Whether it’s an e-commerce giant like Amazon or the local shoe repair shop, great customer experience (CX) is a key factor that differentiates a business from its competitors.
Consumers are programmed to expect the best service from companies. When a local shoe repair shop promises to have the shoes ready on Friday and delivers a day early, satisfied customers will remain loyal to that shop even if another one is located nearby or offers a cheaper price.
Businesses need to create amazing experiences…or die
Improving CX was the primary theme of the recent AWS Contact Center Day event. During one of the six sessions for the half-day event, host Shep Hyken, a customer service and experience expert, provided a couple of interesting data points from the recent 2021 Achieving Customer Amazement Study, conducted by Amazon.
The first is that 73 percent of customers are willing to go out of their way to do business with a company that has better customer service. On the other hand, 83 percent of customers are willing to switch companies because of a bad experience. This is like my research that found two-thirds of millennials changed loyalties to a brand in 2020 because of a single bad experience.
The data shows customers have high expectation for companies, especially when it comes to having knowledgeable employees. They also want kind and helpful employees who can address their concerns with compassion and understanding. Lastly, customers want to be able to easily access the right person without getting the runaround.
Once a customer is terminated, the business won’t be back
The session dove deeper into why customers stop doing business with companies. Hyken highlighted three key “terminators,” which goes hand-in-hand with unfulfilled expectations.
The number one reason is dealing with employees who are apathetic or don’t seem to care. The second reason is not being able to connect with customer support. Third, some customers simply prefer competition that’s more convenient or has a better process for doing business.
The findings point to the fact that offering better CX is not enough. Companies should strive to be consistently and predictably better than average, Hyken explained. Those best practices include:
- Knowledge. Customers want to talk to people who are knowledgeable about the product or service, as well as the issue they’re calling about. They expect it.
- Convenience. Think of a hotel minibar that’s well stocked with soda and snacks. People will pay for convenience rather than walking down the hall to purchase those products from a vending machine. The same goes for CX. Companies can reduce friction and simplify how customers get to the contact center by providing:
- Self-service: a seamless way to connect to a person when necessary.
- Technology: to assist customers when they want to choose a call-back option or other automated features.
- Access: an option for customers to contact customer service any time they want, not just during business hours.
- Consistency. Whether customers contact a company via text, phone, e-mail, or social media, their experience must be consistent across all channels.
Priceline is using Amazon Connect to transform customer experience
Amazon is a company that built its entire business around creating great CX. One Amazon Connect customer, Priceline, was able to drastically improve CX by moving its contact center and service agents to the cloud. In 2019, the online travel agency migrated from on-premise Interactive Voice Response (IVR) to Amazon Connect, an omni-channel cloud contact center.
Previously, Priceline had hundreds of allocators manually adjusted multiple times a day. Today, the company uses business process outsourcing (BPO) and has eight global contact centers.
It also has global queues, which means calls are no longer trapped in a particular location. Agents pull the next most important call from a queue automatically and it’s assigned regardless of where they’re sitting in the world.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning is core to customer experience evolution
On the technology side, Amazon Connect’s artificial intelligence (AI) / Machine Learning (ML) functions can recognize the phone number when a customer calls, predict what the call is about, and route the customer to the right global queue to speak to an agent. Customers waiting in queue are provided with an estimated wait time or given an option for an agent to call them back.
Priceline easily implemented other features based on its customers’ needs, Jennifer Featherling, Priceline’s director of contact center technology, said during the AWS webinar. Customers wanted the option of escalating calls to a higher tier when their calls are transferred to another agency. Based on customer feedback, Priceline implemented that feature in approximately two minutes.
“It’s important for us to know our customer and understand what they’re contacting us about,” said Featherling. “They’re giving us their time by calling us, even if it’s about a problem. So, we need to value the time they’re giving us and make it worth their while.”
At the same time, Priceline created a convenient experience for the agents by streamlining calls, Featherling added. The ease and convenience for the agents was just as important as the ease and convenience for the customers. Ultimately, what happens on the inside of the contact center is going to be felt on the outside by the customers.
When it comes to customer experience, the stakes have never been higher. Consistently good experiences lead to customer loyalty and sustained market leadership. Bad experiences, even a few, can fast-track companies towards irrelevance.
Improving requires more than just training agents to be polite. It requires a complete rethink of contact center operations where the cloud and AI is leveraged to do much of the heavy lifting typically required of an agent. This enables customer service people to spend more time showing empathy and helping customers and less time putting them on hold.