels. By gaining visibility into the discussions that your agents have with customers—regardless of the channel—you help the next agent in the customer experience deliver even better service.
- Performance analysis: A digital customer experience platform analyzes performance statistics. It gives you insights into your performance statistics to help your team make better data-driven decisions. Without this functionality, and a lack of knowledge about the metrics and stats that indicate your level of performance, you cannot gauge what is working and what isn’t with your customer service efforts. But don’t measure these metrics if you cannot manage them. These statistics will help create a roadmap that can be used to continuously improve customer interaction with your brand.
- Customer feedback tracking: Customer feedback drives strategy. With sufficient feedback from your customers, including both those who are satisfied and those who are dissatisfied, your team can delve deeper into the feelings that your customers have about their experience with your brand. This is made easier with a digital customer experience platform that tracks customer feedback automatically. If customers consistently buy more with specific messaging, it might be wise to train your agents to include that messaging into their pitches.
- Single view: The only thing worse than a poor user interface is multiple poor user interfaces. The best digital customer experience platforms display data through a single dashboard. This dashboard is customizable so that it displays only the metrics and KPIs that you want to view. Your managers view their numbers in one glance instead of having to dig through multiple screens or visit multiple applications or view multiple documents.
- Integration: Finally, a digital customer experience platform integrates easily with your other contact center software platforms. You have many types of data and information that need to be integrated to operate effectively. Seamlessly consolidating all of your data sources requires a platform that has robust integration capabilities built-in.
Statistics to Back a Customer Experience Strategy and Platform
More often than not, decision-makers are tasked with finding reasons why they should buy into this new way of thinking and implementing. They need to know why this strategy is needed to improve sales and increase customer retention through customer experience and satisfaction.
Let’s start with the stats about the cost of getting it wrong. According to Accenture Strategy, businesses in the United States lose $1.6 trillion every year because of poor customer service. Not to mention, 52% of customers have decided to switch their providers based on these poor experiences. A common trend that is coming to life is the demand to speak with an agent and not solve problems through digital delivery. And companies leave $98 billion on the table each by failing to provide simple experiences to their consumers (Siegel+Gale). Siegel and Gale show that more users will pay more for simpler services and refer the brand to their acquaintances based on the ease of communication.
Then there’s the matter of customer loyalty. Customer experience drives over two-thirds of customer loyalty, more than brand and price combined (Gartner). These CX/UX designers are missing the mark 70% of the time by not being able to provide projects that improve customer retention and drive results. Unsurprisingly, consumers will pay a 16% price premium for a great customer experience (PwC), while a ghastly 17% will walk away after one bad experience and 59% after several less-than-pleasant experiences. The 17% and 59% are revenue that could have been retained by a solid customer experience strategy and platform.
Then there’s the matter of what customers want—and are willing to pay for. According to studies conducted by PwC, consumers are willing to pay a 16% premium to receive a great customer experience. American Express has found similar results. According to their research, retained customers will pay a 17% price premium if doing so means they will receive excellent service. PwC also found that 65% of customers would find a great customer experience to be significantly more influential than marketing or advertising.
Finally, there’s the matter of the customer journey, the one that is impacted so powerfully by channel silos. When customers contact a brand, a whopping 71% of them expect the customer service agent to know all about the customer’s previous interactions with the brand (Radial). They want the brand to see them as an individual and loyal customer, instead of just another sales number they need to meet. And 69% of U.S. adults who shop online and offline will shop more with retailers who give them a customer experience in both channels (Forrester). This continues the theme of creating an inclusive and cohesive experience. While your customers experience excellent service offline, they expect the same great communication online.
The Role of Data in Breaking Down Channel Silos
When you break down channel silos, you achieve consistency and standardization with your data. Once you integrate your data, you get your teams and departments aligned and on track to hit your overarching sales, revenue and customer retention goals.
Breaking down channel silos gives you holistic data sets. You gain a holistic view of your operations across multiple platforms and contact centers. With a holistic view across multiple platforms, your contact center agents and managers no longer have to learn multiple interfaces and reporting tools. Instead, they master just one platform to give your customers the best experience.
Channel silos, by definition, require looking in multiple places to get answers. But when you eliminate your channel silos, your agents and managers gain deeper, real-time visibility across all contact center channels.
When you eliminate channel silos, you gain a single source of truth. A single source of truth is a trusted data source that gives a complete picture of your data as a whole. You eliminate the problems that come with managing multiple sources of data, experiencing inaccuracies in your data, and a lack of collaboration between teams.
Once your channel silos disappear, insights appear. Insights come from having a 360° view of your operations. You improve customer experiences with customer service analytics, and you leverage the power of real-time contact center metrics to create a more efficient and effective contact center experience for your customers.
Finally, you spot patterns. Patterns in call volumes. Patterns in response times. Patterns in customer satisfaction. Using artificial intelligence, for example, you easily detect common issues, detect patterns and predict issues that are causing problems for specific users.
Towards an Omnichannel Customer Experience
A customer experience platform integrates all channels so that you deliver an omnichannel customer experience. It takes all of your channels of communication and brings them together for a full view of your overall customer experience. Your customers experience the same service regardless of which channel they use to interact with your brand.
Eliminating your channel silos with a customer experience platform is worth the investment. Once you have an omnichannel view of your customers, and once your customers enjoy an omnichannel experience with your brand, you increase sales, boost customer loyalty, grow your customer base, improve your brand image, reduce customer complaints and improve employee morale.
When we talk about an Omnichannel Customer Experience, we are primarily talking about the experience that customers have when contacting a contact center. Omnichannel simply means one channel. An omnichannel experience stops looking at individual channels (phone, email, text, social media, messaging apps, chatbots), and starts looking at delivering one customer experience regardless of the channel.
Omnichannel essentially takes all channels of communication and interaction and integrates them so that your company gets a comprehensive view of your customer experience. Omnichannel eliminates channel silos and the siloed experience that happens when channels operate parallel to one another. Instead, it gets these channels to operate concurrently for a seamless experience.
You should be delivering an omnichannel customer experience whether you are bricks and mortar, online, or both. You need this strategy whether you are reachable by telephone or your website, whether reachable through social media or any other channel. An omnichannel customer experience delivers a consistent brand experience regardless of how your customers contact you.
The Difference Between Siloed Channels and Omnichannel
The difference between a siloed channel experience and an omnichannel customer experience is that an omnichannel experience gives your customer the same communication or retail experience in every channel. They communicate with your agents over an online chat in the same way that they do over the phone. Regardless of the channel, they know that you understand their needs and that you will take care of them.
This approach is mindful of all the touchpoints your customer has (and will have) in order to offer them a seamless experience. Whether they start off on your website, to then jump onto a phone call and then end up at your store, the customer should be able to carry on their experience with no hassle.
An Omnichannel Experience Is Vital For Customer Retention
The future of customer experience is omnichannel. That means no silos and increased knowledge of customers. Eliminating channel silos is essential if you are to keep your customers engaged and loyal to your brand. If you’re looking to retain your existing customers and grow your customer base today and into the future, delivering an omnichannel customer experience should be at the top of your to-do list.
After all, the number of ways your customers are interacting with your brand is growing. From chat to email, and phone to video calling, there are many ways in which you can mesh these channels. Without a customer experience platform, your company will fall short against your competition as technology evolves and other companies have the capability to delve deeper into customer experience opportunities.
By the way, at Aceyus, we offer Omnichannel Customer Experience Software to contact centers worldwide. We help you create a true omnichannel contact center with an analytics system that unites customer data in one place through highly customizable dashboards. Learn more by downloading our EXCX Whitepaper, or request a demo.