Study: Crafting a Unified Customer Experience Strategy

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Providing customers with satisfying – and enjoyable – support experiences has never been more important, both in terms of serving customers effectively while differentiating the customer experience and distinguishing companies’ brands from the competition. Unfortunately, there’s still a wide gap between aspirations and achievement.
According to the results of a September 2013 survey by CIO Custom Solutions Group of 151 IT leaders entitled “Market Pulse Research: Improving the Customer Experience,” organizations continue to face abundant challenges in providing customers with outstanding experiences across the various channels they use. One of the biggest challenges cited by those surveyed is the lack of integration between support systems, which leads to fragmented customer experiences.

Although 92 percent of IT leaders recognize the importance of providing customers with consistent support experiences as either “extremely” or “very” important, just 17 percent believe their organizations are doing this well.

Squashing silo snags

One of the main reasons that customers often have disjointed experiences in digital channels is the lack of integration between different types of support systems (chat, email, mobile, IVR, social) and the difficulty this creates for associates to easily follow a customer’s activity from one channel to the next. For instance, when a customer attempts to self serve using an IVR system and he can’t find the information he’s looking for, he should be able to connect with a live associate who is familiar with his IVR activity and is immediately prepared to help him. When a customer is unable to self serve and then has to re-identify himself and the nature of his problem with an associate, this leads to a chaotic customer experience which can result in churn or diminished customer loyalty.

Unfortunately, too few companies (44 percent) have developed a unified approach to supporting customers across the various channels they use, according to the CIO study. Meanwhile, another 44 percent of respondents claim to have single channel programs that are loosely tied to an overarching customer service strategy. There are proven benefits to a unified channel strategy – data from different channels is better integrated and there’s greater insight into cross-channel performance, etc. In fact, 27 percent of the CIO survey respondents say that using a unified approach to improving customer experience is more likely to rate their organizations as executing “very well” versus 10 percent that are relying on loosely tethered single channel strategies.

As companies have added channel support in a piecemeal fashion over the past several years, this has resulted in greater complexity – both for associates and contact center leaders. As new support systems are added – whether for email, chat, mobile, the contact center, or social– this adds to the complexity of associate training, the capacity necessary to gain the knowledge of each system, as well as the annoyance of separate logins and screen displays for each system. Although this fragmented approach to customer support hasn’t been intentional, it has nonetheless evolved like this within many enterprises. This makes it difficult for associates to properly support cross-channel customers and for contact center leaders to monitor associate performance and provide coaching.

Many organizations are hamstrung by existing limitations of their customer service capabilities although most executives recognize the need to integrate their support systems and create a unified customer experience. Based on the CIO survey results, many organizations have embarked upon multi-faceted development efforts. These endeavors range from creating a customer experience strategy from the ground up by gathering and acting on feedback from both customers and associates on steps that can be taken to link systems and processes to help build the multichannel customer experience, to upgrading to a cloud contact center platform that can seamlessly connect  cross-channel experiences.