Making customer experience a central business strategy

Exceptional customer service can be a key differentiator for channel companies, says Tollring's Hilary Oliver

Providing excellent customer service is now a non-negotiable. Comms Business spoke with Hilary Oliver, chief marketing and experience officer at Tollring, about why channel partners need to understand the customer journey and how they can improve their customer experience using technology.

1) How can channel partners use customer experience as a key differentiator to make them stand out from the competition?

Customer experience has become a clear priority for many organisations. However, as a concept or strategy designed to drive customer satisfaction and retention, it can be rather intangible unless it is defined and measurable.

We believe that in order for channel partners to fully understand the value of customer experience, the best way is to introduce initiatives to their own business before introducing customer experience products to their own portfolio.  By starting with trying to understand and impact their own customers' experience at every stage of the customer journey, they can then identify the best tools to measure and quantify that engagement.

Once well-practised in understanding their own customers' needs and wants, with proven tools to support organisations in their quest for driving customer experience, they can stand out from the competition. 

2) What are the main challenges involved in establishing customer experience as a point of difference?

Using customer experience as a point of difference requires channel partners to demonstrate a real return on investment.

A key challenge when establishing customer experience as a point of difference, is that channel partners need to take a consultative approach to understand their client’s business, their client’s industry, and what the client wants to achieve. However, although channel partners are often selling to many different sizes of organisation across multiple sectors, there will be a whole tranche of expectations and associated metrics that will be common to many of them – or at least those with similar trading profiles. 

At a basic level, all customers want to be heard and they want access to the right people at the right time. Using retail as an example, if phone-based selling is key, value will be achieved by minimising missed calls since each missed call is a lost sale with a monetary value.  Customer satisfaction based on call queues and waiting times can also be measured in monetary terms. With some initial analysis, the value of the customer experience can be quantified either through metrics or money with any improvements measured in the context of the whole organisation.

3) Why is understanding the customer journey key to informing customer experience strategies?

Understanding the customer journey helps channel partners to put themselves into the shoes of the customer and imagine how to make that experience better. Furthermore, following the communications journey throughout the whole organisation - not just within the call centre – promotes end-to-end understanding.  For instance, if someone has been bounced around an organisation multiple times, they will have a very different experience compared to someone whose query is answered on their first point of contact.

In many cases conversations take place when something needs to be sorted, so it is important to consider that for many businesses, if an enquiry has escalated to a phone call, the customer experience therefore needs to be superb since it is potentially a make-or-break moment.

Having an insight into the customer journey allows providers and their clients to determine where to make improvements and where to leverage technology to meet the objectives of the customer experience strategy. It's all interlinked.

4) How can technology, AI and analytics be used as an enabler for monitoring customer service teams’ performance, identifying areas for improvement, supporting staff and providing exceptional customer experience?

AI-powered recording alongside call and collaboration analytics enables channel partners to differentiate and help their clients deliver exceptional customer experience. 

Analytics present the facts and highlight observations and recommendations across external customer journeys and internal resourcing. Overlaying communications analytics with AI-powered call recordings takes the analysis a step further through automation at scale. This powerful combination enables automatic identification of specific keywords and topics without users having to listen to every call, with clips from recordings easily highlighted and instantly shared for review, safely and securely. Rather than reviewing just a selection of calls, organisations can review every call and identify the behaviours that drive the best possible customer experiences.

Analysis across such large pools of data without human interaction enables rapid insight into customer sentiment, profile trends and behavioural patterns and, ultimately, identifies what works and what doesn’t to improve business performance.  With the ability to review the content in every call, issues can be spotted quickly and staff training implemented with greater accuracy.

With the latest technology, channel partners can differentiate their services by delivering powerful, cutting-edge workforce productivity solutions across a customer’s entire business. 

5) What new opportunities in terms of customer experience should businesses be looking to capitalise on moving forward?

The familiar statistic that it is five times more expensive to secure new customers than raise new revenues from existing ones still holds true. Channel partners need to look at opportunities within their existing customer base to see if they can improve the levels of customer experience.

Many organisations have increased their use of Microsoft Teams and are now adding Teams Phone to their telephony services, either in parts of their business or completely. This presents a significant opportunity to the channel.

As insights become available across both traditional phone systems and the collaboration and telephony services on Teams, we move towards a holistic view of communications and customer experience across the whole organisation, regardless of technology platform. This makes it easier for end users, with fewer barriers to adoption, and partners can benefit from the analytics opportunity no matter where their customers are on their Microsoft Teams journey.

Another big opportunity is for channel partners to advise their clients on what tools and services are available to enhance the customer experience. Marketplaces such as Cisco's Webex App Hub and Microsoft's AppSource and Azure Marketplaces already offer a wealth of value-added innovations that are quick to access and can enhance a channel provider’s proposition. Marketplaces make it much easier for partners to identify new solutions, try them and deliver new innovations to their customers, building their own unique offering to differentiate and reduce churn.


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