BY MATTHEW CLARE

Traditionally, inbound customer service and outbound marketing were separate worlds, but the rise of digital media means they now work in tandem. Being on the frontlines of customer experience, contact centres have learned valuable lessons, and developed strategies relevant to any organization striving to become customer-centric. Getting to know your customer and their context, investing in data to shape the customer experience and prioritizing expertise among staff are three strategies that will lead to meaningful results.

  1. Know your customer deeply.

The modern contact centre caters to customer communication preferences across voice, email, Web chat, SMS, social media and self-service. It tracks customer interactions to build a picture of each journey and deliver personalized and seamless experiences.

For instance, say I’m browsing a website and I search for something, click on a page and watch a video. If a customer service rep initiates a chat with me, I want that person to acknowledge the steps I’ve already taken. If I call a customer support line, the agent had better know who I am, because nothing is more frustrating than repeating information.

Like the contact centre, a customer-centric organization knows each customer as a person, understands their usage or buying habits, and leverages that knowledge to provide a differentiated experience. The onus is on the organization to anticipate customers’ needs by analyzing behavioural patterns and market trends, and using data from both inside and outside their organization to address those needs.

  1. Customer data is currency.

Customer data has completely transformed the shopping experience, allowing businesses to provide concierge-level service, strengthen customer relationships and increase profitability. My favourite example is Amazon — I’ve purchased items purely because of its “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought” recommendation engine. Brick-and-mortar retailers are also stepping up, emailing curated look books of items customers may enjoy based on past in-store transactions.

In contrast, buying phone and emails lists and hoping someone bites on the distribution will not set you up for conversions. It is critical to develop a process that allows you to hold your customer’s hand through their entire experience — from identifying who is visiting your website, to gathering the appropriate data to then guide them on their journeys.

In the contact centre, consolidation of data from across the organization, as well as from publicly available external sources, paves the way for highly tailored customer experiences. Customer-centric organizations can replicate this model, as data lives in many different places: search history, cookies, IP addresses, web forms, previous transactions and various repositories. Self-service interactions are opportunities to collect data by asking customers to opt-in to receive personalized information.

Most notably, the Internet of Things (IoT) has accelerated the ability to monitor, measure, and manage customer experience and product use in real-time. Automotive is one area where IoT is taking off. Tesla cars cannot be bought at a dealership–they’re ordered online. Tesla updates customers about their car as it is being built. As soon as customers are in the driver’s seat, Tesla knows exactly what’s happening with the car and can send notifications such as a premium feature that would be beneficial–a very powerful case of direct marketing.

  1. Make everyone an expert.

Equally important to understanding your customer and gathering data is offering expertise in every interaction. We’re seeing salespeople use the same contact centre tools as customer service reps to do their jobs better. In fact, the most successful teams break down silos and use “blended agents”. Regardless of inbound or outbound customer contacts, generalists no longer suffice. Organizations must have subject matter experts equipped with the right tools who can give customers more insights than they’d get from looking themselves.

Thanks to smartphones, customers can easily get second opinions and product reviews. We have such intelligence at our fingertips and we expect organizations to exceed it

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. Gone are the days where customers tolerate being pressured into making immediate purchase decisions.

Here’s an example of where having insightful employees pays off. Last year I was due for new snow tires, and my dad recommended a brand. I went to the store ready to buy them, but the salesperson’s expertise changed my mind. He asked where my dad lived and explained that while those tires work well in one part of the province, they’re not as suitable for Ottawa winters. He then pointed to another brand that was on sale. I excused myself to grab coffee, looked the product up on my phone, compared prices, and returned to happily close the deal.

In conclusion, just as contact centres define themselves by the customers they serve, the problems they solve and the quality of experience they deliver, customer-centric organizations know their customers deeply, continuously pull data to create personalized experiences, and have experts ready to engage. By taking these steps, organizations can ensure a unique experience for each customer that will keep them satisfied and coming back for more.

MATTHEW CLARE is a Director & CX Specialist at Mitel, MiContact centre. Matthew has over a decade of experience in the customer experience industry, working primarily as a highly technical solutions and strategic marketing specialist for contact centre solution vendors. He holds global responsibility for leading the vision, roadmap, and end-to-end product lifecycle as Product Manager for Mitel’s flagship MiContact centre Business solution.

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