Editor’s note: This is a chapter from the ebook, Unlock the Value of CX. You can download the entire book here.
As a customer-centric business, decisions should always be made based on customer benefit. This requires a precise understanding of how customers experience the business at the various interaction touchpoints and of where opportunities for improvement exist.
Why is a special software needed for this? Touchpoint (TP) evaluations from the customer’s perspective should be focused on a particular experience. This is also referred to as transactional or event-oriented feedback, the exclusive goal being to obtain feedback on an interaction that just occurred. Because the experience is still fresh, the evaluation is not only reliable but also more detailed than an evaluation given based on memories of some time ago. This enables the company to react in a timely manner to a negative experience so as to rescue a positive outcome from the occurrence.
Software for TP evaluation and management is deployed as:
• A tool for employees with customer contact for improving individual customer relationships and identifying new business opportunities
• A planning instrument for realizing continuous improvement on a process level
• A management tool for monitoring key figures
• A benchmarking instrument for internal performance evaluation
Modern software products for TP evaluation and management are offered as software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions. Self-service functionality and a high degree of automation enable employees to address feedback themselves and work on action steps in response. This can be valuable, making highly customer-centric businesses much better able to significantly increase sales and loyalty.
Components of CX Software
Contact point management software should be able to support the complete process from data collection to action-taking on the results. There are thus three primary components to the software:
1. A survey application
2. Reporting and analytics functions
3. Tools for action planning and execution.
A TP survey is a direct interaction between a company and its customers. The survey software should thus be able to fully implement the company’s corporate design rules. A clear and compelling design has a positive impact on relevance and participation willingness. It is not sufficient for online surveys to be mobile-compatible, they have to be principally designed for mobile devices. This is especially important with contact point-related customer surveys that are designed to be short specifically for response via mobile device. The software thus has to meet the technical requirements for graphics and text elements to appear correctly and completely and be easily readable on any type of device.
The prerequisite for triggering a survey is transmission of the contact information to the TP software. Various data transfer paths are available ranging from the file upload and download via SFTP page to a direct, permanent connection via a real-time interface (web service/API). The internal system that provides the survey-relevant data is frequently a CRM solution which records the contact point experience in addition to customer data and triggers the survey process.
The following data should be transmitted to the TP software in a predefined format (like .CSV):
• Customer’s contact data (name, e-mail address)
• Specification of contact point visited so the specific questionnaire for that point is utilized
• Other customer-related data of interest for individualizing the survey and subsequent reporting in the TP software
The TP software automatically sends out an e-mail invitation to complete the online survey. Completed interviews are stored directly in the database associated with the software; this data is immediately available in the reporting portal in real time. In addition to online surveys a TP management platform should support processing of feedback via all data collection methods. These include in particular telephone feedback, SMS surveys and handwritten feedback.
Reporting and Analytics Functions
Convenient access to information, well-organized presentation of results and custom reports for different stakeholders are essential for getting users to engage with customer experience content. A rights and roles concept ensures that users only see the information specifically relevant to them.
In contrast to a one-time survey, feedback data are gathered on an ongoing basis via continuous contact point measurement. Accordingly, a software platform for this purpose must be able to show constantly changing results in real time.
Dashboard Provides Comprehensive Overview
A dashboard showing the most important information on central contact points in the customer journey indicates where the company currently stands at a glance. In addition to KPIs such as Net Promoter Score® and overall satisfaction, diagnostic elements track what’s behind an evaluation.
To gain an overall understanding of the customer experience at a given contact point, all feedback sources should be factored into the analysis. Thus the reporting portal of a TP platform must be able to show data from different sources, including social media and operational metrics, simultaneously and in an integrated fashion.
Automated Text Analysis
Unstructured comments are important for understanding what customers want and why they have given a particular evaluation. These include particularly feedback comments on evaluation pages on sites and in social media. Unstructured comments have to be evaluated in an aggregated form to identify systematic deficiencies. This requires software which utilizes linguistic techniques for sophisticated text analysis in the local language. Natural language processing (NLP) and statistical methods enable the program to “understand” what is in the text. The accuracy of text analysis programs can be as high as 80 percent or more, thus being at least as accurate as human coders. In addition to the categorization, the text analysis software can usually register the sentiment behind a statement. This involves assessing whether the feedback is positive, neutral or negative.
Tools for Action Planning and Execution
Regarding actions taken as part of TP management, fundamental distinction is made between the individual level and the aggregate level.
Close-the-loop: Responding on the Individual Customer Level
As legally permissible, the company can respond directly to feedback by contacting the customer. Also concerns and questions are relevant here that have nothing to do with the actual contact point experience. A timely reaction demonstrates a special appreciation for the customer TP software is utilized to identify which customers contact with priority for follow-up. An alert and consequential activity may be triggered on the basis of such factors as the customer response to a key metric like NPS willingness to recommend being in the detractive range. Ideally, multiple triggers are defined per questionnaire, including identified key points in unstructured comments.
The TP management software automatically ensures that corresponding notification goes to the responsible administrator without time lag when a case for processing is generated. It is essential for the employee to have all relevant information and clearly understand the customer’s concern. Cases are generally handled either within the CRM system or directly via the TP management software if a case management module is integrated. Case management actively assists employees with customer contact in optimizing individual customer relationships to directly impact growth and loyalty. For management it is a valuable source of information enabling comparison of the customer orientation of individual units to identify a potential need for training and development.
Action Plan for Fundamental Improvements
Action planning on the aggregate level is about identifying improvement potential at a given contact point and ways to increase customer satisfaction. Dashboards should thus enable the identification of relative weaknesses. Ideally, actions can be initiated and tracked directly in the software. The software ensures that the objective behind the action is clearly defined, the causes known, responsibilities and time constraints determined and all hindering factors are fully transparent, whether internal or external or of a regulatory or legal nature. The TP management software reveals what results proceed from specific activities and how successful the company is in improving its customer focus. This allows quantifying ROI on the money invested in software-based TP management.
Technical Success Factors
The precise technical requirements for TP management software depend on the industry in question and the nature of the company’s customer relationships. The following elements are generally required however. The software must offer flexible methods for integration and automated connection to existing systems. File-based formats (flat file formats like .TXT, .CSV, .SPSS, .JSON, etc.) and connections via web services are generally provided. Frequently, an SFTP folder (Secure File Transfer Protocol, encrypted communication via SSL [TLS]) is utilized for file sharing, enabling easy automation of import and export processes. Integration must be via real-time interfaces to enable maximum data processing speed. The following technical features are required for high-performing TP management software:
• Software-as-a-Service with regular updates ensuring the investment remains relevant and useful going forward
• Targeted support for preferred communication channels
• Flexible data import and integration interfaces
• Easy adjustment of data visualizations (dashboards)
• Automated text analysis of unstructured feedback
• Real-time reporting and
• Integrated tools for action-taking
Customer-centric enterprises optimize the customer experience throughout the entire customer journey. The use of TP management software is essential for continuous recording and processing of feedback at the respective contact points. The software handles all data streams from the different feedback channels in automated fashion, analyzes the results and provides tools for effective action taking. The relationship with the individual customer is the foreground consideration in addition to systematic improvement at every touchpoint. The overall objectives are to enhance customer retention, profitability and sustained growth. TP management software can thus make a directly measurable contribution to the business success of an enterprise.