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Navigating Customer Experience in the Digital Age

By Jill Rooks, Director of Customer Experience, Zodiac Pool Systems, LLC

Jill Rooks, Director of Customer Experience, Zodiac Pool Systems, LLC

Customers want you to meet their expectations. But in a world where consumers want different things, face different problems, and use different channels, accomplishing this is a lot more complicated than it sounds. While many tech and IoT companies do their best to anticipate potential problems, there are always unexpected ones without an easy answer. In my experience, customers often are not too concerned with the company’s predicament; they just want you to understand theirs.

Start with the voice of the customer. It’s at the heart of what you need to do to improve your customer’s experience. Sometimes, as executives we assume that we know what customers want or need, but that’s not always the case. We could be missing out on key insights.

Understanding the Voice of the Customer

Achieving superior customer experience is less about your budget and more about taking the time to understand and meet your customer’s expectations. Although technology can certainly help you achieve this goal, human-to-human customer service is more important than ever in a world full of AI. Only humans—for the time being, anyway—can listen and respond appropriately to deliver world-class customer experience, especially when it comes to technology.

The best way to anticipate your customers’ needs is to listen to them. To begin tuning into the voice of our customers at Zodiac, we developed a robust listening program. We conducted “temperature checks” for each area of the customer journey through social listening, emails, and quick surveys. When we discovered where customers were struggling, we made targeted improvements.

"Ultimately, the key to enhancing your organization’s customer experience is to begin with the customer"

One challenge was around “ease of doing business.” People want to talk to you, but it can be hard to describe the issues they’re having. If tech support manufacturers could be there in person, they would be able to see exactly what the problem is and tell customers or servicers what to do. While being there physically isn’t always possible, virtual communication through live video technology is now an option.

Rather than working through a long list of possible causes and solutions until the right one is found, live video allows a manufacturer representative to be “onsite” visually. This saves time and resources: There’s no waiting for a rep to drive to the site, and problems can be resolved in realtime.The ability to virtually be in the backyard with our customers and service professionals has been a game-changer.

Screen mirroring is another tool that has helped us address our customers’ needs. Similar to screen sharing, screen mirroring allows tech support representatives to see what the customers see on their screen and even take control of the equipment to resolve the issue.

Supporting Service Professionals Enhances the Customer Experience

Manufacturers should not wash their hands once they’ve shipped the product off to retailers. Customer experience begins and ends with the manufacturer. Manufacturers play a crucial role in service professional training and support. The faster and more accurately service professionals can assist customers, the better the overall customer experience.

One effective approach being implemented by manufacturers is giving tech support representatives access to simulator rooms for live troubleshooting. Equipment is set up and functions as it would onsite. Through simulation, field issues can be replicated in real time as technicians walk through the issue with the service professional. This reduces miscommunication and confusionand cuts down on backtracking.

Building Blocks of an Exceptional Customer Experience

Customer experience is a culmination of many factors, from technology to digital marketing. Here are three approaches that we have used to support the customer experience.

A digital toolbox of resources.

A timely response is a crucial part of an exceptional customer experience. To solve customer problems quickly and efficiently, representatives must have the easiest access to knowledge possible. First-call problem resolution should always be the goal. A “one-stop” digital toolbox with any type of information needed—schematics, warranties, rebates, or product inventories—helps minimize transferring customers multiple timesbefore resolution. Additionally, all reps should receive ongoingtechnical training to offer in-depth tech support.

Well-defined customer experience divisions.

Too often, customers are kept on hold for long periods—only to be redirected and kept waiting yet again. One solution is to create several different divisions within the customer experience department. When calls come in, they are funneled to a specific team and handled quickly tokeep hold times as short as possible—no longer than 5 minutes.

An effective employee appreciation system.

Employees are the backbone of an organization. Keeping your employees motivated has a direct link to exceptional customer experience, and this area is ripe for innovation in the digital age. Rather than rewarding employees based on call volume or average hold time, consider a reward system based on a different metric likethe number of compliments received. I have found that a reward system rooted in positive feedback is more validating for individual reps and keeps the focus on qualityover quantity.

Ultimately, the key to enhancing your organization’s customer experience is to begin with the customer. What do they want and need to make their experience better? By working towards answering this question—either with more efficient processes or technology—you’ll be well on your way towards enhancing your customer’s experience.

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