The past couple of years have proved a transformative time for customer experience, with companies having to meet rapidly changing consumer demands in the face of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Looking to the next year, that trend seems set to continue – although it’s far from the only thing to look out for in the coming year.
In an exclusive interview, CX Today welcomes Julien Rio, Associate Vice President, International Marketing, at RingCentral, to find out more about the future of customer experience in 2022.
A Culture of Innovation
Meeting the challenge of the pandemic has required companies to think on their feet – a stance they would do well to persist within the coming year. “I like to talk about the hedonic treadmill – the fact that when people are excited about something, their emotions go up, and very quickly go back to normal. Because of that, whatever innovative, crazy initiative you come up with quickly becomes a new normal.” Instead of submitting to that trend, Rio advocates creating an environment in which a company can continuously evolve. “Try to find out what your customers are expecting, and then over-deliver on it. That could be bringing in new channels that your customers use on a daily basis, innovating in terms of faster responses, or even better-bringing people answers to questions they have not even had a chance to ask yet.”
Innovation doesn’t mean letting go of existing successes, however. “While it’s absolutely essential to shift to digital, it’s even more essential not to give up on voice,” says Rio. “The reason being, not all your customers are the same. If you want to engage with me, you have got to have a WhatsApp channel. But I do not represent 100% of your customers. You will have customers who prefer to use the phone and some that would prefer to use email. You need to have a large breadth of channels and manage them properly.” It’s not purely about user preference, but also context, as Rio explains. “When I have a very complex problem, I don’t want to have to write a three-page email when a phone call would be more convenient. Or if I feel I need to address something emotional, I need to be reassured and comforted – maybe a phone call is better as well.”
Maintaining that breadth of channels means companies can take advantage of the latest technologies, such as conversational AI – which continues to grow in functionality. “AI is much better than it used to be,” says Rio. “But only if you use it well. It’s one of those tools that can win on multiple layers. It’s a win for the company because you’re going to save lots of money by increasing productivity and lots of time for your agents. It’s a win for the agents as well because they’re going to be more efficient and focused. And ultimately, it’s great for the customer. Because good AI, set up well with a specific use case in mind, means customers can get faster responses, 24/7.”
Along with AI, the new year will see agents increasingly being supported by workforce engagement tools. “Workforce organisation is incredibly important for setting the right schedules, and making sure that you maximise the time of each employee – because, in the first instance, employees are money and a cost for the company.” It goes beyond the cost sheet, however, as Rio attests. “When you lose agents (and let’s face it, the turnover in a contact centre is usually incredibly high), that costs even more money in terms of recruiting, onboarding, training and ramping up. On the other hand, taking care of your employees costs much less, and the ROI is incredible. Look to tools and technologies like workforce engagement management where you actually engage with your workforce to not just manage them but satisfy and even improve them.”
Just as important as treating employees in the right way, is treating customers right. With conscious consumerism on the rise, in 2022 companies should make sure to walk the walk-in areas such as sustainability. “The fact that people care about sustainability means companies should care about it as well. If you align with your customers’ interests and concerns, then you have something in common. If you can go further and show that it’s not just words you pretend to care about, that you’re actually doing something about it, then you start building a stronger bond.” Achieving that means spreading a certain culture throughout the organisation, as Rio explains. “Educate the front liners, customer service representatives, and anyone in your company who actually engages with customers, so that they are aware of what you’re doing, they understand the purpose, and they share the vision.”
Ultimately, the businesses that succeed in 2022 are those that get the basics of customer experience right. “Many companies are trying to go above and beyond but still miss the basics. We all know what they are. Don’t leave me holding the line listening to the four seasons for 30 minutes when there are ways to avoid it. Those are the things that you need to fix before thinking about wowing your customers or customising or personalising the experience. That’s where companies should start, and that should be the main focus in 2022. Because customer experience is the differentiator.”