By Craig Rich, chief marketing officer at WDS, A Xerox Company.

Times are changing and customer care needs to meet the challenges of a new reality: An omnichannel world, competitive pressure, service commoditization and increased customer expectations.

But change is never risk-free. It could affect customer satisfaction and even alter customer behavior. It’s expensive, unproven and could negatively impact your existing operation.

So in a live environment, improving customer experience long-term may mean taking a hit short-term.

But innovation is a must. Enter the Innovation Lab.

The Three A’s of Customer Care

The market’s changed: Tough economic times, an omnichannel world, rising customer expectations, and increased competitive pressure.

Customer Care needs to change too. The three A’s – Analytics, Artificial Intelligence and Automation – that can help it do just that.

Read the eBook and find out how.

The Customer Care Innovation Lab

The Customer Care Innovation Lab is a safe environment where organizations can develop, deploy, test and refine new processes, technology and services without impacting its wider operation.

Typically the lab is made up of a team of expert analysts and experienced customer service representatives, deployed within the call center in a ‘sandbox’ environment. They respond to actual customer issues, but using new workflows, technologies and analytics.

Importantly, the lab agents are free from the metrics and constraints of the general agent population. For instance, you may need them to take twice as long on calls so you can collect more data.

The Innovation Lab a real-life contact center, but without the risk or the rules.

The benefits

A customer care innovation lab will help you:

Experiment with new strategies, tactics and technologies.

Build a solid business case by demonstrating feasibility and potential ROI to senior management.

Minimize disruption of everyday operations by testing in a controlled environment.

Eliminate risk by refining and improving processes prior to rollout.

Develop a standard approach, with objectives, benchmarks and KPIs, to make future innovation faster and more seamless.

Each of these would be difficult or impossible to accomplish in your standard customer care environment.

Xerox runs its own Customer Care Innovation Lab. For more information contact us.

Faster, better, cheaper

A customer care innovation lab doesn’t just allow you to try out entirely new processes and technologies. It also allows you refine your existing ones, see where the bottlenecks and pain points are, and eliminate them.

It can mean big benefits across your entire organization.

Improve your bottom line

Increase and refine customer retention. You can identify customers at risk of defection and test different approaches to keep them – but not at any price. If a 20 percent discount is enough, why offer more when you don’t need to? You can test different incentives and see what happens. You can also investigate the balance between improved customer service and decreased price to optimize your offer.

Move to a sales model, which is the Holy Grail for many contact centers. But it’s a big move, and has to be handled with care. Can agents sell? Should they? How aggressively? In the lab, you can test different approaches and gauge reaction. Detailed analytics mean lots of customer insight, so you can see just how personalized an offer needs to be to maximize uptake.

Monitor and measure

Define new metrics. Your current metrics may be holding you back, so what new ones could set you free? Measure everything, even what appears not to be important. You can also take a good look at current metrics to see where they fall down. For example, are agents playing the system (intentionally or not) to hit the numbers? You can determine where metrics are dictating behavior rather than measuring it

Slow down to speed up. Imagine interacting with a customer without time limits, targets or traffic lights. You could take it slowly to see where it goes, analyze the process right down to the last detail and see what’s really happening. Then you could automate and refine the process, speed it up and deploy it

Carry out A/B testing on marketing campaigns and other initiatives. Improve and re-test as much as necessary before launching in your wider operation

Harness the power of new technology

Dig deeper into analytics. You may experiment with real-time analytics that monitor customer mood and sentiment, let agents react and adapt in a live environment.

Find the right human/high-tech balance. It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that automation can handle everything. Use the lab to see what can – and more importantly, cannot – be automated. You can then deploy technology where it’s most effective, and do the same with your people.

Put the “intelligence” into AI. Every interaction with a customer can be minutely analyzed to improve automation. Machine learning depends on human input, and the lab is the ideal place to refine and improve that process.

A customer care lab will also allow you to carry out a health check on current performance. Innovation can mean taking a new look at the old: reviewing and assessing current systems and workflows. Not all that’s new is good, and not all that’s old is bad. Keep what works, improve what could work better, and change what will never work.

Prepare to be surprised, and beware of confirmation bias: Don’t look for what you already know, but seek out what you don’t. “We’ve always done it this way” is one phrase you should never hear in a customer care innovation lab.

Customer Care Innovation for the 21st Century

Customer care is changing from a voice-centric industry with a single point of resolution and a focus on cost, to an omnichannel world that’s focused on customer experience.

And customer experience is already overtaking price and product to be the key differentiator in this new world. So innovation isn’t a luxury – it’s a necessity.

But it needn’t be risky or damage your current business. And it could give you the competitive edge you’re looking for in a tight market with shrinking budgets and growing demands.

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