The road to employee (and customer) burnout is paved with good intentions.

Here's the problem: Almost everyone who serves customers starts out with the best of intentions. But it doesn't take long to get worn down and burned out when you're forced to work with tools that simply aren't up to the task. 

Do any of these frustrations sound familiar?

• You're forced to spend your workday using half a dozen (or more!) different platforms to communicate externally with customers and internally with your co-workers.

• You don't have a quick, frictionless way to access even the most basic information on the customers you're trying to service-let alone more sophisticated information like the predicted value of that customer.

• You even lack a view of what's already been communicated to a customer, and risk embarrassment and losses:   

Agent: "Great news! I'm authorized to gift you a $10 discount code."

Customer: "Uh...did you know that your other rep, 'Marty,' just sent me an identical note but saying he's giving me a $15 discount-so I guess that means you're saying I can combine these two?"

In my experience, most every business will strive to solve these issues for itself the best it can, using whatever technological Band-Aids and systems ingenuity it can muster-because doing so is a matter of survival. But these patchwork solutions are never very pretty; companies end up using a staggering number of different platforms in order to enable customer communications (plus a few more to handle internal communications), and a monumental number of non-integrated applications to view essential details that allow you to track and serve those customers in the first place.

An Arizona-based business, Nextiva, encountered these same challenges. In the face of this, the company, and particularly its CEO, Tomas Gorny, whose "creative impatience" (my term) is well known, grew tired of the Band-Aid approach, and the way they responded may be instructive to those of you facing a similar situation. [Disclosure: I've done related professional work, including for Nextiva, which is how I came across this backstory to share.] In a nutshell, they proceeded to build, from the ground up, a solution they call NextOS, which was initially intended solely for Nextiva's use in serving its customers (the company has 150,000+ customers at present, ranging from sole proprietors to enterprise companies such as Netfix, Target, and IBM-and Nextiva's growth velocity lands it in the Deloitte Fast 500). 

As of earlier this year, NextOS is being offered externally as well to help companies of all sizes handle what CEO Gorny calls "today's crisis in business communications." In Gorny's estimation, if a company wants to thrive, it needs "a full picture of the customer," as well as "a fully integrated toolkit when it comes to ways to communicate with that customer." However, the tools that many companies use when they strive to accomplish this "create as many problems as they solve; they're not truly integrated, they're needlessly complicated, they often require extra IT staff. The resulting norm, according to our surveys and research, is that many companies use 10-15 tools for communication."

Here are some of the business challenges that a platform solution like NextOS can help to solve:

Need: To be able to talk to customers, on all desired channels, without going through dozens of hoops. 

Solution: The ability to stay on a single screen while conversing with customers via voice, email, chat, social-whatever is the customer's choice. Few things turn off customers today than to be told to change channels for the convenience of a brand. For an agent using a solution like NextOS, all channels can be equally convenient, with cross-channel visibility to keep everything organized and on track.

Need: To truly know your customers-to know what you're talking when you communicate with them.

Solution: A broad view of the customer's current situation and historical details, allowing you to resolve issues and communicate effectively. (No more redundant communications that waste the time of the customer and agent and can undermine your company's credibility.) 

Need: To know the future value of your customer as well, particularly when deciding how far to go in compensating for service mishaps. 

Solution: Analytics that can predict the customer's likely future state and value to the company.

Need: To know what's going on in your contact center, and across your company, in useful detail with immediate visibility.

Solution: The ability to view, analyze, and act in real time on what's happening at your desk and all around you.

Need:  More efficiency in the work processes that serve customers.

Solution:  Intelligently-automated workflows, informed by NLP and machine learning, for customer communications, including service resolution and marketing. For example, a damaged shipment valued at more than $200 for a customer with a high-predicted-value to the company could receive an email apology, then a telephone follow-up, then a replacement shipment and a personal gift. But a lower-value customer with a damaged shipment valued at less than $50 might only receive a discount coupon sent by email and a replacement shipment, but nothing more. Rather than having to make these judgment calls each time, what if your system could set this all up for you automatically?

*****

There are certainly other ways to slice and dice these challenges, and whatever solution(s) you come up with, it's essential you get working on this problem now-and move on beyond the Band-Aid approach. Because a business can only truly thrive in the long run once you start working for your business rather than banging your head against the wall because your business--your day-to-day business operation, as it pertains to customer service and support-doesn't really work.

Published on: Mar 7, 2018