Best Practices for Building a Customer Interaction Hub

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Today's customers expect service when they want it, where they want it. They have at any moment multiple channels at their fingertips through which to interact with any brand. As a result, companies must expect a customer's purchasing journey to be increasingly interlinked through mobile, chat, traditional voice, and social media. Companies must be prepared to engage customers through these channels 24/7, and as seamlessly as possible.

As 1to1 Media, a division of Peppers & Rogers Group, noted in a report released this summer, "this...makes it essential for organizations to develop and implement a sound multichannel service strategy that will lead to the integration of all service efforts and initiatives across different channels." Price and product no longer provide the competitive edge they used to; providing a consistent, unique, and differentiating customer experience will be the key to drive growth and profitability.

While companies understand that customers are their greatest asset, they are often plagued with obstructions that prevent them from providing a positive experience. Organizational silos limit the understanding and ownership of the customer experience, compounding technology obstacles, including inconsistent service across channels, multiple service screens, and applications lacking a single knowledge source or view of the customer, all of which can contribute to low employee productivity and a poor experience.

A recent eConsultancy study highlights the challenges companies face in providing customer service support. When asked "What are the three greatest barriers that prevent your organization from improving the multichannel experience?" 41 percent of respondents cited organizational structure, 38 percent said complexity of the customer experience, and 34 percent reported difficulty unifying customer data.

In a recent Aberdeen Group poll of more than 160 organizations, less than 40 percent of respondents said that they had succeeded in improving customer satisfaction levels over the past year. Even fewer have been able to increase loyalty or customer satisfaction over the same timeframe.

To the Rescue

Engaging with customers across multiple service channels and having the ability to see their behaviors in the different touch points requires forward-thinking strategies and disciplines. In addition to improving processes, companies need the tools and technology to integrate customer data and unify technology infrastructure. This can aid a company as it builds its customer interaction hubs.

Customer interaction hubs allow organizations saddled with legacy systems and siloed data to easily connect customers' experiences across the enterprise and engage the multichannel customer by providing all employees with access to customer data. Rather than toggle between screens, service teams have the right information at their fingertips, at the right time, all in one place and view. As a result, these customer interaction hubs enable customer service teams to engage today's multichannel customer at the time and via the channel that the customer prefers. This will have a huge positive impact on customer satisfaction, customer retention, employee productivity, and overall company profitability.

These hubs can achieve bottom-line results because they're nimble and proactive and leverage a multichannel approach to communicate with customers. They integrate fragmented data streams and legacy systems, from multiple locations and sources. They essentially abandon the traditional call center approach typically driven by key performance indicators, such as call handle time, and plagued with siloed customer data, aging applications, and an outdated technology infrastructure.

When designing and building your customer interaction hub, consider these three best practices:

1. Build a strong customer engagement hub that aligns to the organization's overall strategy.

2. Examine the end-to-end customer interactions through the eyes of the customer, then build customer-focused strategies and processes to establish and maintain long-term, profitable customer relationships.

3. Define, design, and deploy the technology to enable the strategy and processes.

With proper alignment, a customer-centric design, and the right technology, customer interaction hubs will enable organizations to be on their way to a frictionless customer experience through a connected enterprise, which is precisely what all of us have come to expect from the companies we do business with.

Macario Gallegos is the vice president of technical project management at TeleTech.

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