In my last blog post, I shared 5 steps to increasing your net promoter scores and how successful interactions create Promoters for your business.  Let’s get more specific with suggestions on how to create that successful interaction by maximizing the customer experience.

1. Understand and anticipate your customers’ desires – Use the information available (and there is a lot) and accepted technology, such as intelligent routing, to anticipate your customers’ interests in any access channel.  Customer segmentation, account profile, transaction history, demographics, personality, preferences, social media, and CRM are all puzzle pieces that give you clues to know in advance what your customer wants.

2. Manage customer expectations – Provide an integrated multi-modal, multi-media, next-generation user experience and set realistic and consistent expectations in your communications about your services that are in line with your competitors and your business model.  Tailor your service levels to each channel and customer segment.  Provide automated responses or announcements of expected response times.  People feel much better making informed choices, as long as the information is accurate and reasonable.

3. Honor the customer’s choices – Today’s customer has many choices of methods for reaching out to your company. Accepting and supporting the access channel the customer chooses builds trust capital within the interaction that goes a long way toward the perception of a positive experience.  Mobility and social media support are key to optimizing customer experience in the evolving customer.  If your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) is a challenge to navigate, don’t disable the “zero out” option to artificially drive up containment, as you’ll organically drive down customer satisfaction.

4. Manage customer perception – Outside of the interaction itself, you have the ability to not only define expectations but also to manage the way you are perceived in the marketplace as a service provider.  Use social media as the perfect focus group to hear directly how customers feel about their experience with your company throughout the full lifecycle of the interaction (see my earlier post on the value of social media support for details). Use Klout , Kred or PeerIndex scores to identify the influencers and manage response times accordingly to avoid an influencer using social media to damage other’s perception of your responses.  When it comes to customer contact in the age of the empowered customer, perception is reality.

5. Plan for the unexpected – Unplanned events happen, either by a significant change in the marketplace or a challenge to overcome in the ability to deliver services or products.  Regardless of the cause, you need to be able to deliver on timely interactions to meet or exceed your customers’ expectations in all cases.  This requires prudent continuity and contingency planning in your technology, staffing, and facilities for both service delivery and budget.  Virtualize and expand the contact center with knowledge workers, home agents, and federation.  Use Contact Center as a Service (CCaaS or cloud), hosted, and managed services to plan for contingency services.  And plan for video as the next killer customer contact app.

6. Exceed promises responsibly – Your customers live in a mobile society and are quickly becoming next-generation users and consumers of your services (see my earlier post on smartphone adoption for details). The optimized value of a consistent experience delivers modestly better than your competitors. (Delighting your customers beyond expectations can be operationally expensive with minimal financial return.)  Remember that global technology is mainstream – customers, users, resources, suppliers, and distributors all impact global brand experiences, reach, and trends.  Use the global network to maximize your resources to deliver on expectations, particularly in peak volume situations.

The most important advice is to make changes prudently – that is, to research, engage experienced resources, plan, test, analyze, optimize, and only then, execute.  The risk for damage to your brand image is always present in customer contact initiatives.

I’ll be presenting the keynote (and blogging) on some of these best practices in greater detail at the upcoming Customer Experience Management Summit and presenting on mobility customer support at the Contact Center Association’s Online Summit  I encourage you to click on these links to learn more and to follow me on Twitter (@lambrobert) to get my and others’ insights shared at these events.

How do you engage and empower your employees to deliver a positive multi-channel experience?  How do you improve your visibility to manage expectations and perception of the customer experience?