by Brian Stacy, VP of Customer Service Operations at Verizon Business Markets
Twitter | @brian_stacy44
A great customer experience (CX) can be the difference between a customer coming back to you again and again or them going with your competitor. It’s the compelling reason people buy your product or service and recommend your business to others. Today, CX is a key differentiator for most businesses, big and small. And many are looking to technology to deliver the kind of innovative experiences that will help retain and win new customers.
Take chat bots. At their best, these can help customers get answers to their questions quickly. They can even help train customer assistants to deliver a better service. One beauty brand launched a chat bot on the popular messaging app, Kik, to offer customers quizzes, personalized beauty tips and reviews — you can even buy the beauty products you’re chatting about without ever having to leave the app.
And there are plenty of other ways in which tech is driving better CX. There are the advanced collaboration tools that help call center staff handle queries and orders faster. And there’s the artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced analytics that are enabling organizations to take the vast amounts of data they’re collecting on their customers — online, via social and in-store — and turn it into actionable intelligence.
That all sounds great. It also sounds expensive. If technology is providing an edge when it comes to CX, is it the large enterprises with equally large IT budgets that have the edge? How can small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) like you hope to compete?
Tech is levelling the CX playing field
SMBs have a natural advantage when it comes to CX. They’re often closer to the local communities that they’re based in and understand their customers’ needs. But tech can take these experiences to the next level.
You might think tools like chat bots and AI will break the bank or require specialist knowledge. The reality is quite different. Take this tool that enables you to build your own Facebook chat bot in about seven minutes with no coding involved. The best bit is that if you think you’ll get less than 500,000 monthly active users, you can do it for free. Big businesses like Volkswagen and Uber are using this kind of solution to create additional channels for reaching customers. You can too.
Innovative CX solutions are becoming more and more available — no matter what the size of your business. Many of the advanced tools that large enterprise would have developed in-house are now available off the shelf. For example, Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions are readily available that enable real-time video conferencing from any device — no need for an expensively outfitted office. That means a better experience for business clients you can’t easily visit.
Many SaaS solutions provide more advanced functionality than you’ll find in large enterprises using in-house systems. They’re developed and maintained by experts. And SMBs are often better positioned to take advantage of them than big companies, typically being far less encumbered by legacy IT systems. That means you could actually be the one gaining an edge.
From advanced apps to cheaper cloud storage, from social media to more agile connectivity, technology is enabling great improvements in CX. And it’s not just for the big guys.
Avoid tech for tech’s sake
But technology isn’t the answer to all ills. You shouldn’t just implement new technology for the novelty factor or because someone else has it — this kind of decision could backfire and result in worse CX. You need to determine whether a particular piece of technology will improve experiences and help your customers reach their end goal sooner. You also need to think through whether it’s something your customers will be comfortable using. If they typically avoid social media, a Facebook chat bot won’t do your CX much good.
Start by mapping your customers’ journeys to get a clearer picture of how they interact with you. That means looking at key touch points and identifying any pain points. And not just those that come after you’ve made the sale. The customer journey starts from your very first contact with a customer — through a tweet or advert, say. Think about the experience delivered by the product, the marketing, the selling and the operations. Examine the whole journey and ask yourself, where can tech make a difference? Where can it really improve CX?
Some large organizations are using big data analytics to help them build digital profiles of their customers and understand customer pathways. But this is actually somewhere you could have an advantage. SMBs often have simpler customer propositions — based around one core product or service. And that could make it easier for you to identify where tech will have the biggest impact on CX. These don’t have to be huge changes, but they should be driven by the right motivators. Be led by CX, not by cost savings or novelty tech.
When you’ve identified where to make these improvements, the technology to make a difference is well within your reach. But this isn’t the case of once and done. Products, technology and customer expectations are changing all the time so you need to work with companies that understand the latest trends and can help keep you up to date.