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Understanding the Customer Journey through Your Contact Center (Blog #3 in a Series)

This blog series began with “How Call Center QA Improves NPS and Customer Experience” and continued with “Correlating NPS and QA Scoring: Driving Shareholder Value” as we address how Quality Assurance in the contact center is being used by organizations, large and small, to improve NPS and overall customer experience. This blog post is the third in that series.

It is easy to say that in order to truly understand the customer journey; a company must put themselves in the position of a customer and then travel a given journey accordingly.

Actually doing it is a bit more of a challenge than it might appear at first sight.

Many journeys are as individual as the customer, so many variables come into play including the context and the purpose of the journey.

First, you must have a solid sense of the type of people who make up your company’s audience. Don’t guess. This is too important. It may be useful to partner with your marketing or advertising teams to get a good grasp on audience demographics (who they are) and psychographics (who they want to be). Create or have audience personas made, so that you are certain to focus on what a particular customer, with a particular background, and unique challenge is facing and needs from you at this precise time.

Next, you will need to map out a given journey -- the entire customer arc of engagement -- from initial contact through point-of-sale and beyond. You need to look closely at the entry points to the contact center and map where the journey took your customer before they contacted the center.

In “Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience,” Adam Richardson in Harvard Business Review looks at the customer journey as follows:

Engage → Buy → Use → Share → Complete

While Richardson argues that the “complete” cycle may consist of an upgrade, a replacement, or choosing a competitor, this view is still fairly simple and optimistic. A true customer journey will need to account for a decision not to buy, or a decision not to share one’s positive experience. It will identify what happens or could happen along the way that impacts a customer’s positive or negative decision-making process.

Be sure to consider each transaction or touch point along the journey -- a phone call, an email onboarding series, a digital advertisement. Then consider all of the tiny, but essential details along the way. With a contact center call, for example...

  • How long is the wait time?
  • What information is the caller asked to provide?
  • What questions are asked?
  • What is the reason for the call?
  • How informed is the agent?  
  • How, if at all, is the issue resolved?
  • What are the next steps?
  • Is the caller prompted to answer a survey?
  • How did the customer feel after the interaction?
  • How did the agent feel after the interaction?

Every touchpoint matters. Every interaction counts. Each of these moments rolls up into successful or failed brand loyalty.

The Authentic Customer Journey

To take an authentic customer journey, you must remove your business executive self from the equation and follow, as closely as possible, your customer’s true journey. For now this is a map that is followed by audience personas, but it quickly becomes very real, and can be highly emotional.

What is a Customer Interaction?

A customer interaction, often called a customer touchpoint, is defined as any moment in which a customer directly or indirectly interacts with your brand. These can be…

  • Phone conversations
  • Emails
  • Website visits
  • Digital advertising
  • Product or service purchasing

The key to remember is that while some similarities may exist, every customer interaction is entirely unique. Even when comparing two customers who receive the same email -- the circumstances, timing, and individuals are different, thus deeming the two interactions appropriately unique.

Transactional vs. Complex Customer Interactions

While every customer interaction is unique, we can place interaction types into two general buckets: transactional customer interactions and complex, or relationship, customer interactions.

The more frequent transactional interaction typically occurs in call centers when a customer speaks to an agent. Transactional interactions, by definition, represent a give and take, or an exchange of information. The customer may ask about store hours or pricing and then expect an answer in return. Sales also fall under transactional interactions. A customer may ask for a particular product or service and then receive it. In a transactional customer interaction, there is no emphasis placed upon building customer relationships. This is a simple, cut-and-dry exchange of information. Increasingly these types of transactions are automated through the use of apps, websites and recently chat bots.

Complex or relationship customer interactions are focused more on relationship-building. These types of interactions are categorized as complex because they are more consultative in nature. A complex interaction may consist, for example, of a customer asking for a specific recommendation. They may, for example, wish to discuss product types or look for a specific solution to a problem. These complex interactions are less about the customer providing their name and contact information in exchange for a straightforward answer to a question, in many cases these involve resolving a problem and have a high emotional quotient. They are interactions that require more knowledge, nuance, and thoughtfulness in approach. 

An Emotional Customer Journey

If proper homework has been done up front with regard to the development of audience personas, then more may be understood about how truly emotional a customer journey can be. Understanding a customer’s needs is the only way to gauge how successful your call center can be at meeting those needs. And only then can you decide what type of interaction approach is best at meeting or exceeding customer expectations.  

Assessing customer sentiment is something of an art form, Net Promoter Score (NPS) measurements can certainly assist in measuring and testing these challenges, NPS will indicate the confidence level the customer left with and test their intention to risk personal reputation by recommending your service. It may be necessary to ask a couple of follow-up questions to get a deeper understanding of the customer's emotional state .

Call centers and their respective clients have a choice -- to be transactional or complex. You are at liberty to decide either way, but from a business standpoint questions must be answered: 

  • Which method is the most economical?
  • Which method will increase NPS and ultimately drive revenue?
  • Is the time and potential revenue increase worth the potential cost?
  • Which method, based on audience persona and customer journey mapping you have completed, does your audience require?
  • Which method will most emotionally resonate with your audience?

Key Takeaways

Often, the contact center is the first point of customer contact. It represents your company’s opportunity to make a good first impression. When not busy working to make positive, lasting impressions, your call center is often charged with managing conflict resolution.

Each of these common scenarios is equally a moment of opportunity to build and foster customer relationships. It is certainly worth investigating further to develop a deeper understanding of the multiple customer journeys undertaken, to train agents to be adaptable and to ensure the right types of customer interactions are taking place to match your customer’s needs, emotional state, and to improve their entire journey from beginning through sales and retention.

   
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