Digital-first customer engagement has never been more important than today, especially amidst a business landscape shaped by COVID-19 where the majority of customers are working remotely, purchasing products online, streaming entertainment, and engaging with brands from their homes.
COVID-19 and today’s almost fully remote workforce have forced many organizations into “scramble mode” as they’ve rapidly adopted digital-first approaches to employee and customer experience (EX and CX). When it comes to scaling and flexing customer engagement in times of uncertainty, some organizations have proved more prepared than others.
Customer Engagement Maturity (CEM): Where Are You & Where Should You Be?
For the third year in a row, Bold360 has commissioned Forrester Research Consulting to conduct a survey of almost 500 global decision-makers working in customer experience, engagement, and service to measure the benefits of providing an exceptional CX. We’ve developed a Customer Engagement Maturity (CEM) model to help decision-makers evaluate their current maturity in customer engagement, identify their CEM gaps, and define a strategy for optimization.
The CEM study, Short-Term Wins And Continuous Optimization: The Roadmap To Customer Engagement Success, makes it clear that your CEM matters a great deal to your employees, customers and your bottom line: “Customer expectations continue to evolve, and so too must [your] customer engagement practices to meet key CX and business goals.”
Trends Shaping Customer Engagement & CEM
1. More measurement supports strategy.
As legendary management guru Peter Drucker once wrote, “that which gets measured, gets done.” Over 60% of survey respondents say they “have incorporated CX metrics into a balanced scorecard or have placed special emphasis on CX metrics for their engagement measurement strategies.” If you can measure CE, you can also drive improved customer engagement performance.
2. Self-service tools help drive digital-first CE.
The survey shows steady growth in the adoption of self-service tools: 68% of respondents say “they have [self-service] options including FAQs, knowledge bases, and/or chatbots, based on text analysis and capable of agent escalation where appropriate.”
Adoption of self-service is largely being driven by customer preferences around how and when they want to engage with brands in a 24/7, multi-channel business climate, as well as by operational/organizational needs to scale customer engagement amid uncertainty. In the early weeks of COVID-19, organizations with mature customer engagement were able to offload traffic surges onto their self-service tools, enabling their human agents to focus on fewer, but more complex interactions.
3. Ongoing challenges with staffing/EX.
While self-service tools may be handling more customer traffic, organizations continue to face challenges in retaining employees. Over half (56%) of respondents cite agent turnover as a top challenge. This high employee turnover is a consequence of the difficulty of the work and compensation issues, but turnover can disrupt operational continuity.
Key Building Blocks of CEM
Employee Experience. Organizations can increase agent satisfaction by improving access to technologies that support their work: 64% of survey respondents say empowering their agents to serve customers and make more data-driven decisions has increased agent satisfaction, creating a hybrid “tech + human” approach to engagement. As the study says, technologies such as “AI can help agents make decisions while cutting down on the amount of routine task work they have, giving them more time and capabilities to better serve customers.” A great EX thus supports a great CX.
Customer experience. It’s no coincidence that organizations increase both customer satisfaction and EX when they deploy new technologies like self-service tools fueled by AI. Customers increasingly prefer self-service tools for 24/7 engagement on their own terms. “The bottom line: Enabling customers to solve their own problems can pay huge dividends,” notes the report.
“Tech + Human” customer engagement = More revenues. Sixty percent of survey respondents say new technologies like AI have boosted the bottom line. Better, more proactive and scalable engagement driven by AI also drives better CX and EX, as well as revenue growth.
4 Recommendations for Improving EX and CX (and CEM)
Today’s customers have more choices and expect frictionless engagement delivered over multiple channels in a highly personalized way. They expect brands to have the capacity to understand who they are, their prior interactions, and transaction history. How can organizations meet these customer engagement demands?
1. Increase operational agility to “future-proof” your operations.
Today’s customers engage with companies at an increasing rate over a greater number of channels (mostly digital), than ever before. Companies must have agile, scalable approaches to omnichannel engagement, using AI and automation to handle some of the load, allowing reps to focus on more complex and higher-quality interactions. Outmoded technology simply doesn’t cut it anymore when it comes to empowering your employees and customers.
2. Invest in AI to deliver better CX and EX.
Self-service tools fueled by AI offload workload from agents and thus make operations more scalable and efficient, especially as uncertainty looms (e.g., the early days of the pandemic). As the study explains, self-service tools also support employees, “arm[ing] agents with the right content, data, next steps, and insights to better personalize interactions and serve customers — all of which drive customer retention and revenues.”
3. Plan how your workforce will evolve.
AI will change every customer service job. As self-service matures, “your higher-skilled agents will receive an increased number of inquiries that may take longer to resolve and may require new training,” notes the report. “New jobs will also open up, such as jobs to supervise chatbots or craft chatbot dialogs.”
4. Invest in training, tools, and new metrics for agent success.
As AI and automation transform service jobs, agents will require training and tools to be productive in this hybrid engagement eco-system. In addition, new capabilities “like enhanced context and visualization, improved knowledge retrieval and integration, and AI can allow agents to do higher-level work and improve agent productivity and CX,” notes the study. Supporting your customers means first supporting your people with training and enabling technologies.