June 23rd, 2021

Mind The Gap: Exploring the Technology Breakdown in the Omnichannel Customer Experience

This article first appeared in Forbes Technology Council on May 19, 2021.

While businesses are primarily focused on technology upgrades that improve the customer experience as a way to differentiate their services, an enhanced customer experience can also bring in new customers, lead to higher upsell potential, decrease the cost to serve customers and increase revenue.

According to a recent Forrester study, "The ROI of CX Transformation," improving a company’s average CX Index Score by just one point can lead to anywhere from $0.50 to $120 in incremental revenue per customer, depending on the industry. For big players, like banks, for example, this can lead to $110 million in increased annual revenue. 

When considering the state of the consumer experience, it’s clear that the digital user experience is impressive and constantly improving. This can be easily illustrated by the sheer number of app updates pushed to our mobile devices on a regular basis. Businesses make continual adjustments to offer more positive, engaging and streamlined digital interactions. However, there’s a component of the customer experience that has been largely neglected — the phone call.

Regrettably, over the past several decades, very little has been done to improve the phone call experience. This lack of innovation in the traditional call experience has now been exacerbated by an onslaught of robocalls, making consumers increasingly apprehensive about answering their phones. The result is a noticeable gap in omnichannel customer engagement that is ripe with opportunity for establishing meaningful customer connections.

Customer Experience Can Be Data Driven – Here’s How

Improved customer experience elevates consumer communications.
Phone calls are critical to improving the customer experience. Over 60% of enterprises surveyed in a Forrester study commissioned by my company said outbound calling is critical for meeting customer service goals. Phone calls are also an important way to convey brand value to the consumer as they establish trust and build brand loyalty. Ultimately, many customers just want to be reassured that a brand is really who it says it is, that their issues — especially the complex and sensitive ones — will be taken care of and that their experience in interacting with the brand will be efficient. The voice channel is an extremely effective way to build this level of trust.

Unfortunately, customer trust in the phone channel has been severely damaged by incessant robocalls, fraud and scams. Just last year alone, Americans fell victim to fraudulent phone calls 270% more than in 2019, according to First Orion, exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Consumers welcome phone calls from companies they know and trust — whether to confirm a service appointment or to discuss a health issue with their doctor — but not knowing for certain who is on the other end of a call decreases the likelihood that the consumer will answer. In fact, according to TNS, only 11% of calls are answered (89% unanswered). This cycle of mistrust stifles the opportunity for business-to-consumer connections, leaving little chance for brands to showcase their value and build a more positive customer call experience. Companies today cannot afford to be reckless with their reputation.

In Hiya's State of the Call in 2021 report, Hiya notes that the top five areas most impacted by dialers not being able to reach consumers by phone are sales, productivity, customer satisfaction, efficiency and cash flow. One critical initiative that emerged in 2020 and continues to struggle with significant productivity and efficiency challenges is COVID-19 contact tracing and vaccine outreach. When people don’t know if they can trust a call, they won’t answer, even if that call is from their state health department. A Pew Research Center report from July 2020, which surveyed Americans’ views on Covid-19 contact tracing, connected the growing distrust in the phone channel to its impact on contact tracing through the pandemic, citing that those who ignore phone calls and voicemails from unknown numbers are also less likely to engage with contact tracers.

To counteract robocalls and call spoofing and instill trust in the phone call, businesses must give clarity as to who’s calling. Customers have grown accustomed to personalized experiences through digital interactions with brands, and phone calls should be no different. When reaching out to consumers, brands must begin to harness the potential of digital smartphone displays by showing their company’s logo, their reason for calling and verification that the call has been authenticated. This instills trust in the brand and increases answer rates while simultaneously protecting the brand’s reputation by preventing the brand from being impersonated by fraudsters.

By implementing these tactics, businesses can increase their customer answer rates by up to 56%. In a forthcoming Forrester study my company commissioned, our branded call solutions were shown to not only improve answer rates but also decrease spam complaints by 90% to 100% and enable companies to increase incremental income by 28% to 32%.

A simple solution like branded calling can begin to reestablish trust, provide customers with a positive brand phone channel experience and improve overall customer experience. On top of this, there are many other solutions available that can let you begin to establish stronger trust with your customers. Be sure to vet multiple tools to see which are the best fit for your unique business.

Business and consumer alignment improve customer experience.
A positive customer experience requires informed communications, trusted security assurances and seamless consumer connectivity capabilities, regardless of the channel. If one area of the business or communication channel is struggling to meet this standard for consumers, the customer experience journey is broken.

To restore effective brand communications and fruitful customer engagement to the phone channel, businesses must implement tools that can close the gap in the omnichannel consumer call experience and deliver trust and brand value through the phone call. This reconciliation will drive increased customer engagement and allow for more brand affinity, a better customer experience and greater revenue.

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