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NICE CXone Executive Interview

Laura Bassett, Senior Director Product Marketing, NICE CXone

Survey Says…Businesses Don’t Always Know How Effective a CX They Provide

In a conversation at the 2019 ICMI Contact Center Expo, Laura Bassett, Senior Director Product Marketing at NICE inContact, discussed the ramifications of a global study conducted by the cloud customer experience leader. The 2019 NICE inContact Customer Experience (CX) Transformation Benchmark polled contact center leaders in the United States, United Kingdom, and Australia. “We talk to customers and we also talk to businesses,” she said. “The latest release gives us the results of the businesses, about 900 companies all told. One of the things we find most interesting is that businesses believe they provide a higher level of service across every channel than consumers do; they are 15 percent more likely than consumers to say that they make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved in their preferred channels.” 

One area where the two groups seem to agree is that it’s important to provide a seamless experience. However, businesses actually rate themselves lower in delivering such experiences. Only 24% of businesses globally give themselves an excellent rating on allowing consumers to switch seamlessly between methods of communication. Bassett sees this is as an anomaly, since businesses consistently rate themselves higher in every area, in many cases believing their NPS is far higher—in most cases by double digits. “It is odd that they think they are underperforming in omnichannel service. Initially, they have to get their arms around the concept of digital transformation, then they have to actually implement the channels and connect them.  So, the disconnect is they believe are doing well in servicing customers via automated assistants, text or email, but do not have confidence that they are making these channels work well together.” 

Bassett does not believe that organizations’ overestimation of their performance is self-deception, just an erroneous perception that they are doing a better job than they are…which she still finds unfortunate. “In our experience, what really matters is to understand what your customers want their journey to be -- what their expectations are and how much effort they need to put in along each stage of that journey,” she said. “We see it as our business is to foster this understanding of how to better communicate with customers but in many instances it becomes just ‘We provided this channel and we have some reports showing increased adoption month over month or week over week,’ which is not always an indicator of success."

In Bassett’s experience, the more advanced companies are the ones that realize they need to listen to their customers, companies who are leveraging Voice of the Customer solutions such as feedback management. “These are the businesses that are trying to get a better handle on the type of experience they are providing,” she said. “But they are also looking at the big picture to determine the right way to implement these channels. They’re not necessarily afraid of doing something new, but they are doing it for a particular use case.” She cites chat as an example, noting that businesses believe it provides a higher level of satisfaction and customers agree, with many acknowledging it as a preferred way to interact. In fact, customers have a higher preference rate for chat than businesses believe they do. “Chat is receiving greater satisfaction numbers and ease of use percentages in the survey.  This might be an area where companies can do some catching up. Putting it to work in the right use cases can even be a point of entry for an AI interface.” 

By listening to their customers, the more forward-thinking companies understand what they want to do and where they want to do it. These businesses can then use this knowledge to drive how they implement the desired channels. “It’s not an all-or-nothing situation, nor is it an-all-at-once. Bots for one use case, chat for a different one,” she said. “The objective is for these businesses is to direct their customers the right way, then look at the data to see how the experience was delivered.”

Bassett believes that the way to get businesses who have an unrealistic perspective about their CX effectiveness to see the light is to ask them the right questions. “Whenever I do a presentation, I ask the audience ‘How many of you have experienced what it’s like to do business with your business?’ which often turns on some light bulbs. But for many organizations, it’s instituting a Customer Experience Leader position. Doing this requires an executive mandate and realizing that they need to bring in someone who can drive a better understanding of the customers.” Bassett did a presentation at the ICMI event with one of her clients who unearthed customer frustration at his company’s retail locations, where the business looked at the numbers and found that the disconnect—based on people having to try multiple times to make appointments-- was driving a drop in the quantity of customers they could service and diminishing the level of satisfaction. “Once they became aware this was occurring, they looked into how they could leverage the cloud contact center technologies they already had in place and integrate their retail locations, they were able to really turn things around, dramatically reducing the number of abandoned calls and not annoying customers with busy signals,” she noted. By gaining insight on what was causing customer frustrations, they were able to help the retail branches become more profitable; it was a matter of locating where the breakage was and applying the right technology to fix it. An interesting sidelight of this is that their contact center has also grown as a result, creating the need for more advanced tools, such as workforce management.

How does NICE inContact help their customers move along? “We make the effort to work with companies to help them better understand how the customer journey they provide affects the business. We have tools for omnichannel and interaction analytics.  We can enable them to detect frustration in a customer’s voice or even in the language they use—all in real time.  We measure at all points of an interaction, where that frustration began and what happened just before the company may have lost contact with a customer,” she said. “We’re helping them learn about the entire customer journey and looking within every interaction involved in it, through both the in-depth analytics and the machine learning and processing we’re able to do behind the scenes with many of the different applications. Whether it’s in the pre-sale process or after implementation, our focus is to help each customer understand how to prioritize and leverage the available data to decide what their next step should be.”

Bassett’s advice to companies that may be misguided in gauging their CX effectiveness is to not worry about what they’ve done in the past, but to understand how their customers want to engage with them and examine which of the ways they can do that improve consumer satisfaction. She believes businesses need to leverage new technologies to meet the same age-old problems, incorporating AI-driven applications, an area in which both NICE inContact is aggressively expanding and one that consumers are increasingly using in their daily lives. “People now have Alexa or Google Home and businesses are realizing that providing similar types of automated interactions can drive higher levels of consumer satisfaction. AI can not only play a big role in human touch interactions, but in behind the scenes processing that can make an agent’s life easier by giving them the information they need and enabling them to manage themselves. 

The CX Transformation Benchmark study backs up her opinion, finding that 63 percent of contact center leaders agree that chatbots and virtual assistants make it easier for consumers to get their issues resolved, and 68 percent of those surveyed agree that consumers want to use virtual assistants to interact with them. The findings also show that significantly more US businesses now offer automated assistants/chatbots online, at 54 percent compared to 44 percent the prior year.