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There are lots of companies out there furiously completing journey maps and trying to bridge the gap between customer expectations and customer experiences. We spoke with noted Customer Experience (CX) innovator, Martin Hill-Wilson and asked about the state of CX and what companies should focus on for 2019 and onward. According to Martin, CX is about emotion management, especially in the context of the call center. And, unfortunately, the typical top-down structure of most organizations doesn’t really support true CX.

Analog vs. Digital Mentality

When it comes to customer interaction, the world has flipped to a mobile-first position. Even with the inherent complexities of the smaller screen and everything that must happen for transactions to complete properly, it’s still easy to do business on a smartphone. It totally ups the standards for CX. Customers now engage via smartphone and are completely comfortable with that investment of time. New call-to-action The gap between success and failure is that many organizations are still stuck between analog and digital. Take the example of applying for a loan. The difficulty comes when you’re half online and then you have to revert to a paper situation to complete information with possibly more online activity to complete the full transaction. The solution to all that is that you need to bring the whole thing into a digital domain and enable customers to complete the process of identification, submit an application and then digitally sign it. It’s a matter of minutes instead of days to process the application. It’s still hard for brands to do this. You can still see fintech businesses attracting money simply because they have a workflow or customer journey nailed but having the ability to process loan application or settle claims in minutes as opposed to days is a huge advantage. Moving from an analog legacy background and having to compete against digital superstars is still a challenge for many businesses.

Enter the Robotics

Robotic process automation is already making headway into the CX world. It’s an area that might fill gaps for those who want to compete. Getting people to think through an omnichannel strategy is part of it. Although there are too many brands who buy an omnichannel solution and think they have the answer just because they have the technology and that’s not the case. We’ve arrived at a level of complexity where proper planning and understanding of that absolutely matters. The other thing that matters is having a much better fix on the customer base. Martin finds it disconcerting that companies mix modalities of voice and text such as flipping from voice to web chat and think they’ve implemented a digital solution. The balance to that is whether or not it still requires a human regardless of modality. His definition is when it’s emotional, when it’s complex, when it’s a relationship—that’s great CX. Good conversational design capability should result in a virtual assistant capable of understanding a significant portion of the customer intent. This should be able to facilitate them through the form filling process, for example, and if it doesn’t work, there should be an immediate escalation to live support. Plus, it all comes down to preference. Some people would never engage with a virtual assistant for completing finance related matters. But the bottom line is that by using a virtual assistant a business can be making money 24/7. Customers can interact with you at any time of day or night and there’s definitely nothing wrong with that. Anything that a company can do to make the customer process easier with less chance of irritation is a smart move.

Taking a Place at the Table

CX is still in a place where it needs to justify its existence. Too few company leaders understand the value. There’s still the dynamic of a big CX program going on while it’s still business as usual in the rest of the company and they don’t necessarily connect. It’s really important that CX professionals translate what they’re doing in furthering the goals of the business. The metrics that CX uses also needs to align with the financial goals of the company so that it perceives CX as having the commercial value that it does. Martin also reinforces the importance of collecting information via Voice of the Customer to make sure that it’s substantive and useful. Companies can then prioritize it and act on it, all embedded in a customer journey map. That’s still a work in progress for many.

Emotions Aren’t a Bad Thing

Emotion management is an important emerging component in the CX industry. The leadership team doesn’t know if they’re getting the most positive results from call center interactions even though most agents probably process engagements well. That matters because customer memories of interactions are based upon the outliers in an interaction and more significantly, the last interaction. If you’re coming into an interaction in a negative space, can the agent get an opportunity to switch it to a positive one. Is that being tracked? Can it be measured? Obviously, positive experiences draw people to a business and negative one push people away. All the commercial benefits of CX such as the propensity to try new things, buying more and becoming an advocate are lost if the emotional impact isn’t good. The contact center is a major touchpoint for that. Making sure you’ve got the emotional component down is as important as mastering the functional parts.

The Balance Between Automation and Human

There’s a fantastic change that’s come about since the time when jobs didn’t get done unless there was a human involved and artificial intelligence is even finding its way into CX initiatives. Martin predicts that robotics won’t take over completely, however, because people still want people to be involved at certain points. Organizations are going to have to put lots of thought to that and not to pull people out of the equation too quickly just to save money. There has to be a smart balance. Those interested in learning more from Martin, might be interested in his Masterclass: An Executive Guide to Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the Contact Centre. The class will address the question of how AI can practically transform customer service as well as educating, inspiring and equipping Service Leaders with the necessary insights and frameworks to help them deliver this transformation as part of a complete plan for using AI in the contact center. More information and sign-up details can be found here or visit

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