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Ginger Conlon | May 2, 2012

Are You Ready for the Real-Time Customer?

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Customers are more empowered and more connected than ever, NICE President and CEO Zeevi Bregman reminded attendees during his keynote at the company's Interactions 2012 customer conference. Customers are online shopping and playing more, sharing more, using more media, he added. With the proliferation of mobile, customers can now interact 24/7 from anywhere via multiple connection points: mobile websites, social networks, the contact center, etc. In fact, a NICE survey of about 2,000 consumers found that respondents use six different channels on average to interact with a company it does business with.

According to Bregman, most organizations aren't ready for this; they can't connect the dots between these touchpoints. What's more, the NICE survey also found that calls to the contact center are increasingly becoming the second choice for support among those six channels.

At the same time, customers are leaving a digital footprint of structured and unstructured data as they interact with companies and with each other. The size and complexity of this data are increasing. But analyzing it effectively is most promising opportunity companies have today to improve service, better understand the voice of the customer, enhance the customer experience, and grow revenue, Bregman pointed out. This requires gaining a complete view of customers from multiple touchpoints and using that integrated data to enable real-time decisioning.

According to Udi Ziv, president, NICE Enterprise Group, that ability to react in real time has become imperative. "Customers have changed," Ziv said during his Interactions 2012 keynote. "They're more knowledgeable and demanding; they know what they want." And one thing they want is fast service--what Ziv called Now service--in other words, service in real time; not making customers wait for a response or resolution.

In a perfect world, Ziv said, companies would stop time during customer interactions to analyze everything relevant about customers and agents, about policies and promotions, and then take the best action to create a win-win for the company and customer. But, of course, it's not possible to stop time, so all of this complexity is compressed into what Ziv called the decisive moment in customer service--a moment that can make the difference between an optimal customer experience and an average one. Companies need to handle these decisive moments consistently, all the time, every time, with every customer interaction.

"Is this approach a necessity?" Ziv asked. "Yes. Today's sophisticated customers demand it. The market has changed. You have to change, too."

Capturing the potential of every decisive moment is no easy feat, however. Companies need to analyze Big Data, use it to prepare for and shape customers interactions, and then to improve those interactions over time, Ziv said.

Preparation includes optimizing the workforce--having the right employees with the right skills and knowledge available for customers at the right time--and harnessing customer intelligence. Shaping interactions starts by understanding context and sentiment and using multidimensional analysis to provide next-best-action suggestions. It then includes providing information and guidance to agents in real time during customer interactions. Finally, conduct post-interaction and holistic voice of the customer analyses to learn root causes, and then take corrective actions to help improve such areas as service processes and agent skills, as well as customer retention.

Closing the loop with this prepare-shape-improve approach not only helps enhance the customer service experience over time, Ziv said, it also "enables you to seize the decisive moment" with every customer, every time.

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