Customer experience (CX) was a major driving force for companies all over the world long before COVID-19. And while some priorities have shifted, the pandemic has emphasised that great CX is vital.

A survey by IDC revealed that over 80% of vendor executives recognise CX as a priority and a key competitive differentiator. This was matched by the +80% of customers who will pay for a better experience.

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Of course, CX has always been a value driver. Rob Markey (a leader of Customer Strategy and Marketing practice at Bain and co-creator of the Net Promoter Score) found that companies with the highest NPS grow revenues 2.5 times faster than their industry peers – and deliver two to five times the shareholder value over the next 10 years.

But this year, CX is taking centre stage. COVID-19 has caused businesses across all sectors to accelerate their digital transformation initiatives. Adoption of digital channels and AI have increased as organisations look to deliver better customer service remotely.

At the same time, the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 has undermined customer confidence, with customers now much less willing to spend on non-essentials. In these challenging circumstances, businesses need their service operations to simultaneously become more performant and more efficient.

High-quality, cost-efficient CX isn’t a differentiator in the new world: it’s raised table-stakes that many companies aren’t equipped to deliver.

So, with stats from the latest IDC InfoBrief as our guide, let’s dive into some high-value areas for companies to drive better, more economical CX, fast.

“You don’t really know me, do you?”

What happens when a hot prospect (one your sales team has been trying to upsell to) calls a customer service agent?

In an ideal world, you’d want that call to be routed to one of your customer service superstars – someone with just the right expertise and experience for first-call resolution.

You’d want that agent to have a complete 360-degree view of the customer: the last sales contact, the latest mobile and web interactions, their customer care history, recent purchases, and what they’re likely to need in the future.

But that view seldom exists for most companies: according to IDC, only 19% of European enterprises have a 360-degree view of their customers. At a time when customer loyalty is an increasingly precious commodity, it’s vital to support customer service and contact centre teams to build it at every interaction.

And that starts with easy, fast access to a joined-up customer view. If you’re one of the 81% of businesses struggling to provide the kind of intelligent personalisation that keeps customers coming back, double down on freeing vital customer data from its traditional CRM silos across sales, marketing, ecommerce, and online advertising.

“How difficult is this to get right anyway?”

Call centres and customer service agents are the beating heart of CX. They need rich real-time insights to solve complex problems swiftly and upsell and cross-sell effectively.

They also need to be able to engage empathetically with customers – particularly when they may be the only point of contact between a company and its customers.

A fully integrated CRM stack that delivers a 360-degree customer view makes this kind of service possible. But it’s AI and automation that can elevate it to something great – by helping service teams deliver great customer outcomes while minimising manual overhead.

AI applications help make the most of all that rich customer data by drawing on it to ‘whisper’ suggestions, advice, and crucial next steps to front-line staff. Meanwhile, automation both enables customers to self-serve and empowers agents to take routine tasks off their plate so they can focus on strengthening customer relationships.

Companies that get AI right are on track for a customer service revolution. For example, Samsung’s AI-enabled service agents have a first-contact resolution rate of 88%.

Unsurprisingly, 62% of European enterprises have already deployed, or plan to deploy, recommendation engines, chatbots, and intelligent process automation. And more will soon – customer-focused AI solutions and tools are expected to grow at 32% per year between 2019 and 2023.

The payoff: Great employee experience, CX, and competitiveness

Superior customer service isn’t just crucial because customers demand it. (Though they do – European B2B buyers list customer service as second only to product reliability.)

It’s because delivering great CX directly translates to a better employee experience (EX). It feels good to make customers happy. And as empowered customer service agents report a better EX, CX usually rises too. It’s a self-perpetuating win-win.

A 360-degree customer view and AI are a big part of what it takes to create customer service superstars. But there’s more. Agents need oversight to be effective. In a COVID era, where remote working is the norm, managers and supervisors need user-friendly dashboards they can access (via their mobile devices, if necessary) to optimise call centre traffic and activity round-the-clock.

Agents also need the flexibility and accessibility to evolve with customer and supervisor feedback. Business users need to be able to make simple click-to-code changes to CX systems directly, without waiting for IT to fulfil service requests.

The right cloud-based CX platform provides – not only the flexibility – but the data security, oversight, integration, and scalability needed to make effective cross-department collaboration (and next-gen, remotely-conducted customer service) a reality.

From aspiration to achievement: what needs to change

CX expert Rob Markey predicts that within 20 years many businesses with functional silos will be replaced by those that organise themselves around customer needs.

Yet only a quarter of European customer service departments have complete access to marketing’s records of prospects and customers. And only 20% have complete integration with marketing’s digital tools.

In the new normal, these gaps and shortfalls could have serious consequences. But more than that, the payoff from achieving fully integrated next-gen customer service can be huge.

Want to know more? Read the IDC InfoBrief: How to Reimagine Your Customer Service to meet the Changing Customer Expectations.

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