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5 Key Customer Service Questions for 2017

Your answers will help you navigate the changing landscape of contact center and collaboration technologies.


Have you noticed how many more companies are highlighting their importance on customer satisfaction?

That’s likely because customer experience and referrals are used by three-quarters of businesses as a key performance indicator for the company’s performance, and, more often than not, is reflected in executive bonus compensation. And, from an IT standpoint, providing quality customer experiences is at a crossroads with behavioral changes, market upheaval and rapid technology introductions.

It’s that time of year when you’ll see many posts about emerging technologies and cutting-edge trends. As I’ve spoken to many organizations who don’t have the budget or appetite to be early adopters, many are more focused on surefire ways to get ahead of the initiatives needed to stay market competitive rather than blue-sky adoptions.

So, in the spirit of a conservative look to the future, I suggest these questions every contact center leadership team needs to consider as the new year begins.

1. Customers Are Mobilized. Is Your Customer Service?

During Black Friday 2016, U.S. online sales hit a record-breaking $3 billion, with over $1 billion from mobile. Amazon alone reported over 72 percent of their record-breaking 1 billion sold units during this past holiday season were transacted using mobile devices. While mobile is the primary device for a significant number of consumers, satisfaction with the mobile retail experience is low, with 55 percent not satisfied with apps, and 53 percent dissatisfied with mobile websites.

While retail is illustrated, these trends apply to any B2C or B2B competitive market vertical. If your customers can’t find satisfaction using the app in the mobile channel they chose, they will either call your contact center (using the most expensive cost per contact channel) or, more likely, try your competitors’ app. Integrating your contact center to your mobile app for chat gives your customers an easy way to alleviate dissatisfaction.

2. Customer Experience Is a Key Business Growth Differentiator. How Are You Analyzing It?

For the past eight years, companies leading in customer experience outperform CX laggards in stock performance 107 percent versus 28 percent. But unless you hire an expensive CX team, how can you be sure your customers have a desirable experience?

An integrated contact center collects a significant amount of data, albeit siloed, for every interaction throughout the journey. But Gartner states that 90 percent of data will go unused. A comprehensive contact center reporting strategy ensures you gain all the insights possible to maximize your customer’s experience.

3. Self-Service Is Preferred by the Majority of Americans. How Much Effort Is Required from Your Customer When Using Your Webpage or Interactive Voice Response (IVR)?

As more Millennials (ages 19-35) and now Pluralists (<19) become active consumers, fewer customers want to talk on the phone. As smartphones proliferate, this behavioral trend is showing up in Generation X and younger Baby Boomers also. But customers will only use this lesser-cost-per-contact option once if your IVR wasn’t effectively designed for an ideal experience. If effortful, the trend will backfire.

A nationwide poll found that more than 80 percent of respondents said that companies will lose their business after a bad IVR experience, and 70 percent of consumers will share their negative IVR experiences with friends, family and whoever might be listening via word-of-mouth, social media and blogs.

Further compounding the issue, 31 percent will post in social media after customers have a bad experience with an organization. A recent study by Dimensional Research found that 86 percent of consumers said they had been swayed by negative reviews, and 90 percent stated that positive reviews had led them to purchase from a specific brand.

4. IT and Operational Budgets Continue to Shrink. How Do You Maximize Your Budget Spend?

Seventy-two percent of organizations are not focusing on improving call center effectiveness in their operations. This approach not only misses the opportunity to create a seamless customer experience, but loses potential network, infrastructure and labor efficiency benefits too.

It’s typical for companies implementing contact center technology to adopt a like-for-like approach to minimize complexity. But deploying without a comprehensive needs analysis and strategy often misses key operational and experiential benefits available with technology advancements.

5. Automation Is Valuable Only If Your Customers Use It. Does Your Budget Allow for Advanced Technology?

Industry blogs and speaker panels are all abuzz with the latest technology trends for the contact center. Artificial Intelligence, Analytics, Enhanced Speech Recognition and Personality Matching are all exciting new developments that have promise in enterprise contact centers with sufficient scale and resources to return the considerable investment needed to procure, deploy, integrate and optimize them.

But for many small to medium contact center functions, the usage isn’t readily available to make the math work. As customers continue to adopt digital channels, the opportunity to get a return will continue to reduce. I suggest a prudent and objective ROI analysis before adopting ancillary and especially emerging technologies.

If you’re interested in learning more about adopting these best practices, I’ll be presenting (and blogging) on the customer contact experience at the upcoming CRM Evolution event in Washington, DC, April 24-26. I encourage you to reach out if you’re at the Evolution event, and in the meantime, please follow me on Twitter (@lambrobert) to hear more on customer contact topics.

How are you addressing the rapid adoption by customers to digital channels? Is your organization planning a contact center technology change with or without a strategy? Please share your thoughts in the comments field below.