In mid-November, a select group of customer experience (CX) leaders met online for a Virtual Executive Roundtable to discuss the topic of digital channels. The consensus was universal — interactions across digital channels have increased and are only going to continue to grow, perhaps exponentially. This is evident not only in the real-world experiences of the session’s participants, but also in industry research including our own CXMB Series 2020 Consumer Edition report, recently published in partnership with COPC Inc. On page 25 of the report, results reveal a year-over-year jump from 43% to 75% in the percentage of U.S. consumers who had used self-service technology in the past three months, with much being digital in nature. Furthermore, Forrester predicts digital customer service interactions will increase by 40% in 2021.
When done well, digital channels can deliver an amazing amount of value for both consumers and brands. But with the pace of change in 2020 and a host of competing priorities, many challenges still exist for digital channels. This is true even for companies that have been utilizing digital channels for years. Ultimately, many of these challenges can be headed off by focusing on two things:
1) Creating a seamless experience as customers traverse across channels
2) Delivering a high degree of service parity
Creating a Seamless Experience
Although many brands offer a variety of channels (including digital), few CX leaders would agree that their channels are well integrated, let alone able to offer customers a seamless experience. The reasons why are multifaceted. Legacy systems, differing priorities, long lead times on transformational initiatives, system and organizational complexity … these and other factors all play a role in creating and maintaining silos and disjointed journeys. Successful integration often hinges on an organization’s weakest link — be it a technology, distribution of resources and focus, or process design.
Here are some critical things to consider when working toward creating a seamless experience:
Aligning Strategies — Companies need to take a close look at not only their digital strategy, but also their engagement strategy. How do the two mesh? Is there close alignment across different channels (digital or otherwise), and across the organization as a whole? If a company strives for a seamless experience, one that is conducive to a multichannel (or even omnichannel) experience, strategic alignment is an essential starting point.
Focusing on the Pain Points — No matter how carefully designed and considered, virtually every journey has room for improvement. When identifying pain points, start with the customer’s perspective. Utilize voice of the customer data to draw out the most common pain points, as well as those that most significantly impact the overall experience. Take a closer look at things like channel functionality/capability, ease of use, and a channel’s capacity to resolve. Often times resolving pain points is an effective way of tackling many of the same obstacles that stand in the way of a seamless cross-channel experience.
Identifying Limitations — Different parts of an organization move at different speeds, technical limitations do exist, and the struggle is real when it comes to legacy systems. Though they play a significant role in undermining a seamless customer experience, these issues aren’t likely to resolve themselves any time soon. Although organizations might have the best intentions when it comes to addressing these challenges, it’s a process that requires a tremendous amount of time and attention. When deploying new initiatives, start by understanding the challenges posed by existing systems and processes. This will improve the chances of avoiding further disconnects, while also identifying which pieces of the organization need change into order to enable future progress in transform the customer experience.
Delivering Service Parity
Consumers don’t engage with channels — they engage with brands. Whether on a live chat, a phone call, or a messaging app, customers expect a consistent experience from the way they are treated to the information they receive. Moreover, in the minds of consumers every experience (regardless of channel) is reflective of a brand, not a specific group or department within a brand. In other words, the only way for a brand to get good at providing an amazing overall customer experience is for them to get good at providing an amazing experience at each and every touchpoint. This is what service parity is all about.
As organizations look to hone their service parity, here are a few important points worth consideration:
Assume Every Journey is a Multichannel Journey — These days, channel hopping in an attempt to resolve a specific issue is practically universal among consumers. This has happened not only as a result of consumers seeking greater convenience, but also out of necessity since not all channels are created equal. Once an organization assumes every journey is a multichannel journey, the importance of consistency becomes apparent. Ideally, a rising tide lifts all boats. Improving service parity should mean enhanced functionality. Not every organization can (or wants) to achieve an end goal of being able to resolve every issue type in every channel offered. But it’s a great starting point for orienting around customer expectations.
Deflect Away from a Focus on Cost — By offering a unique combination of convenience and reliability, digital channels are a great option for many types of engagements. It’s hard to appreciate and execute against this when digital channels are pigeonholed as either a cost-saving measure, or a means of deflection. Digital channels are becoming more ubiquitous by the day, and by now organizations should perceive digital channels as a means to enhancing and improving the overall journey. In doing so, organizations will be able to focus on how and why digital channels are good for their customers, which is bound to have a positive impact on how they are designed, developed, and deployed.
Rallying Around a Better Experience — Silos exist for a reason. Organizational alignment is a tough nut to crack. But the good news is there’s no better time than now start the difficult process of greater alignment. Often this means making changes, taking on risk, and tackling complexity. But if 2020 taught us all one thing, it’s that no challenge is too great, and we can often accomplish the impossible if pressed to do so. So as long as an organization makes the customer and their experience the true North Star, there is a clear rally point and definitive path forward.
Special thanks to Nuance’s Shelbi Scott and Abhay Prasad for moderating this special Virtual Executive Roundtable, Transforming Digital Into Your Customer’s Channel of Choice. If you are a senior leader running CX operations on the corporate side and would like to participate in a future Executive Roundtable, please contact Chad McDaniel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Likewise, if you are on the provider side and would like to lead a future Executive Roundtable, you can also contact Chad at the email address above.
Blog post, written by: Execs In The Know