February 13, 2020 | By

Customer Contact Week: Just How Do You Drive Seamless Digital Engagement Anyway?

I’ve just returned from Nashville where LogMeIn was a sponsor at Customer Contact Week – a multi-day event focused on customer-centric best practices and transformative ideas in service.  Luckily for me, the event occurred with Music City as a bustling backdrop for education, networking, and yes, a little bit of fun.

Challenges to be met – walls to be climbed

I was honored to be joined by Michael Eastman, a 26 year veteran of customer service management, in a back-to-back Think Tank sessions, titled “How to Drive Seamless Digital Engagement.” When Mike and I had our first teleconference on how we thought about structuring the discussion, we posed the question to ourselves: “Just how the heck do you drive seamless digital engagement anyway?” The answer, as it turns out is that it’s really hard.  In Mike’s words, it’s by “overcoming a lot of obstacles.” This idea of challenges to be met – walls to be climbed – became the foundation for our session.

We came up with 5 such obstacles and during our 45-minute interactive conversation we explored them all. To spark the discussion, we intermixed a real-time series of poll questions.  The results of those always did what we wanted – got the conversation going – even if the results were quite frequently not what we expected.

It’s amazing what can happen when you seek the perspectives of an engaged, diverse, and experienced group of professionals. Pre-conceived notions get obliterated. Predictions of priority get turned upside down. Here are just some of the insights we gleaned.

5 challenges to overcome in order to deliver a seamless digital experience:

  1. Getting budget approval necessary to fund the project/s
  2. Vendor overload. The sheer number of solution providers who claim to be able to help is staggering.
  3. Internal resistance/friction to digital initiatives.
  4. Training or retraining of agents.
  5. Measuring/demonstrating success.

The first question we posed was simply, “Did we get it right?” 50% of the audience thought we did while the other half thought we missed something big.  And everybody pretty much agreed that the big thing we missed was creating transparency across channels.  That is a big one. And we missed it.

Budget approval

We next turned our attention to winning over upper management and securing budget.  The consensus was that the best, strongest case to do this effectively was a well thought out and presented ROI model.  Mike told a compelling story about how his successful budget meeting with the CFO only lasted fifteen minutes.  But he confessed that he spent six months building consensus and preparing for it across the organization.  Many people in our session thought that any good ROI model needed to include “Agent Efficiencies”, followed closely by “Showing Phone Volume Shifting to Digital”.  Mike had some excellent insights into the fact that “Agent Efficiencies” is often a trap because it can be amorphic and hard to measure.

Vendor selection

Once budget is approved, the task of sorting through a sea of vendors can begin.  We queried the group as to the most important factor impacting their short-list of vendors to consider.  Quite surprisingly, nobody in either session chose, “the recommendation of my peers.” Topping the list was “independent evaluation of capabilities,” and “vendor’s ability to provide references.”

Resistance to change

We then moved the discussion to internal resistance and how to overcome it. Everyone in our session faced some kind of internal friction when it came to digital initiatives. But not everyone agreed on how to conquer it. It was almost evenly split between “involving people from all over the organization,” and “executive level support.”

Empowering agents

Making digital agents successful was the next topic we tackled.  Again, the most impactful factors for achieving this was basically split between, “minimizing the number of systems,” and “empowering the agents to make decisions.” Mike counseled that in his experience empowerment is the most effective, but as he put it, “…with guardrails.”

Defining success

We wrapped our discussion with a provocative question about success vs. failure.  Certainly, demonstrating success as early is possible is desirable, but learning that you may be going down the wrong path is also critical to long term success.  We asked the room if it was more important to succeed early or to fail early.  Many people refrained from voting – our guess being that it’s just too hard to decide.

This is the topic that kept me thinking since walking out of the session and during my journey back home.  It is a tough one.  But if we modify the choices, maybe it’s easier.  So, which is more important: Succeeding by a certain date? Or failing by a certain date?

When crafted this way I think most people would choose the first – succeeding by a deadline.  This is because failure can now be implicit as part of that process.  Fail – adjust – fail – adjust – fail – adjust – succeed.

Perhaps the simplest way to say this is that when it comes to a digital engagement initiative, fail as many times as you need to. What’s imperative is that you succeed early enough.

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