Organizations know how crucial the level of customer experience is in the pursuit of business goals. Gartner’s CX study released last May reports that 75% of organizations in its global survey have already formed a dedicated CX team. One in four of these CX teams reports directly to the company CEO–a clear indication that CX is a high-priority concern requiring executive management.
So now that we all agree that CX matters, perhaps it’s time to ask: what kind of CX should we be aiming for?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. The best that we can come up with are qualifiers that define what the ideal CX would be, like personalized, continuous, omnichannel, unique and pleasant. Most, if not all, businesses aspire to deliver customer experience that can be described as such. The problem, though, is how.
Here’s an idea that can answer that how: context.
Context is vital for businesses because it’s the key to providing the personalized, continuous, omnichannel, unique, and pleasant CX we want. It includes big data and historical data, letting you have a complete view of who your customers are and where they are in their customer journey. It is an important factor that must inform employee response to any customer action or request.
It’s easy to illustrate how context works. Imagine a cloud-based contact center. With a unified system, calls made to that call center would be routed automatically to the most qualified agent based on contextual data. With CTI like Salesforce Genesys integration, reps are assured call data is logged to provide context for call distribution and call handling. With these technologies, the CS rep chosen to get the call can get all the data about the customer even before he/she picks up the phone. Data about the customer will also be displayed while the call is going on through a screen pop or a similar module.
Realizing the ideal CX would remain an abstract concept without contextual customer data. Here are four other reasons why context should drive your CX strategy:
1. Context ensures continuity of the customer experience.
These days, customers interact with brands through various channels. There’s the phone, email, social media, brick and mortar stores, websites, mobile apps, and various other platforms. With myriad options, it’s become inexcusable for companies to lose touch with their customers.
These channels aren’t used in isolation. Most customers use a combination of channels. More than half or 50% normally use more than four channels today, compared to only 7% more than a decade ago. This is probably due to the ubiquity of mobile devices which allow customers access to companies anywhere, anytime.
Having vast options, however, has one big problem. Customers want to use various channels, but they also want each a connected, seamless experience. Continuity of CX requires sharing of data, or even better, access to data across channels.
Context plays its own role here, especially in organizations where each communication channel is managed by a different team. Besides telling us what previous interactions were about, context also tells us where these customer conversations occurred (on social media? live chat?).
Observing patterns in this pool of data provides us a deeper insight into the customer’s preferred way of communication at each stage of the customer journey. Moreover, it gives us an idea of how the customer behaves per channel, giving us tips on how to best deal with them and optimize their CX.
Knowledge of what happens in every interaction made in different channels is crucial to creating a single, connected and personalized experience that impresses customers.
Technology has a major role in creating that seamless CX. In retail, 29% of millennial shoppers say that sales agents need mobile devices to utilize customer information like past purchases according to Salesforce. Genesys recommends routing with full customer context as the gateway to taking control of the customer journey from end-to-end, effectively providing continuity from one experience to the next.
2. Context helps you respond faster.
If there’s anything we know about today’s customers, it’s this: customers hate to wait.
The contact center CX expert ICMI claims that almost three-fourths (74%) of customers say companies don’t meet their desired deadline for service. Various factors contribute to this delay, but the most embarrassing would be the repetitive and frankly annoying need of CS reps or sales agents to look up customer information at the start of every call.
This is a common problem and one that haunts organizations that don’t or can’t use, contextual data because they haven’t integrated their data systems with their customer interaction platforms.
The absence of a unifying technology or platform prevents users like sales or CS reps from matching customer data to profiles and reading up on activity history before facing the customer. It’s like every interaction goes back to first base, eating up precious seconds or minutes with menial tasks like looking up the customer ID or, even more humiliating, asking customers for the status of their query.
The importance of context in speeding up service is best demonstrated in a contact center. If you’ve got the technology for compiling contextual data and showing it to reps, you save more than a minute per transaction. That leaves you with more time to answer more calls, or more minutes to have better conversations with customers.
There’s more to quick response than customer satisfaction, too. In lead generation, it’s been reported by the Harvard Business Review that companies which follow up within the first hour are 60 times more likely to qualify a lead than companies that wait for a day to contact a prospect. Apparently, acting quickly doesn’t just improve the experience. It can also increase your revenues.
3. Context reduces your customers’ effort.
In this age of customer data, each transmission of data made via a computer or any electronic device is traceable and recordable. There’s just no reason to miss it, be it a call, a chat, or even a visit to a physical store.
This situation is both beneficial to companies and customers. For companies, that means easier and smoother data capture. Customers, on the other hand, can rest knowing that companies have the means and data to make their purchase or service request possible.
Simply put, customers can exert the least effort and still get what they want. It’s the zenith of customer convenience and one of the indicators of excellent CX in the modern age.
The convenience and ease that customers feel when interacting with a brand is an important metric in measuring CX. A significant portion of companies, around 30%, compute this metric, the customer effort score. CES shows how much effort customers feel they have to make when transacting with a company. The less effort there is, the greater the satisfaction of the customer.
Context, yet again, proves valuable in decreasing customer effort and pulling down the CES.
When you know the customer, their history with the company, and bits of their personality and habits from big data, you have the power to curate their CX such that they exert the least effort needed to execute a transaction or complete their journey.
Context concretely aids in acquiring this knowledge and can be used at every stage of interaction with customers, from marketing, sales to customer support.
For instance, a company that sells the service of unifying CRM and phones like Salesforce-Genesys can use contextual data to design a customized service package that appeals to the needs of the target customer. The company can schedule trials at convenient times, deduced from patterns of behavior, and can restrict communication to preferred channels, again deduced from available data. Doing so will make it easier for the customer to transact with the company, and may even lead to a potential upsell.
4. Context creates experiences that lead to more sales and better customer retention.
All efforts to improve CX have one ultimate goal–to increase revenues. Practically, that means more sales, longer customer contracts, and lower churn rates. These are all huge indicators of a company’s success, and scoring great numbers in these metrics signal growth for any company.
Creating customer experiences that result in company growth is a daunting task, but one that is possible when you base your CX strategy on context.
Putting context at the base of your CX strategy ensures that customers receive personalized and responsive service, two things that appeal to customers of all types. And with higher customer satisfaction comes brand advocacy and loyalty, non-financial metrics used by the majority (60%) of businesses to measure ROI on CX.
Context-driven CX also delivers on increasing financial metrics for ROI. Context makes this possible by allowing companies to predict customer behavior–that is, combining past data with future possibilities. After all, putting customer interactions in context isn’t just about reading the past. Using contextual data also means looking at current trends and potential future scenarios.
What this concretely means is that context can point us to the next step the customer may take on their journey, and the apt response that we should take in those situations. This is useful for anticipating future customer support calls, and also helpful in clinching those upsells or contract extensions. And because the context is available in real-time, it can be used during the interaction to enhance the conversation and highlight opportunities.
Customers have told us all we need to know about how they want to experience our brand. It’s up to us to go back to that data and utilize it for our success.
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Aki Merced writes about B2B sales and marketing as a content marketer for Tenfold. Follow her on Twitter @akimerced!