We talk a lot about the customer experience on our podcast (we did call it the eCommerce Customer Experience podcast after all), but sometimes it’s worth examining what that really means within an organisation. The customer experience should be a holistic view taking into accounts all areas of a business, but so often organisations silo it away in customer support.
When we interviewed Thibaut Martin, former head of Customer Experience at Otrium, he laid bare what he thinks organisations need: customer-centricity.
A lot of leaders may think they are customer centric, and will happily say so in internal presentations, but they need to walk the walk. Thibaut has a somewhat radical idea: “Whenever someone joins the company, whatever department you are joining, you’re going to go at least for two days in the customer support team, and you’re going to shadow and look at what’s happening there.”
“What are the questions that we receive on a daily basis and How do we solve them?”
This induction into the coal face of customer support may be a fast track to a more customer-centric organisation, but the process is not going to happen overnight. It’s essential to have a leadership that is hyper focused on customers, but also bringing insights from the customer to the executive team.
To truly be customer-centric, everyone in the business needs to understand what customers are saying, what’s working and what’s not working. “Customer support cannot push everything on every mark, on every department, on every little piece of feedback we get,” according to Thibaut. Instead it takes everyone in an organisation being empowered and motivated to work on all the small things that add up to a better customer experience.
Which brings us to Thibaut’s key phrase: Customer Service is not a department, it’s an attitude. “Too many companies are still considering customer experience or customer support as a cost centre,” Thibaut told us. “When I see it as a really truly underestimated value centre.”
What’s stopping businesses?
If the attitude was the only thing stopping businesses, then we would see great customer service pretty much everywhere. Clearly that’s not the case, so what’s stopping businesses? According to Thibaut, it’s data.
“I think in the ideal world, your agent, when someone calls them, should be able to see exactly the idea of your customer, who they are. Did they buy recently? Who supported them, did they engage with your FAQ? Did they engage with chatbot or automation from your support before? All those kinds of things. So you can have a really good picture of who you are speaking with because sometimes agents are a bit blind.”
Being customer-centric requires businesses to bring in data from marketing, product logistics and everywhere else to be able to provide that great experience there and then.
Empathy in Customer Service
As well as customer-centricity, one of the concepts that gets used and possibly mis-used is “Empathy”. As consumers when we speak to brands, we want them to quickly understand where we are coming from, where our frustrations are, and what they could do to make us as happy as possible.
That’s something that humans don’t always get right, especially when they are following strict processes. But in a world of increased automation, how can CX leaders instil empathy throughout the customer experience?
“I read somewhere that we are asking chatbots to act too much as human, and humans to act too much as bots,” Thibaut said. “When it comes to human agents, we need to give them a bit more flexibility, a bit more ownership on the decision they will take.”
Key to that is providing the data and information to agents, but also giving them the right tools to do the right thing for the customer. “I think empathy is also part of it. There is a lot of training around that in our term, much more related to soft skills.”
But part of empathy is also recognising when a customer just wants an answer to a simple question as quickly as possible. “For example, this morning I had a chat with a company because I wanted to have a quick answer. They answered to me in less than two minutes on the chat. And then I think that’s what makes me happy. So I don’t have to wait for hours to really get a really simple answer.”
Adding in personalisation to the process can be a way to make customers feel special. “Maybe the customer is going to be a previous customer, and then the agent is going to ask him if he was happy with the latest jeans he bought. Or that he returned a jacket, and then asks if he found something else to replace it.”
As Thibaut points out, none of these things need to be super complex. “In some cases you need to go for speed because that’s what customers are looking for. In some cases it’s more about really going on step further, and maybe human agents won’t solve the ticket in ten minutes and they need a bit more time.”
It’s time for companies to be more serious about automation
This divide between speed and needing to take a bit more time is where customer service automation can help. If automation and human work hand-in-hand – where automation takes on the simpler, quicker issues, and complex issues are handed off to human agents – this can be a winning combination.
But there is some resistance to this idea out there. “It’s not realistic to say that chatbots and automation is not for you. It’s just something you need to implement efficiently and smartly,” Thibaut points out. “Sometimes you have the feeling that they are just testing out a bit, but they are not implementing it the right way.”
Investing in automation is a long-run investment. Even so, at DigitalGenius, we have seen customers make massive savings and improvements just during the course of an initial 6-week period. “I think the savings that you can generate thanks to automation in the long run is crazy compared to just staying a bit old school in that perspective.”