As companies expand, delivering the same, personal, high quality service is vital to their continued growth. Customer service teams can be spread across multiple locations and have to cover multiple brands and a greater range of products. This means that traditional methods of collecting and sharing knowledge (such as physical folders or handbooks) no longer provide fast answers to staff, leading to slower responses and potential customer dissatisfaction.
So we’re delighted to announce that fast growing insurance retailer Hastings Direct is deploying Eptica’s multi channel customer service platform to manage knowledge, enhance customer service and provide improved channel choice for its 1.3 million customers.
Hastings Direct is a multi-award winning company which offers car, motorcycle, van and household insurance direct to the public and through affinity partnerships with many UK and global leading brands. It operates under the Hastings Direct, People’s Choice, insure and Renew brands.
Nigel Hurst, head of change & continuous improvement, Hastings Direct said: “Eptica will allow us to look after our customers even better as we continue to grow. We want to ensure customers can contact us through the channel of their choice and we recognised we needed a platform that could help us deliver this, while also enhancing service. We chose to work with Eptica as they demonstrated a deep understanding of the insurance market and a long term partnership approach that will help us empower our staff with knowledge and achieve our goals, now and in the future.”
The company will use Eptica to centralise knowledge and make it available across email, telephone and web self-service channels. Initial implementation is planned to commence in December 2013 at its head office providing staff with access to the most up to date information for resolving customer enquiries.
As Hastings Direct’s growth shows, managing the customer experience is at the heart of success in competitive markets such as insurance. Centralising knowledge and sharing it across multiple channels delivers the enhanced service, improved choice and greater efficiency that companies require if they are to win and retain customers, whatever sector they are in.
In today’s competitive environment, organisations need to deliver consistent, rapid and personalised responses to consumers, based on understanding the tone and style of the language they use. And they need to do this faster and across more channels and interactions than ever before.
Linguistics, the scientific study of language, provides the answer to this growing challenge. It enables companies to deliver an improved experience, providing immediate benefits in three main areas:
1 Increased operational excellence
By using linguistics, companies can analyse the context of incoming enquiries with Natural Language Processing. This provides a deeper understanding of not just what is being said, but more about the background. The query can then be automatically routed to the best agent or department (such as returns or cancellations), with a relevant, suggested response from your centralised knowledgebase. Linguistics therefore delivers a faster, more efficient service – customers receive answers more quickly than before while agents are more productive as they are automatically provided with access to the right information.
2 Better customer understanding
Sentiment analysis of the language used in incoming communications gives immediate insight into how happy an individual customer is. By detecting message tone (positive, negative or neutral) queries can then be prioritised accordingly. This enables timely interventions for urgent enquiries, maximising resources and helping to highlight customers for further follow up, such as marketing surveys or special offers.
3 Building customer intimacy
Voice of the Customer programmes are critical to understanding what your customers want. Longer term, linguistic analysis of customer interactions will feed into your Voice of the Customer programme to provide comprehensive information about your customer base, their wants and desires. This allows the entire organisation, especially marketing teams, to adapt to meet their changing needs by launching new services, changing processes or amending pricing.
At Eptica we’re firm believers in the power of linguistics within customer service. It is at the heart of our entire product set, including the recently launched Eptica Enterprise Suite 9.0. Eptica Linguistic Services (ELS) is the engine that powers all of our linguistic capabilities, driving service excellence by embedding it across every channel.
For those looking to transform customer engagement we’ve created an introductory guide to linguistics and how it can impact your customer service operations. Download it from our website here.
Eptica is being used to manage incoming emails, web self-service and telephone contacts, as well as to power L’Occitane’s new web chat service in Europe. Through a centralised knowledgebase customers now receive fast, consistent answers to their questions, whatever the channel or language they use, improving the customer experience and aiding sales conversions.
The deployment of Eptica is part of a larger international project to overhaul L’Occitane’s customer relationship management systems. Through this L’Occitane is aiming to offer its millions of global customers a personalised, cross-channel experience however they interact with the brand. L’Occitane has 2,300 shops in 90 countries.The global solution has now been rolled out in the UK, US and across Europe, with Asian deployment scheduled for 2014.
L’Occitane International S.A. is a global, natural and organic ingredient-based cosmetics and well-being products manufacturer and retailer with strong regional roots in Provence, France. The Company has five brands (L’Occitane en Provence, L’Occitane au Brésil, Melvita, Le Couvent des Minimes and Erborian) in its portfolio and is committed to developing and retailing high quality products that are rich in natural and organic ingredients of traceable origins and respect for the environment.
Across the world customer satisfaction is getting worse – and younger generations are saying goodbye to the phone channel. These are just two of the headline findings from Dimension Data’s 2013/14 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report.
The 16th edition of the report is based on a worldwide survey of 817 companies in 11 industries and 79 countries. It paints a bleak picture of the state of the market. Customer satisfaction scores have dropped to an average of 77.6%, while First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates are now at 73.1% – meaning more than a quarter of customers are not having their issues solved the first time they interact with an organisation. Both of these metrics have fallen for the fourth year in a row, despite the levels of investment in contact centres.
