Think back, for a moment, to a time when you made a purchase of a product, service, or membership that has, for any number of reasons, caused you stress. Maybe the payment didn’t go through, maybe something was broken or malfunctioning, maybe it’s just not what you expected. Perhaps you check the troubleshooting manual or login to the website for FAQs. But in the end, you decide to make the dreaded call to customer service.
No matter what action you take, the point is that your journey as a customer started before you made that call. But too many contact centers assume the opposite – that your journey starts the moment an agent picks up the phone. That assumption is very often the catalyst in creating a less-than-satisfactory customer experience.
As a contact center, we might be checking all the boxes in our call flow process, but that doesn’t mean the customer necessarily had a great experience. That’s why customer journey mapping in the contact center is essential to understand how the customer experience is built at every touchpoint. If we want to create a differentiated, effortless experience for the customer, it’s vital that we understand their journey – and that we understand it from their perspective.
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When we fail to realize that the customer journey starts before they pick up the phone, it’s easy to assume that the initial agent-customer interaction begins at a neutral starting point. But that’s simply not true. In many cases, the call is the second or third step a customer had to take (more if they were transferred through IVR or other agents first), which means the interaction begins at a negative starting point, and the agent must respond accordingly.
Customer journey mapping helps to ensure customer-centricity in every element of the contact center, from frontline interactions to the management of processes and procedures. The map will reveal key elements of the customer experience that impact decision-making and loyalty-building. It should also uncover any gaps in procedure that restrict an agent from delivering first call resolution. The resulting blueprint should provide highly actionable insight, leading management to simplify call flows, optimize processes, and empower their agents through more effective training.
Just as it’s easy to assume the customer journey begins with the customer service call, it’s equally easy to assume that everyone in the contact center is on the same page in regards to what customer experience actually means. The concept of customer experience may look different from one person to the next, from management to frontline agent, unless it’s first been defined. Communication is key. Sharing multiple perspectives is the only way to get closer to understanding the customer’s perspective.
Conceptualizing customer experience in a consistent manner across the contact center should be followed by establishing the most effective metrics. A customer journey mapping exercise should reveal the best way to measure customer experience in the context of each specific project.
Establishing those metrics are vital, because you can’t train on customer experience if you’re not measuring for it. It’s vital to understand how your KPIs align with the agent profile. If your main objective of the customer experience is brand loyalty, then new recruits need to have strong soft skills that align with the hiring profile. From there, they need to be comprehensively trained and continually coached to embody the client’s brand and culture.
Employees need to be empowered to employ strategic problem-solving and decision-making while on the frontlines and they need to feel invested in the work they do, the client they support, and the customer’s the take care of. Side-by-side coaching is effective in both nurturing empowerment and refining decision-making skills while nurturing employee engagement. (The relationship between employee engagement, coaching, and customer experience warrants another blog post of its own. We don’t want to keep you here all day reading this one…)
Striving to understand how call flow and client processes impact the customer experience will give us insight into what needs to change. How often is a customer being transferred before they get a resolution? How many channels must a customer interact with before their problems are solved? Is there anything stopping a frontline agent from having the autonomy to deliver first call resolution? What are the client’s priorities and do those align with agent procedure?
It’s these types of questions that drive process improvement. There is, after all, a reason why humans are still doing this job, even in an age where technology could feasibly automate much of the contact center. It’s because data without a human perspective is just data. When we start probing and asking questions, then we can deliver the most transparent contact center reporting, turn concepts into action, and ensure we’re keeping the customers’ best interests at heart.
At the end of the day, we want to instill in our clients’ customers a sense of confidence in the support we’re delivering. We want to deliver an effortless experience, minimize channel switching, and make customers feel valued by the client’s brand. Customer journey mapping is the most effective strategy to achieve these goals.