An Honest Look at Hitting the Mark With Today’s Inside-Out Communications

“Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships,” wrote basketball star Michael Jordan in his 1994 book, I Can’t Accept Not Trying: Michael Jordan on the Pursuit of Excellence.

The same sentiment can be applied to customer relationships. Businesses, like sports teams, rely on effective internal communications and collaboration to win. Yet, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more challenging for organizational teams to work together.

Two major trends of the last year have impacted the employee experience and, by extension, the customer experience. As many employees started working from home, consumers greatly increased their online shopping. It put businesses in a challenging position: just as newly remote employees were adjusting to new communication and collaboration methods, the expectations from customers multiplied and intensified.

We know both the employee experience and the customer experience are inextricably intertwined. The raised stakes of the pandemic taught us that the state of internal collaboration also directly affects customers. Let’s explore this in more detail from the customer, employee and team standpoints.

The Customer Perspective

While customer usage of online tools was growing before the pandemic, the events of the past year accelerated that behavior. In a survey of over 4,000 consumers in the US, UK, France and Germany, over 40 percent said their use of online customer service increased in 2020. These respondents also predict they’ll use digital customer service options like chatbots, virtual agents and self-service going forward. This signals an important shift in consumer behavior away from mostly phone and email.

The good news is that 60% of the survey respondents saw improvements in customer experience since the pandemic. Over half (55%) said they experienced friendly, helpful, knowledgeable customer representatives; responsiveness and fast service (45%); and communication that informs every step of the way (35%).

Further, thanks to the stress and isolation of the pandemic, customers have reprioritized what’s important to them in their interaction with businesses. Today, they place a higher value on trust, connection, understanding and empathy, signaling a change in expectations for the type of experience they want to receive.

The Employee Perspective

Interestingly, employees need many of the same things. The pandemic forced a seismic shift in how and where many white-collar employees get their job done. What’s become clear is that remote work comes with a unique set of challenges.

“Separation between family and work has become this balancing act,” says Patty McCord, a consultant and the former Chief Talent Officer for Netflix, in her TED Talk, 4 Lessons the Pandemic Taught Us About Work Life and Balance. “We used to say, “Well, this is my work home, and this is my family home, and those are two completely different things.” For many of us, it’s exactly the same thing.” McCord notes this new dynamic has created “a whole different level of complexity and coordination”.

To better support employees, organizations need business processes and technology that make communications and collaboration easier. Separating work life from home life is undeniably harder in a remote environment, but clear guidance on how to handle common problems, like interruptions by family members, can set the right tone in customer interactions.

Business guidelines can help solve momentary distractions, such as when a customer service call is interrupted by a child asking for a snack. In a customer-centric organization, the representative is empowered to make their own decision about how much to reveal to the customer. But now that customers view empathy and understanding as a necessary part of the customer experience, an agent’s choice to be transparent could be a game-changer in the relationship. Empowered, they can turn a potential problem into a unique opportunity to connect on a human level.

However, some situations can’t be smoothed over easily with a simple nod to the challenges of work from home. What happens to customer experience when the agent suddenly has to leave her home office to answer the demands of a sick family member? That’s when the right technology plays a role―such as call center software that automatically rolls over calls to other members of the team who can take over and ensure the customer gets the experience they expect. Collaboration in this case is both frictionless and invisible to the customer.

Supercharge With Technology

To achieve a higher level of customer satisfaction, organizations first need to focus their entire culture on the customer experience. That means even staff working in the middle or back-end of the company need to be tuned into the customer. Organizations that excel at customer experience are able to identify every interaction point their customers have with the business. Information such as customer feedback, analytics, purchase behavior flow from the front line to internal functions like marketing, distribution and production.

Technology that supports inter-team and company-wide communications and collaboration makes this possible. For instance, consider the customer service representative helping a customer troubleshoot a problem. Unified communications software streamlines collaboration by making subject matter experts easily accessible. No matter what channel the agent is using to connect with the customer, they can hold a side conversation with their colleague in product marketing at the same time without ever leaving the call center software. This seamless interaction allows the agent to resolve the problem faster and exceed the client’s expectations.

Another way to support agents is to balance workloads and allow for shift flexibility. This has become particularly important during the pandemic. Employees are often trying to balance work and home responsibilities. Using cloud-based reporting tools and analytics, companies can identify peak times and schedule staff accordingly.

The Team Perspective

The fluidity of today’s work-life balance means internal communications has never been more vital. If companies want to deliver a customer experience that rises above expectations, they need tools and technology that foster teamwork and collaboration and streamline communications.

When the Liverpool Football Club needed this kind of responsiveness, they turned to Mitel. For the team, collaboration among employees was essential for delivering exceptional experiences for hundreds of millions of fans around the world.

“In the speed of what football is today, all of the things that need to be seamless and frictionless need to come together and communication 24/7 becomes key,” said Peter Moore, Liverpool FC’s former chief executive officer. “Tools that allow collaboration, instant communication, understanding of what your colleagues are doing at any given time are critical.”

For example, when a fan calls or emails the club, staff has fan data at their fingertips so they can almost preempt what the issue is, said Moore. These advanced contact center capabilities provide omnichannel support and personalized experience to engage fans better.

Further, Mitel’s mobile communications and remote working capabilities allow club staff to connect faster with each other to resolve problems and ensure a better fan experience. That’s important for agents; it enables them to do their jobs with greater confidence. The organization benefits as well, because employees are more satisfied and experience less stress.

“With Mitel’s expertise, we will have the ability to introduce new channels and intelligent fan self-service capabilities. Ultimately, the partnership with Mitel will enable us to simplify fan journeys and create seamless interactions which will result in a better fan experience,” said Billy Hogan, who recently took over as Liverpool FC’s managing director and CEO.

Internal communications foster teamwork and have the potential to elevate your business performance. However, it only becomes a game-changer when the right business processes and technology are in place. With unified communications, your business will look―and operate―more like a championship team.

This blog post was first published by Mitel.

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