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        Orchestrating Experiences Is a Big Lift for Contact Centers

        The underlying idea behind trying to manage customer experiences is that of the journey: that customers follow a path through distinct stages, with different needs and modes of contact at each stage. The default mode for controlling experiences has long been to react to what the customer does and, to a great extent, build an enormous and costly infrastructure around having to wait for customers to decide to engage. Contact centers do a fine job of handling incoming communications, sorting them according to content and providing standard responses.

        When we speak in the industry about customer experiences, we often conflate what happens in the contact center with the rest of the extended journey, and this is a mistake for two reasons. First, the customer’s experiences often happen well out of a company’s view, through word of mouth, exposure to advertising, face-to-face encounters and so forth. This is outside the contact center’s ability to foresee and control. But most organizations do have teams who explore customer trends in an attempt to predict and control behavior. Through marketing, sales and back-office efforts, organizations are trying to strengthen weak ties to customers by proactively reaching out with personalized communications.

        Even though most communications happen through the contact center, it is in most organizations’ interest to carefully design inbound and outbound pathways that go a step further than just reacting to expressed customer desires. For a long time, organizations have wanted to be able to personalize interactions at scale, but the technology was not able to make that easy. The technology landscape has changed significantly enough that orchestrating experiences is not only possible, it should be the next logical step in technology deployment and process design. Organizations now have access to tools, platforms and analytic capabilities that help them map customer journeys, integrate channels, personalize experiences and automate processes.

        One goal of experience orchestration is to make sure that a customer always has the ability to connect across a variety of available touchpoints, including contact centers. It is a given that no inbound interaction should be blind — whoever (or whatever) deals with the customer must know the history and context around the inquiry. Most organizations understand and strive for this, with varying levels of success and maturity.

        The more interesting goal is to increase the value of each interaction and customer. That has always been difficult to do with basic contact center tools. The modern toolkit is undergoing a revamp, thanks to data and analysis tools, artificial intelligence (AI) applications and automation. The next generation of technology has arrived, and businesses are beginning to build complex processes that influence customer activity.

        Most contact center end users that we speak to are still very focused on managing the volume of day-to-day inbound interactions, along with the agent resources necessary for that work. There are leading-edge adopters of the sweeping portfolio of advanced customer experience (CX) management tools, but those are definitely outliers. Those outliers have several qualities in common:

        • They exhibit executive-level commitment to using CX as a revenue driver and have adopted tools like journey mapping that provide the transparency and insight into basic customer behavior and intent.
        • They seek to implement data-driven decision-making and have taken steps to streamline internal data management silos, especially around customer data and CRM.
        • They automate much of the routine communication with customers, so that interactions requiring a human worker are more meaningful and cost-effective.

        These are qualities most evident in larger firms. Smaller firms still struggle to put together the business cases and justifications for the kind of platform-based transformations that make CX and orchestration possible. Ventana_Research_2023_Assertion_CX_Marketing_Superior_CX_7_SWe believe that through 2025, only one-third of organizations will realize the importance of branding and marketing a superior customer experience as a strategic corporate value that can attract and retain customers.

        Vendors have an opportunity to help organizations replace and upgrade much of the technology used for customer contact. Some are starting to explicitly encourage buyers to explore the role of experience orchestration. The transition to cloud contact center systems, still incomplete industrywide, encourages companies to de-emphasize the voice channel in favor of mixed interactions that have a strong digital component. The toolkit needed for true experience orchestration or optimization is vastly larger and more complex than that needed to run a contact center. It calls for closer cooperation between departments that needs to be mediated by a strong IT team.

        What organizations need from their vendor partners now is a roadmap for how to sequence the many layers of software that need to be deployed. Vendors have been loudly talking up the benefits of AI in CX and in contact centers, and they have done a good job identifying specific use cases that buyers can understand and relate to.

        Experience orchestration (and CX broadly) needs to be fully baked into an organization’s core processes. Contact centers do not require as strong a level of integration. They weren’t designed for that, and organizations struggle to make those integrations. That suggests that as the use cases for CX tools extend further away from the contact center, the key buyer needs to be a higher executive than many contact center vendors are used to reaching.

        So perhaps a two-prong strategy is in order. One, to speak to the contact center professionals who have the interaction landscape well-organized but need to understand the importance of data and analysis before, during and after interactions to maximize revenue. In this case, vendors should connect the step-by-step deployments of tools that are important to contact center efficiencies with the applications used externally to do things like segment customers, analyze their sentiment and project lifetime value.

        The second prong is to hammer home the message that the contact center has value in generating revenue and driving company growth. This is something that marketers, revenue officers, chief customer officers and CFOs need to hear.


        Keith Dawson


        Keith Dawson
        Director of Research, Customer Experience

        Keith Dawson leads the software research and advisory in the Customer Experience (CX) expertise at Ventana Research, now part of ISG, covering applications that facilitate engagement to optimize customer-facing processes. His coverage areas include agent management, contact center, customer experience management, field service, intelligent self-service, voice of the customer and related software to support customer experiences.


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