For anyone with even a basic comprehension of business, it’s easy to understand why companies care about efficiency – wastage is the enemy of profit, after all. But in the endless effort to save costs and resources in customer service, customer experience can sometimes suffer (we’ve all experienced a process getting automated when it really shouldn’t, for example).
And that’s a big problem: more than two-thirds of companies compete primarily on the basis of customer experience nowadays, something businesses simply can’t afford to overlook.
The question is, though: do you really have to choose between efficiency and customer experience? Or is there a balance there to be found?
Customer journeys are now far more convoluted than ever before, with an ever-expanding tapestry of touchpoints available, ranging from initial awareness all the way through to post-purchase. Not to mention the myriad channels to have customer conversations on (social media, email, and live chat to name a few). It’s the impression customers form on your brand through all these interactions that determines the quality of customer experience.
And this experience is so important to customers that, in recent years, it has overtaken price and product as the main driver of customer loyalty. That means you can’t succeed just by offering high quality products, or great customer support in isolation. Only by bringing your business together as a coherent whole will you impress customers enough to part with their hard-earned money.
A truly great customer experience needs to be:
Everything we discussed about customer experience sounds great, but it poses a very real efficiency challenge. How do you manage to sync all business functions without costs skyrocketing? How can you serve customers effectively throughout this complex customer journey without making a mess of data and processes?
When people talk about efficiency in business, what they often mean is minimizing costs. But when companies only think about cost, it can easily backfire. Take call centers as an example, where outsourcing labor purely to increase capacity on the cheap can leave customers frustrated. Granted, it may look good for the bottom line at first, but it’s not going to look so great when customers start leaving in droves because the customer experience became substandard.
In reality, being efficient is just as much about finding smoother, more seamless ways of doing things and creating better workflows. And by deploying resources more effectively, companies not only cut down waste of their own money and resources, they also cut down on wasting customers’ time.
Customers don’t want to have to keep repeating themselves, or face the hassle of waiting around for ages – they want their interactions with you to be as frictionless as possible. And it’s only through ensuring efficient processes that you can do that.
Approaching efficiency this way doesn’t detract from the customer experience. Far from it – it can actually be a massive boon.
One of the most effective ways businesses can go about creating efficiency while simultaneously improving customer experience is investing in certain technologies and tactics. Here are some of the best.
Who hasn’t, at some point, been left pulling their hair out as the twelfth repetition of the tacky hold music kicks in? These kinds of customer experience horror stories have become all too common. And to rub salt in the wounds, many customers will eventually find out that their issue could easily have been solved without waiting in line, if they just had access to the right information beforehand.
In these instances, the customer service department can actually act as a bottleneck and create inefficiency (more like a customer disservice department!).
Of course, there are times when customers need to speak to a real human too (the desire to speak to a person increases with the complexity of an issue). But, the reality is that 70 percent of customers prefer to use a company’s website to get answers to their questions rather than use phone or email, for example.
Enter customer self-service technologies – like chatbots and knowledge bases. Chatbots alone can save 30 percent in support costs while alleviating the burden on human employees, and providing 24/7 service to customers. Knowledge bases are also a popular option, with 51 percent of customers preferring to get support that way.
The upshot of all this? Customers get the answers they need – fast. And that’s not just more efficient, it’s great for customer experience, too.
Customers that would otherwise be left twiddling their thumbs as they wait for an agent to become available can be dealt with much sooner. Live chat also demands less attention from a customer and so frees them up to get on with other tasks while having their issues addressed, minimizing disruption to their day.
Live chat even gives the option for agents to send customers directly to other links and relevant information by including them within chat messages. The end result of all this is a seamless experience for the customer.
Explaining things over the phone or even live chat messaging can be tricky. Think about how inefficient this exchange can be: “Do you see the little button in the corner”, “The blue button?”, “No, the red one”, repeat ad nauseum. And not just inefficient, but frustrating for both parties, as well.
What agents and customers really need is the ability not just to tell, but to show. With cobrowsing technology, agents can ask customers to share their screen and demonstrate what to do – through annotation and other methods – or even take over to do it for them if needed.
When it comes to clearing up any confusion or helping customers complete any processes proving particularly difficult (perhaps filling in a form, for example), this is a massive help. The time savings are enormous and customers are left feeling more confident about you as a brand.
Research shows that employees spend 15 percent of their time just looking for the data and insight they need to manage customer interactions. That isn’t just inefficient, it’s catastrophic for customer experience. Here’s why.
With so many interactions across so many channels, the data landscape is often fragmented. Agents are left to deal with customers without valuable context, and personalization – a key component of a good customer experience – simply goes out the window. Meanwhile, customers have to keep repeating themselves when they have to be re-routed to different agents or when reaching out at different times.
This can be addressed by integrating data from different touchpoints, channels, and databases to move to a unified customer view. The end result is unparalleled insight into the history of each customer’s interactions, no matter the channel. This enables you to deliver a consistent customer experience across agents and channels.
There are customer experience platforms that can help you achieve this. No more time wasted jumping between multiple platforms and a whole lot more happy customers.
See how you can bring all of your customer experience needs under one roof.
Being proactive about understanding customers’ issues can help prevent bigger problems down the line – ones that are often far more difficult and time-consuming to address.
It all comes down to the attitude you adopt as a business. When customers are telling you that something is difficult to do, or they are having particular issues, listen. After all, no one is more able to understand the impact your customer service processes have on customers than the customers themselves.
Seize every opportunity to gather feedback. Offer the chance to fill out surveys after customer service interactions, and be explicit in asking for their opinion on what they felt could be done better. Their suggestions might not always be right, or even feasible, but they will provide a valuable source of inspiration and may well give you some ideas you would never have thought of yourself.
In the end, it’s not so much a case of having to choose between experience and efficiency, as it is choosing to approach efficiency with the right mindset – with the customer firmly front of mind. Many companies miss this. If you’re one of those who get it right, you could find yourself with a very real advantage over your competitors.
Benedict Clark is a psychologist and writer, having previously spent 8 years in the digital marketing industry. With a master's degree in Business and Occupational Psychology from Kingston University, he writes about the interplay between customer experience and psychology for Acquire.