There’s also a channel shift occurring around the globe. The phone is now the third choice of members of Generation Y (born between 1980 and 2000) when they want to communicate with a company, behind electronic messaging and smartphone apps. While consumers in Generation X (1961-1989) still rank the phone as their number one contact mechanism, the gap is narrowing compared to other channels.
So how are companies looking to improve the experience for customers of all generations? There’s an obvious shift away from voice only call centres towards multichannel contact centres, but the study found that agents still don’t have access to unified resources, such as a single view of the customer – no doubt contributing to poor customer satisfaction.
Essentially the report believes that many organisations are still operating channels as separate silos, rather than providing the cross-channel and omnichannel experience that customers demand. This frustrates consumers, pushes up costs and prevents agents from delivering excellent service.
Reading the study, there are three key points I’d pull out that chime with my own experiences:
1 Web chat is a necessity, not a nice to have
The number of web chat deployments increased by 27.2% over the last 12 months, with 50.6% of contact centres either offering or planning to offer web chat. Given the ability this channel has to deliver cost-effective, personal service and its growing appeal to consumers, web chat’s time has definitely come.
2 Isolated technology islands are pushing up costs
Companies recognise the need to lighten the burden on agents, aiming to shift nearly a third (32.6%) of contacts to self-service systems. However many are implementing these through a piecemeal, channel by channel approach, leading to a plethora of systems and silos. What is needed is a centralised approach that collects knowledge and makes it available across every channel in a consistent, accurate manner.
3 Complexity is driving agents away
Front line agents are leaving contact centres in their droves. Agent attrition is running at 26% of the workforce – that’s over a quarter of staff leaving, every year. Additionally, agents are three times more likely to be absent from work compared to their managers. A lack of support and resources to help cope with the move to multichannel is blamed for this accelerating trend – so organisations need to listen to their agents and provide the technology, knowledge and training to help them meet changing customer needs.
The Dimension Data report shows that organisations face significant changes when it comes to delivering the service that consumers require. Investment needs to be targeted to provide the cross-channel experience that customers are demanding and agents need to be armed with the right tools and skills if they are to successfully do their jobs. Consequently the next twelve months will be crucial for many contact centres as they evolve to meet a changing business environment.
Corporate reputation is a key component of the customer experience. That’s one of the key findings of the latest Nunwood research into the experience and service offered by UK businesses. The study, which is based on ratings by 7,500 customers on over 250 brands, aims to record customer satisfaction and its influence on future behaviour, such as loyalty and advocacy.
Businesses that have suffered reputational issues over the course of the year, such as Amazon and Starbucks (who faced questions over their tax arrangements) and Co-operative Bank, which had to be refinanced after finding a £1.5bn hole in its balance sheet, all dropped in the rankings compared to 2012. Indeed Amazon fell to fourth place, following three years as number one, and neither Starbucks and Co-operative Bank made the top 100.
The study rated John Lewis as Britain’s top brand, with QVC, First Direct, Amazon and Virgin Atlantic completing the top five. The overall mean score across all brands stayed constant, showing that while many organisations have improved, others have slipped back.
So how can brands look at improving their customer experience? Nunwood believe it revolves around six, interconnected pillars:
Top brands use individualised attention to drive an emotional connection with customers. This doesn’t have to involve face to face or telephone service. Amazon receives the highest ranking for personalisation as it uses knowledge of its customers to create an automated, but individual, relationship that is based on making the consumer feel valued and special.
Most consumers understand that things can go wrong – it is how a brand deals with a problem that defines their relationship. Turning a poor experience into a great one actually creates loyalty and a willingness to recommend. John Lewis has put in place a policy called ‘Heroic Recovery’, which rewards staff that come up with new and innovative ways to help solve customer problems.
Being trustworthy is something that has a direct impact on willingness to buy. It has to be present throughout the organisation and part of culture if customers are to see a brand as one with integrity. And it covers small and large matters – if you are told you’ll be put on hold for a minute and in fact it is ten, this erodes trust in a brand.
4. Valuing customers time and effort
Consumers are increasingly time poor and therefore demand a seamless, fast process when dealing with a brand. Removing unnecessary obstacles that take up customer time or force them to change channels are all part of this. For example, First Direct customers ringing the bank overwhelmingly get through to an agent straight away, without needing to wait or queue.
5. Managing, meeting and exceeding customer expectations
It is vital that brands set clear expectations – and then achieve (or over achieve) on them. A brand can give good service and still not meet customer expectations if they were expecting more. So make sure you are not claiming more than you can provide if you want to delight and retain customers.
People buy from like-minded people, rather than organisations. So brands need to demonstrate that they understand the customer’s circumstances if they are to drive deep rapport. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes and treat them as you’d expect to be treated in the circumstances. Creating this genuine empathy is at the heart of turning customers into advocates.
You can download the full Nunwood report here – there’s plenty of useful advice for all brands as they look to continually improve the customer experience.