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A continuous flurry of new customer experience (CX) technologies. Consumers’ ever-present desire for what’s next. Constant pressure to innovate and optimize.
Keeping pace with all these changes — with cutting-edge competitors and heightened expectations from all sides — can make CX success feel just out of reach.
At the 2023 ICMI conference in Orlando, those challenges didn’t dim attendees’ enthusiasm and optimism for using CX to get ahead today and staying ahead over the long term. “We’re seeing the future happen. You are creating the future,” said Brad Cleveland, Founding Partner and Senior Advisor at ICMI, during his opening keynote.
Cleveland pointed out that with new customer needs and a growing list of channels and services, “We have more contact centers than ever in history.” And that means more opportunities to deliver game-changing customer experiences.
But first, you’ll need to inspire your colleagues to join you on that journey. Futurist Crystal Washington and Dave Seaton, CEO and Principal Consultant at Seaton CX, both emphasized the importance of managing change through empathy and understanding.
Cleveland, Seaton, Washington and others offered several recommendations for winning today while positioning yourself for customer experience success tomorrow.
1. Relentlessly focus on the fundamentals. It’s never been more important to get the basics of customer service right. More than three-quarters of consumers will switch brands after five or fewer poor customer service experiences. Setting and meeting realistic service-level expectations, ensuring the quality of interactions, providing value, and selecting metrics that create success — not unintended consequences — are all table stakes.
Ask yourself: Can customers get through on channels that make sense to them? Are we sharing insight with the rest of the organization to improve products and services?
2. Build and protect a culture of curiosity and innovation. Start by supporting your staff. Determine what would make employees’ jobs easier and more enjoyable — then follow through. Get input from the frontline to maximize impact. And then repeat that discovery and optimization process.
“Innovation is preparing for the future and often is about simplifying,” said Cleveland. “There’s value in innovation that simplifies.”
But don’t stop there. Break free from obstacles in the way of innovation, he advised. Celebrate innovation and change. Evolve your success metrics. (Average handle time may no longer be a fit, for example, in contact centers focused on solving complex problems.)
“There’s a beauty to creating great experiences, and it’s profitable,” noted Cleveland.
3. Listen to the data. “Data has a voice. Listen to it,” said Juanita Coley, CEO and Founder of Solid Rock Consulting, during her session, “Your WMF Solutions Alone Won’t Save You.”
“Understand your contact centers’ points of truth.” The insight generated during customer interactions is invaluable for informing everything from employee development opportunities to marketing strategies.
“You are the ones with the information about what customers want,” Washington said during her session, “How Generative AI Will Impact the Future of Work.” Paired with AI, that insight is what will keep companies in business, she added.
4. Use empathy to secure buy-in for change. Instead of simply telling employees and stakeholders how your organization needs to change, take the time to understand why those shifts are important or valuable from their perspective, said Seaton during his session, “Buy-in Bliss: The Empathetic Approach to Stakeholder Analysis.”
“Shift from your needs to their goals,” he said. “How will you help meet their goals?”
Leading with empathy also means over-communicating and listening, added Washington. Humans have a natural resistance to change, so remind people why new processes, technologies or work modalities are valuable to them and to the business. And keep reminding them.
It’s also important to give them the opportunity to talk through why a specific change is difficult. Listening to their concerns proves you hear and value them.
5. Instill purpose. It’s a defining leadership trait that continues to be important, asserted Cleveland. Nearly half of agents leave their jobs within two years, according to the ICMI report “The State of Experience in 2023.” Engage employees by helping them see their impact, by aligning with their values and by asking for their input. Then use that input to show them that they’re appreciated.
“What will paying close attention to and cultivating your culture do for your organization?” asked Kyle Johnson, president and CEO of Lighthouse Central Florida and Lighthouse Works, during his session, “Envision, Illuminate, Empower: Lighthouse Works Brings Hope by Transforming Work.” Build nearly unbreakable engagement and retention. “It feels so much better when you don’t have a revolving door; when you’re more effective for your customer, as a result,” he added. “When you’re there for your team, they’ll climb the wall for you.”
The future of CX is right in front of us. Step into it with the force of your full team behind you. If we lead with empathy and are intentional, said Cleveland, “I believe the best is yet to come.”
Read this checklist to learn how to supercharge your customer experience workforce with AI.