There’s no short and simple answer to how businesses should lead through the changes we’ve experienced over the past few months, or what their customer experiences should now look like. It’s a topic that demands a more in-depth discussion, and there may be no better person to lead it than Matt Dixon. 

As the author of books such as The Effortless Experience and The Challenger Sale, Matt was a natural partner when Salesforce recently began hosting a series of online discussions with Canadian businesses about what’s next. 

Rather than simply look ahead at potential trends, though, Matt focused on the idea of “future-proofing” the customer experience (CX) a brand delivers. In other words, ensuring companies can adapt and evolve to whatever happens as COVID-19 is contained and cured. 

‘Adaptive and Hopeful’

According to Matt, while the initial response to the pandemic may have put considerable pressure and strain on businesses, the tone is slowly shifting to one of optimism — even if everyone recognizes the world is going to look a lot different from now on. 

“I would describe it as adaptive and hopeful,” Matt says. “I think people see that in many respects, the crisis has actually forced everyone to wrestle with things that were already bubbling below the surface.”

For example, while businesses have been recognizing the need to offer an omnichannel experience for years, the closure of many businesses has had firms looking more seriously about the ways digital technologies can help.

“Chat is a big one. Customers like it because for certain issues, they don’t want to wait on hold to talk to a rep,” he says, adding that those working within contact centres benefit as well. “It’s asynchronous —they can have concurrent chats, and a lot of things can be automated. We’re already starting to see how a sizeable percentage of inbound (requests) are being handled entirely by virtual assistants, an FAQ area or knowledge articles for a customer.”

The Customer Service Department Of The Future

Making the best use of customer service team members’ time is more critical than ever, Matt notes, given how questions and complaints have skyrocketed while consumers have been sheltering-in-place at home. At the same time, agents have not only had to adapt to working from home, but in some cases are juggling their duties while home-schooling their children.

“I don’t think we’re going to get to a world where we’ll ever see crowded call centres again, with agents sitting shoulder to shoulder,” he says, pointing out that facilities once intended for 100 employees may now only be able to accommodate 30 or 40 at a time. “Instead, there will probably be lots of shifts with agents coming in and out, sitting far apart, and the rest working from home.”

This where tools like Service Cloud can help “triage” issues and ensure the most urgent ones are assigned to the right agent, Matt says. Even as businesses reopen, companies are talking about making deeper investments in artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that can make them as responsive and as efficient as possible. 

To truly future-proof their CX, though, Matt recommends that a dedicated CX leader have a strong voice at the senior leadership table, breaking down walls within an organization to identify where customers might encounter friction. That’s because the quality of the experience has to be as consistent as it is pervasive.

“The customer may buy their Internet service from a sales rep but a field technician installs it, and then when the customer has an issue, they call the customer service team,” he says, using an ISP as an example. “Those are all discrete departments, but the customer thinks of it as one experience.”

Measuring CX, And Making It Even Better

This speaks to the metrics companies use to gauge CX success. Matt says businesses are not necessarily abandoning traditional measures such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS), but they are bringing what he calls a "lens of effort reduction” to put more context around them. After all, what happens if people don’t feel like answering questions like “How did we do today?” at the end of an engagement?

“COVID is going to end the post-call survey,” Matt says. “People are stressed and focused on other things. I think the customer's patience and tolerance for having their feedback go into a black box — where the company doesn’t respond or do anything — is not going to cut it anymore.” 

Instead, he says companies that spend time to truly understand the experience they’re delivering will discover many of their questions have already been answered. 

“Think about how we can leverage all the ‘found data’ around the company,” he says. “Think of all that chat data, all those recorded phone calls, all that data in Service Cloud.”

Finally, Matt says future-proofing CX comes back to being mindful about people — not just customers, but the people within a company. 

“We as organizations are having to rethink who we’re hiring to engage with our customers,” he says. “How do we support and develop them, and what is the environment going to be like? What are the tools that we put in those front-line worker’s hands? It seems like an almost upside-down change in the service and support world, but I think in the end, it could look a lot better than it ever did before.”

For more from Matt Dixon, including how to create an effortless experience for your customers with your sales and service teams, visit here.

Matt Dixon

Matt Dixon is Chief Product & Research Officer of the Austin-based AI and machine learning venture, Tethr.  In this capacity, he has responsibility for product strategy, product management and product marketing.  A seasoned business researcher, Matt has been involved in dozens of original quantitative and qualitative research studies on topics ranging from customer experience strategy to customer service and sales effectiveness.  His first book, The Challenger Sale: Taking Control of the Customer Conversation (Penguin, November 2011), was a #1 Amazon and Wall Street Journal bestseller and has sold nearly a million copies worldwide and has been translated into a dozen languages.  The Challenger Sale has won acclaim as “the most important advance in selling for many years” (SPIN Selling author Neil Rackham) and “the beginning of a wave that will take over a lot of selling organizations in the next decade.” (Business Insider).  His two most recent books are The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty (Penguin, September 2013) and The Challenger Customer: Selling to the Hidden Influencer Who Can Multiply Your Results (Penguin, September 2015). Matt is also a frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review on sales, service and customer experience, having been published more than twenty times in both HBR’s print and online editions.