CX Expert Roundtable with Leslie O'Flahavan, Craig Stoss, Nate Brown, Jeff Toister & Arian Swinscoe. Customer Experience or CX is a critical competitive differentiator in the market today. Over the past several weeks, we’ve spoken with five well-known CX experts on the role of technology in CX, KPIs and metrics and the proper role of technology in customer service in contrast to the obsession with new and shiny tools.
CX technology's greatest lie is that the tool solves the problem
Jarrod: Let’s start with a broad question. Where do you see technology improving CX today and importantly, where do you see it actually hurting? Is it different on the agent or customer side?
Craig: CX technology today gives you tons of data, which is a good thing. To give your customers a customized experience that meets their needs fast, you require data to understand things like where problems can be anticipated, what expectations should be set, what support or contact channels they are demanding, etc. Technology exists today to give you all of that information towards building incredible customer experience
Where it hurts the most is that someone still needs to take the time to understand and actually do something with that data. We all have seen so many awful chatbots, auto-response emails, surveys, or knowledge base implementations and the main reason is that no time was taken to actually know what the customer wants and in what format. It isn't as easy as implementing a chatbot and saying, "Great! That's done!" You need to watch the patterns, and requests that are working and aren't working and constantly improve that offering to be better each time the customer uses it. CX technology's greatest lie is that the tool solves the problem. That's simply not true. The tool can give you insight into the problem, and then people need to solve it.
How you use the CX technology is key
Leslie: Technology can do so much to help companies create a great customer experience, but half-used, poorly configured, or only-partially-helpful technology just makes things worse! For example, live chat is a great technology that enables a company to participate in a conversation with a customer and create a transcript of the conversation. That’s great, especially when providing technical support. But too many companies fail to configure the chat software fully or staff the channel properly. An agent who’s handling too many consecutive chats cannot provide a good customer experience. Live chat technology is quite good, but when companies use cheesy hold scripts, make customers wait a long time for an agent, or withhold the transcript, the technology can actually hurt customer experience.
It’s not the technology itself that matters. How you use the technology matters most. Of course, this applies to agent-side technologies, too. For example, we have lots of great agent-facing knowledge base software. This software comes with lots of fancy features. But if we don’t also have clean, steady knowledge management practices in place, the technology can only do so much to improve the agent experience or the customer experience. Your company could have the most expensive, feature-rich, custom-built knowledge base, but if you’re storing outdated, difficult-to-read articles, the customer experience and the agent experience will suffer.
Customer Experience: less technology is more
Jeff: There are definitely some pros and cons for both customers and agents when it comes to technology.
The pro is there are more ways to quickly solve problems than ever before. In the past, I might need to schedule a service call to fix an issue with my cable TV. Now I can go online and find the solution or easily connect with someone in technical support who can help me.
The con is technology frequently makes things too complicated. As a customer, why do I need an account and a password for even the most basic issues? As an agent, why do I need three monitors and ten different software programs just to give my customers the help they need?
The focus really should be on using technology to make things simpler and better.
Adrian: If technology helps a customer or employee do something quicker and more easily then it’s probably helping. That assumes, however, that customers and employees want to use that particular technology.
But, if the technology is introduced just to save cost or deflect calls on the customer side, for example, and it forces them to do or use something that they would not ordinarily do then there is a danger that it will hurt the customer’s experience.
The same is true for technology that is implemented to help employees do their jobs better and more easily. There is research by PwC that shows that while leaders say that they choose technology with their people in mind a large majority of their employees don’t agree and that is a problem. Particularly, when the same research shows that 73% of employees say they know of systems that would help them produce higher quality work, but many executives and leaders are not tapping into the collective intelligence of their employees.
Tools for agents improve the customer experience
Jarrod: How important are desktop tools and software for agents? With all the spelling and grammar check tools, templates and so forth, are writing skills any better?
Leslie: User-friendly desktop tools and software make a huge difference in the quality of writing agents can produce day-in, day-out. But not all spelling and grammar checkers are created equal. Some are really lousy. For example, if your spellchecker doesn’t allow you to add words or otherwise customize the dictionary, you should really upgrade!
As for whether these tools and templates improve agents’ writing skills, that depends. Using a spellchecker doesn’t make an agent a better speller, but it can help an agent be a better proofreader. Using an email template doesn’t make an agent a better email writer per se, but free texting within an email template does require--and help build--competent writing skills.
Nate: I believe at the heart of this question also is knowledge. In order to facilitate a quick and accurate resolution, agents need immediate access to relevant information. It’s impossible to make this happen without advanced tools. Having the best technology is a great step, but even more important is the way the knowledge is curated, and the tools are maintained.
The recent G2 “State of Software” report indicated that over 50% of employees indicate being unhappy at work because of the tools they are using. A recent 8X8 workforce productivity report showed that 49% of agents spend between 30 minutes and 2 hours each day trying to track down information. Just imagine the implications of this! People are wasting a tremendous amount of time and energy looking for information that should be readily accessible. This reality is having a very negative impact on both the agent and the customer experience. We can do better!
The journey to the optimal customer experience is a process
Jarrod: With CX being new relatively speaking, there's a lot of talk about what companies should be doing. But I wonder, what CX myths out there do you see now? What have you seen the last few years that actually isn't a good idea or hasn't worked out?
Adrian: Two of the biggest things that frustrate me are:
- Customer experience is often dominated by talk of metrics and scores. It’s not about that. It’s about a customer’s experience. Metrics and scores are only a proxy or measure, and often not a great proxy or measure, of how we are doing helping our customers have a good experience. They are not an end in themselves.
- The development of new technology and the idea of omnichannel experience has led to a proliferation of channels being adopted by many organizations. Now, while the word ‘omni’ means ‘all’ it does not and should not mean all of the available channels. Rather it should mean all of the channels that are relevant for the delivery of your strategy. Look at many, if not all, of the companies that we hold up as experience leaders and they tend to have focused on being great at a few channels rather than average at a lot.
Nate: One dangerous myth is the idea that hiring a CX leader makes you a more customer-centric organization. This is false. In fact, if people project their responsibility of practicing great CX onto the new leader, things could get even worse! It's the job of the CX leader to get everyone else excited about and contributing to a larger experience strategy. This is why having a strong cross functional CX change coalition is the best strategy of all!
Leslie O´Flahavan, Craig Stoss, Nate Brown, Jeff Toister and Adrian Swinscoe are executives and experienced consultants with many years of expertise in customer service, CX strategies and