Diversity People Digital Communication Technology ConceptWith IVR, web chat, mobile apps, and more, customers have an increasing number of service options available to them. Yet, it still only takes one unsatisfactory experience to deliver a lasting impression. Whether it happens on a self-service or an assisted-service channel, a less-than-ideal interaction generates negative emotions that can permanently jeopardize the customer relationship.

In this third and final post of my series Today’s Top Customer Service Trends, I’m digging into one of the biggest challenges facing service organizations: incorporating positive emotion into the customer experience. Despite greater automation and a shift to self-service, emotion remains intertwined in every purchasing decision. Brands spend countless dollars on building positive feelings through their products, marketing campaigns, and even their packaging.

With service increasingly becoming a key competitive differentiator, they must also strive to incorporate positive emotion throughout the customer service experience. Here are three ways this can be realized:

1. Notifying and Educating with Proactive Communications

Customers appreciate being informed and receiving proactive communications on the channel of their choice. In fact, 87% of consumers want proactive notifications from the companies they buy from, according to a survey from Harris Interactive.

Proactive engagement can be delivered in a variety of ways. For example, customer journeys can be monitored to proactively trigger outreach in the form of promotions, invitations to chat, or tutorials to provide assistance. Updates can be sent to notify a customer of travel changes or the status of an order. Reminders can be sent when it’s time to make a payment or refill a prescription. Because of its ability to build positive emotion into the customer experience and increase revenue, proactive customer engagement is quickly being introduced by a growing number of organizations.

2. Measuring the Success of Customers’ Journeys

Nearly every organization gathers customer feedback to improve the quality of their products, services, and processes. However, far fewer monitor customers’ cross-channel journeys. With the average contact center now managing nine communication channels, according to the 2016 Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report from Dimension Data, end-to-end customer journeys must be measured for success across channels to ensure service levels are consistently maintained.

This requires both journey and speech and text analytics to understand common customer journeys and to identify problem areas where customers are experiencing difficulties in obtaining the service they are seeking. With these insights, organizations can improve these journeys to create more personalized, low-effort experiences that strengthen the emotional bond with customers.

3. Making a Human Connection with Customers

With customers increasingly turning to self-service channels for simple questions and interactions, they are now more likely to choose a voice channel only when they need to escalate an issue or have a more complex question. However, contact center agents are increasingly challenged by disconnected systems and applications, as well as the need to stick to strict scripts that may or may not be appropriate for the specific interaction. This is compounded by agent productivity often being measured only by efficiency metrics. These challenges not only place greater stress on agents, they also reduce productivity and decrease their ability to create meaningful connections with customers.

More than ever, agents need to be empowered with a single desktop that enables them to effectively manage omnichannel interactions. They also require advanced scripting to guide them as they address the customers’ specific needs in a way that is both contextual and personalized. Their success can then be measured using metrics that are focused on customer satisfaction and customer lifetime value, rather than just efficiency. The result is improved agent productivity, which ultimately leads to improved service levels and happier customers.

To learn more about the customer service trends discussed in this series, read the complete Forrester Research report – Trends 2016: The Future of Customer Service.