For two good reasons the business world's emphasis on managing the customer experience has quickly evolved from a tactical sales and service challenge to a C-level topic with strategic implications:

First, customers have more choices and more control which makes a more sophisticated management of customer relationships a competitive necessity, and second, global competition, increasing product commoditization, and ever-shorter cycles of innovation make product and cost-based advantages more difficult to achieve—and harder to sustain.

Customer experience is indeed growing in importance to differentiate from competitors, but unfortunately is not always easy to manage effectively, especially due to the constantly rising expectations of today's customers. To be successful, Convergys, a global leader in customer management, urges companies to understand first what customers expect—from an outside-in perspective – and to use that insight then to rethink customer-facing processes and deliver the experience that customers want. Such an approach reduces the risk of customer defections and strengthens a company's competitiveness.

Prepare for the advancing Customer-Experience Tsunami

Many studies attest by now that younger consumers are more technology oriented than their predecessors, and Convergys' study found that further that they are less patient when companies are not able to consistently deliver excellent experiences in the channels of their choice. Besides, younger consumers are significantly more inclined to tell associates about a negative experience—and they are highly adept at using everything from text messages to Facebook to do so. Altogether, the arrival of these younger customers is likely to raise the stakes considerably for companies trying to build solid relationships. Mike Betzer, president of Convergys explains: "The generational shift represents a potential 'tsunami' of new consumers with very high expectations." He advises companies to think about the changes they need to make to reach Gen Y and younger consumers.

To prepare for the necessary changes, companies need to improve their ability to manage customer experience across a wider variety of channels. Businesses need to expand their view of channels beyond the call center and the Web and have to include mobile applications, social networks, virtual worlds, and, even have to be prepared to embrace channels that have yet to be created - most probably automated channels that provide more sophisticated levels of service.

To do so, they can draw on technologies such as speech recognition and real-time analytics that allows companies to "understand" behavior and tailor interactions accordingly, besides monitoring the continuously changing customer expectations. For example, it is likely to see more the use of avatars— 'virtual people' that act and sound human and have the potential to be the electronic equivalent of the knowledgeable employee," says Betzer.

New Solution to analyse and keep up with changing Customer Experience

Convergys just received a new patent from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) for an analytics technique that helps improve the customer experience within an Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system by statistically linking IVR and caller satisfaction data.

Since IVR systems typically handle huge call volumes and generate countless data records, monitoring and analyzing the effectiveness of these systems poses a challenge in terms of information management. Although other packages exist to help assess the performance of an IVR system, these packages are limited because they approach the analysis solely from the IVR system or analyst's point of view.

The USPTO awarded the formal patent to Convergys for its application of advanced linkage analytics that compares portions of data generated through an IVR application to a customer satisfaction score obtained from a survey. These comparisons statistically reveal which areas within the IVR correlate to low customer satisfaction scores so that adjustments can be made to improve the overall customer experience.

"Traditional IVR analysis approaches may record a caller's technical interaction with an IVR, but fail to take into account those hidden requirements that encompass the caller's overall experience with the system. As a result, the IVR system may appear to be working perfectly, with no errors, when in reality the caller's needs were not met," said Mike Cholak, a Convergys vice president in charge of the company's research and applied analytics on the customer experience. "By incorporating customer satisfaction scores into the IVR performance review, we are able to uncover those hidden obstacles that increase customer effort and hinder customer satisfaction."

Cholak adds that Convergys is working on applying this use of linkage analytics to other customer service channels and currently has a patent pending with the USPTO tying customer satisfaction scores to Website navigation data to improve the online customer experience.

As a single-source customer management provider, Convergys combines agent services, customer service research insights, innovative technology, and analytics to help their clients deliver consistently satisfying customer service experiences. Through customer care outsourcing and services to in-house contact centers, Convergys is helping clients build more effective relationships with their customers while driving increased revenues and cost savings.

Convergys' Guidelines for good Relationship Management

Convergys' four dimensions of relationship management serve as a directive for their clients:

  1. Strategy: Create a blueprint for a balanced approach encompassing customer and employee needs; use workforce and customer intelligence to define customer experience and workforce plans; identify the right mix of technology, people, and processes to cost-effectively meet expectations.
  2. Analytics and continuous improvement: Develop an outside-in view of what customer segments want; analyze feedback and behavior to understand how customers perceive experiences; funnel intelligence into relationship-management processes to drive improvements and meet changing expectations.
  3. Operational excellence: Support knowledgeable frontline employees through learning and talent management that enables excellent service and employee engagement; transform global HR with a mix of channels.
  4. Technology enablement: Focus on the optimal combination of automation and human activities; deploy proactive, knowledgeable, and personalized service consistently across agent and automation touch points.

Be aware of the fact that the ability to manage the customer experience across channels and segments plays an enormous role in a company's success today and will certainly be even more important tomorrow.

By Daniela La Marca