Customer experience: how to up your game in time for the roaring (20)20s

By Katy Howell | May 27, 2021

In our first blog on the customer experience, we explored how to be human in the digital world, how to get leadership onboard, and how to prove the value of customer care across the business. This week, we’re going a little deeper; looking at how to implement new technology, how to raise the game and whether brands should even have a personality.

Thank you again to Jen Brown, Regional Marketing Director at Sprinklr, Tracey Finlay, Founder of Business EQ and Catherine Storey, Lead Social Media Manager at Co-op, who sat down with our CEO, Katy Howell earlier this month to give us these incredible insights. Let’s dive right in!

 

Structure in tech empowerment

So, we’ve established why you would want a stronger, more integrated customer experience team in your business, and that technology is one of the key ways to achieve that. But how do you go about implementing new tech?

For Jen, it’s “all about people’s empowerment, but in a structured way.” The customer care team needs to know that they have the tools to dive into every conversation, listen to every mention, related or otherwise, about your brand, but also to know when they can step in. In those instances, rules often act like guidelines and help to empower the team further.

Katy put it best, saying the rules are “like guard rails at a bowling alley. It just stops you from going in the gutter.” The brand needs to work together to have great conversations with customers, but also to establish when and how CX teams can have difficult conversations with customers. Sometimes particular lines have to be drawn in the business just so that everyone knows what they can say, and what they can’t. Uncertainty is the enemy here, not the freedom created by new technology. Having rules can make you feel safer, to feel natural and go out there. So, it’s really comfortable to know there are some rules, as long as they are not strangling.

 

Being proactive – how to raise the game

With technology implemented, how do we actually go about raising the game, taking the customer experience to the next level? Well, we have to go where the customer is. Catherine rightly pointed out that “It’s not cool to tag a brand. (Customers) are having great conversations about (brands), but they’re not tagging (them) because it’s not cool.”

With the right technology, you have oversight, and you can pick and choose to engage in conversations by responding as a brand in a humorous way. Brands are being more personified than ever – just look at supermarkets and fast-food brands, like Wendy’s’ hilariously aggressive stance towards any criticism, or the recent Colin the Caterpillar conversation. Without having technology to tell you this is a trend and rapidly spot these conversations, you don’t have the time to react quickly and tap into the community.

Tracy added, “It’s about being relevant to the conversation that’s going on outside of you, and what people are talking about outside.” Businesses try to be relevant by talking about themselves but getting down and dirty with what’s going on outside will make you really stand out. Customers have really strong opinions, and they have a megaphone. All you need to do is listen, and you need to be listening industry wide, or rather, topic wide.

 

So, listening. But how?

We keep touching on listening, but that requires a lot of data. Is there even a sensible approach to that? Jen kicked us off, saying “The sensible approach is AI. That’s the interesting paradox that we find: to be more human, we need AI.”

Or rather, to be more human at scale, we need AI. At home, employees in your corner shop may have known you by name, may have had your order ready, tucked away to the side for when you come in, because they know you always order a latte and bagel at 8.45am before work. Brands are trying to bring that level of personal touch at scale, and to do that you need to be able to free up the contact centre agencies to be able to deal with really difficult and complex situations. That all means AI has to be there to support your contact centre agencies, taking care of the straightforward questions on a repeated basis.

That all sounds rather complicated, and also rather expensive, doesn’t it? Well, Tracy added “Even with no budget, you can involve your customer facing people and ask them the frustrating things that customers keep doing.” If customers keep asking the same annoying questions, then it’s not their fault; it’s the brands. You can essentially do a free version of AI by quizzing your customer care teams about repeated queries, then create a useful FAQ, or even directly address the issue within your business. Perhaps your website needs an overhaul, or a simple five-minute tweak that will make all the difference.

That all takes listening. It’s one thing to implement AI, but like we talked about earlier, the volume of data you gather needs structure to be useful. It needs everyone in the business to communicate their findings. Catherine added, “Make sure the social and customer care team are in the room when it’s not just a crisis.” When there’s a crisis, suddenly the doors open to every part of the business to share their data on what customers are saying. But when there isn’t a crisis, this data is just as relevant, and needs to be communicated just as effectively in an efficient, structured way.

 

Should brands have a personality?

Now that we’re listening, the next step is to engage. We have all seen the sharp uptick in brands suddenly finding a sense of humour. Gone are the everyday updates about how a new product is being launched – brands are allowed to be fun. Finally! But should they all be? And how? Well, ignore the how, because part of all this is each brand needing to find their own path. Rather, our panel felt being human was more important than fun.

Jen said, “Being human has to go to all levels of the company. It needs to be integrated from the spokesperson to the executive team.” A brand’s humanity needs to be consistent, because consistency is really close to reliability, and reliability drives revenue. That only works if the culture behind the personality allows it to resonate through all the employees. If it doesn’t, it’ll look disingenuous.

Tracy commented, “There’s a lot of talk about businesses being on brand. I think businesses should be on customer.” You shouldn’t expect your customer to come to your brand, but rather you should come to your customer. Two ears for listening, one mouth for talking – we tell that to our children, we should say the same to our businesses.

 

Chat bots: yay or nay?

Chat bots aren’t exactly the most personable approach to customer service, especially with how we just touched on the need for humanity in brands, but sometimes there’s just too much data, simply too many people to accurately be personable with everyone – and that’s when chatbots come in.

Jen said, “It’s all about transparency. If you’re using a chatbot, then actually say you’re using a chatbot.” The challenge comes when there needs to be a transition from chatbot to human customer care team. The response needs to be near instantaneous and seamless. Frustrations arise when you’ve had your first three questions answered by a chatbot, but then you sit around waiting for thirty minutes for a human representative to answer the fourth. Brands need processes that quickly and efficiently take care of the transition, clearly communicating to the customer that they are being taken care of in the right way.

 

The effect of customer service on your team

On the subject of those frustrations and difficult conversations that CX teams sometimes have to deal with, it’s also important to note that, in the world of anonymous online social presences, it’s all too easy to throw around some harsh language. In this often-toxic environment, how do we protect staff so that they can continue to deliver the best experience?

Jen said, “You protect them by enabling them to not follow a script, not follow a template. You protect them by enabling them to be human, and to show kindness.” Jen experienced the most amazing customer service when her mother was in hospital. She was talking to her mother’s mobile provider, and the representative from the provider’s CX team was empowered to go above and beyond. The representative quickly understood Jen and her mother needed a significant time investment and made that time available to them, she allowed them to talk, she worked through the problem, and she left the door open so they could always go back to her because they knew Jen and her mother were time poor and couldn’t afford to sit in a queue. It helped reassure Jen during a difficult time, when everything else was incredibly complicated.

It’s not exaggerating to say that customer care makes return customers. We all have had positive experiences in our lives with employees that have made us say, ‘Wow, I’m going to shop here forever’. Something as simple as an extra apple when getting your groceries because an employee recognises you’re struggling that day can change your outlook, your mood and create a powerful connection with a brand. It’s high time we all took a little more note of the customer experience, especially as we head into the roaring (20)20s.

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