The sole purpose of any business is to serve its customers. However, in most circumstances, customers are reduced to a mere ‘target’ which needs to be ‘hit.’ It is no surprise that a CMO Council research reported, ‘only 14 percent of marketers say that customer centricity is a hallmark of their companies, and only 11 percent believe their customers would agree with that characterization.’

In markets where customers have the power to choose, businesses can no longer sustain remaining product-focused or sales-driven. With entry barriers vanishing and time-to-market shrinking, there is a market scramble to stand-out; solely hinging on superior quality in offerings is no longer a differentiator.

The economics of competition now demands that businesses need to differentiate the way it treats its customer – in other words, being customer-centric.

“If Profit is not the purpose of business; it is the test of its validity”

– Peter Drucker

Six ways of showing a little love to your customers, in your contact centers

What’s with Valentines’ day and customer centricity? Valentine’s day is nothing, but another commercially created carnival that creates a temporary sense of obligation to show love. It is also an opportunity to start afresh and show some love to your customers, each time they interact with you. What better place to start than with your contact centers.

Contact centers are at the heart of customer experience; each time a customer interacts with your agents, or even a bot, it is the real moment of truth where great experiences are built or broken. But it’s a big question if contact centers have the right people, processes and platforms, to do what matters to your customers.

Here are six things you should be doing all year long, to foster a positive customer experience, at every stage of the customer journey

#1. Start with your agents, show them some love

Contact centers have the inglorious distinction of being the worst places to work. Agents operate for long hours, they are constantly under pressure and demonstrate low morale. Your customers aren’t the only ones who need some love; your agents need some too.

“If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the customers”

– Sir Richard Branson

Invest in the right contact center tools to improve agent productivity, and empower them to treat your customers well. Identify predictive and repetitive processes for automation and drive digital transformation. Implement Conversational AI software to improve customer self-service and reduce agent workload.

#2. Break down silos, build relationships, not just transactions

Who owns customer relationships? Marketing or Sales? No, the contact center. Business leaders now rely on contact centers to keep a finger on the pulse of customers; to broaden their horizon, from merely reacting to service grievances to proactively driving customer engagement. While contact centers have become the data nerve center of the organization, they are plagued by information overloads and disparate data silos.

“65% of 1000 consumers surveyed said they’ve cut ties with a brand over a single poor customer service experience”

– Parature State of Multichannel Customer Service Survey

Invest in analytics to transform your contact centers into an experience and relationship-based driver of business growth, rather than just being an enabler of customer service. Focus on how you could use data and analytics to make all the right moves, and build customer relationships.

#3. Anticipate customer needs, serve them before they feel the need

While there is no proof that Henry Ford ever said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses,” it revels the success of anticipating customer needs. Steve Jobs’ and Apple’s success behind the iPhone is another classic example of anticipating customer needs and serving them proactively.

“It’s not the customer’s job to know what they want”

– Steve Jobs

Build or invest in customer journey intelligence data stores; analyze past transactions, conversations, customer sentiments, and context to predict the next best actions. Offer customers solutions to problems that they are likely to face, proactively. Your customers will not just thank you for it; they will reward you with their loyalty.

#4. Offer hyper-personalization and one-on-one experiences

We operate in an era where the power to contact and power to demand has shifted to the customer. When customers interact with contact centers, they expect to be identified, and their context understood to get one-on-one experience; whether through an agent, a bot, or sensors, across all interaction channels.

This rise of the empowered customer has created the need to get it right, the first time, and each time. Invest in platforms that help in treating customers as individuals whose choices and preferences are recognized.

#5. Offer convenience and make your customers’ lives easier:

Customers today choose products over brands; successful brands have tapped on this need to build business empires. Uber, Zomato, and Food Panda are iconic examples of brands that have disrupted the market by offering customers a convenient way to meet their needs. Irrespective of the industry, convenience remains among the top differentiators in choosing a brand, product or service.

“96% of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have low-effort experience”

– Gartner

When faced with a problem, it’s human nature to seek the simplest solution. Similarly, each time a customer interacts with you, they don’t care about your processes or system limitations; they are just looking for a low-effort service experience to solve their problems quickly and easily. Invest in the right tool that measures customer effort, analyze bottlenecks and makes journeys, seamless.

#6. Become omni-channel, give the customer the freedom to switch channels

While interacting with a contact center, customers often switch channels and expect to take-off from where they left – before they switched. They don’t like to repeat themselves; even at the hint of inconvenience, they are quick to react.

“Omni-channel customer service is no longer nice to have. Its table stakes”

Invest in an omni-channel customer experience platform. Integrate data from multiple interaction channels such as voice, chat, email, mobile, web and social, offer continuity by stitching data from past interactions, and deliver a seamless and consistent journey while customers switch channels.

Warren Buffett, the famed investor, says ”It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” Time is now ripe for businesses to rethink how they treat their customers. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead, show some customer love.