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Have you ever had to call into a business and been stuck in the never-ending IVR where you are constantly pushing 0 and saying operator repeatedly?  We've all been there; unfortunately, this process puts the customer in a negative state before the call or interaction starts. This standard "press 1" call flow is the technology of the past and no longer meets the needs of busy customers who need assistance quickly. It is time to embrace the ever-changing customer experience world. 

Customer experience must be part of the HEART of your company and is critical to the sustained growth of any business. Positive experience promotes:

  • Loyalty
  • Customer Retention
  • Brand Advocacy
  • Annual Customer Value

Consistency is the key piece of CX, every consumer-facing company is measured by the last best experience that the customer has had with any company. Customers desire to schedule a doctor's appointment as easily as it is to purchase an item on Amazon. Or pay a bill simply by replying to a text, without making a call and waiting on hold for an agent. The shift to competing to be that last best experience has turned contact centers from a cost center to a revenue center. Contact centers, along with the automation trying to provide great experiences, are now responsible for customer retention, growth, advocacy, etc. 

Where to start?  Let's break CX into three categories: Customer-centricity, Strategy and Customer-focused culture.

Customer centricity

  • Customer centricity is putting your customer first and at the center of decisions involving services, products, and experience. When making decisions on technology or process changes, including employee personas and customer personas along with individual journey maps, is an integral starting place.
  • Customer personas, when done correctly, can bring data to life and create a realistic view of key customer types within an organization. Personas are semifictional characters; both internal and external. Their voices can be captured through surveys, interviews, focus groups, or assessments and paired with data already collected within the organization.
  • Customer journey mapping uses data to create a visual representation of processes customers must undergo.  It must work across organizational silos to build a transparent, holistic view of the customer's journey. These maps are not linear and involve various turns based on touchpoints.

Journey mapping brings together the complete internal and external experience to identify opportunities per persona and process. They help the organization understand customers' emotional drivers; develop and improve products; tailor experiences to specific personas; and improve innovation. Does your organization incorporate personas or customer journeys into the decision-making process?  If not, it's never too late to start. 

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In the past, contact centers mainly focused on average handle time and how to reduce the time spent on the call. The thought process was that if agents could handle more calls, it would save the company money and minimize customer wait times. This, in turn, brought in many of the automation capabilities we all know.  While time savers, this basic automation was only sometimes the best choice for CX as a stand-alone solution. Companies found that this automation created more frustrations for customers over time, like that never-ending IVR, and needed to be enhanced. This is again where a "customer-first" or "last-best experience" strategy comes into play. Minimizing the cost is now less important than getting the most out of your investment.  Strategy opportunities seem endless, lets focus on a few that can make the largest impact.   

  • Cloud adoption has seen a rapid shift over the past few years as work has moved to a more virtual environment as companies began to focus on supporting customers and employees in a digital and remote setting. Gone are the days of businesses having an on-site data center with numerous IT staff to oversee hardware. A combined unified contact center platform will simplify system architecture and vendor management, thus reducing technology debt and support costs. Organizations with integrated CRM and communication platforms enable the ability to connect employee interaction data with customer data, which opens a new aspect of CX by allowing the system to track results and provide recommendations.
  • Omnichannel routing is another technology that has grown over the past few years, expanding on multi-channel options. Omnichannel allows the customer to interact with agents across all channels seamlessly.  For example, a customer may start the interaction via the company website. Still, after a few minutes, the agent identified that the customer's issue would be better resolved via phone. The customer can be converted to a phone channel to finish the interaction. All data from the exchange would be consolidated and housed together, no matter the channel. This makes an easy transition for both the customer and the agent without the "double work" of explaining the problem numerous times, which is a standard hot button for the customer.
  • The 2020 pandemic forced contact centers to accelerate AI planning and use real-time data to improve CX.  Prescriptive and conversational analytics have become the technology of the present and future. These analytics allow companies to adopt technologies in a way that has yet to be at the forefront. This shows a change in focus from what is likely to happen to what should be done.  Making accurate predictions will remain crucial, but understanding the effect of predicted outcomes has become increasingly important.
  • Chatbots can analyze interactions and provide the best responses to callers based on predictive and prescriptive analytics for self-service options. This allows the contact center agents to be available to help customers with more complex needs and lets the technology handle those customers having more basic needs. Driving service levels up and work time down, in turn saving money and improving the overall experience. In Gartner's press release from August of 2022, "Gartner estimates that there are approximately 17 million contact center agents worldwide today," said Daniel O'Connell, VP analyst at Gartner. "Many organizations are challenged by agent staff shortages and the need to curtail labor expenses, representing up to 95% of contact center costs. Conversational AI makes agents more efficient and effective while improving the customer experience."
  • Not only can AI assist in self-service and reducing total call volume for agents, but many quality management platforms are now utilizing speech and sentiment analytics to provide automated scoring, which allows for the QM analysts to focus more on trends and customer experience rather than the old school method of listening and manually scoring interactions. These same capabilities for sentiment analytics are also being used to provide prompts or reminders to agents to ensure the experience is positive before ending the exchange, thus increasing first-call resolution.

Customer-focused culture 

Customer experience starts with employee experience; your workforce must be equipped with straightforward tools that are easily accessible whether they are working remotely or in the office and have a customer-focused mentality. This means investing in technology packed with intuitive features and easy to use. How does that work in today's world? What is your return on investment with customer experience? 

  • A poor experience costs much more than a positive experience; lost calls equal lost revenue, and happy employees make happy customers. We have all heard these slogans, but the reality is that tarnished brands and loss of value/trust equate to lost customers and business. Whereas your return on innovation and streamlining customer and employee processes show a positive ROI regarding timeline improvements, acquisition growth, renewal or upsell opportunities, formal brand recognition, and, most importantly, customer and employee loyalty.
  • Contact centers historically see a high turnover rate, with the average employee staying approximately two years.  The "Great Resignation" has empowered agents to find employment elsewhere, and the cost of backfilling agents has risen tremendously recently. Implementing technology that can share data and easily integrate with other systems is critical to helping agents save time, reduce burnout, and provide best-in-class service.

Initiating a customer experience transformation within any organization can feel overwhelming; there can be uncertainty about where to start. Be prepared to invest in technology. Empower your workforce by giving them access to the tools and data they need to meet customer needs, solve problems quickly, and increase satisfaction. In turn, leaders should understand and prioritize the business value of CX by having a valid correlation between customer satisfaction (NPS) and business outcomes (sales and retention). 

Bring CX and EX into your ROI and turn your cost center into a revenue center.  Request workshop