Expert Advice: Building a Digital-First Customer Experience


Building a digital-first customer experience can feel daunting, whether you’re starting from the ground up or revamping an outdated system. It requires the proper balance of powerful technologies and human touch. But Orvis, Uplift and E.ON Energy UK are getting that mix right and achieving real business results.

At a Genesys Xperience 2022 panel, Amy Behbehani, Senior Director of Customer Service and Operations at Uplift; Robert Ball, Digital Customer Service Supervisor at Orvis; and Sean Maddison, Conversational Automation and Intelligence Manager at E.ON Energy UK joined host Aarde Cosseboom, CEO and founder of Clariti, to talk about how their businesses approached creating a digital-first customer experience (CX).

These CX leaders shared advice on how to build or remodel your digital CX as well as tips on how to get started.

Always Give Customers an Escalation Path

“Don’t be hostile with your customers; don’t let them get stuck,” advised Maddison. That can happen in a poorly designed self-service digital experience. Whether a query is unanswerable or the next step for the customer is simply unclear, customers can get caught in a loop without an obvious exit. And that’s frustrating.

When building a chatbot, virtual assistant or any other self-service agent, always consider the customer’s exit strategy.

I really love the escalation path we have,” said Behbehani. “We tell customers their wait time in the live chat, just like a phone queue… so they don’t feel that you’ve deserted them or they’re in some loop, and they really appreciate that.” In addition to providing the wait time, agents give customers a list of service options, such as waiting for the chat or sending an email or text instead.

Ideally, the bot will handle a significant proportion of customer service queries. For example, Behbehani believes the Uplift self-service system will eventually handle up to 80% of queries with continual refinement and knowledge management. Currently, adoption is high — of approximately 1,500 calls Uplift receives a day, around 300 opt for the virtual assistant.

But when a customer can’t solve an issue alone, that escalation path is critical.

“There always has to be a way out through a human agent,” said Maddison. “Don’t annoy your customers.”

Use Available Resources to Build Digital Intelligence

When Orvis first implemented its digital-first CX solution, it was “almost an emergency implementation,” noted Ball. In late 2020, a combination of the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and supply chain issues forced the company to consider whether a self-service bot would provide value. But with peak season quickly approaching, implementation couldn’t wait.

“We were quite literally scrambling to pull content together to meet our implementation target date because we were on such a short timeline,” said Ball. The answer: Lean into existing content, rather than writing from scratch.

“We had to meet that target [to avoid conflicts with peak season] so we leaned into the resources that were already there.” Those resources include an FAQ page on the website and agent feedback.

Iteration followed and continues today, but Ball and the Orvis team leveraged available resources to implement the chatbot solution quickly and efficiently. And the team met its deadline, ensuring customers weren’t left waiting hours for a contact center agent during the busy holiday season.

“Identify those high-return topics,” said Ball, “and identify the things where you can easily point customers toward resources that already exist.”

Start, Then Iterate

“Analysis paralysis” is real, said Maddison, and it’s a real barrier between an organization and digital transformation. Instead of fine-tuning for months before launching, all three panelists advise to get something in front of customers — and then adjust and iterate from there.

“Let it develop organically, listen to what your customers are saying, review their voices through the bot, review your agent feedback on it,” said Ball. “It will reach a point where it starts building itself, it becomes self-maintaining to some degree, and that’s where you know you’ve hit that right spot with it.”

For Maddison, the key was identifying actions he knew customers would want to complete on their own like getting a copy of their utility bill or updating a phone number. And then the company ensured the bot could handle those relatively simple tasks.

Don’t waste months doing research, analysis and design before you even start developing something, advised Maddison. “How your customers use what you build — and the feedback that you can solicit from your customers and your customer service agents — will inform the design and the iterations better than you could do up front,” he said.

Don’t Fear a Digital Transformation

Whether you’re starting from Step One or your business is rebuilding a broken system, creating a digital-first customer experience is still an involved process. But it doesn’t have to be.

Do-it-yourself is an option — that’s where Behbehani and Uplift started. But for smaller teams and faster implementations, turnkey digital solutions are available. With the right tools in place and an iterative approach, everyone succeeds.

The key is to get started and learn from there.

“Get it out there,” said Behbehani. “Start small with something you know is successful, monitor your results and keep building.”