There was a time when customer service response or support lived in silos, far removed from the front line of company marketing and sales. Over time, it was discovered that companies wanting to remain relevant today and, in the future, know that the customer experience post sales interaction is just as important (if not more important) than at the time the product or service was purchased.
Customer experience has become a brands key differentiator and this trend will continue to be vitally important as digital savvy, connected consumers expect immediate, bespoke service.
Simply put, this new service battleground arena is quickly tossing out businesses that are not already preparing themselves to deliver better all-round customer service experiences. Companies who are on-board understand that investing in the customer support experience is one way to consistently provide top line support across all channels and touchpoints.
Let’s take a look at a few ‘what to do and what not to do’s’ of customer support. First the do’s.
In every customer service or support team, it’s important to ensure all team members are aware of their own role and what impact it will have with their peers and the company. This is important for example, when a customer asks to speak to a manager or someone with authority in what may potentially be a more serious issue.
This also improves the quality of customer service as those who know their roles and how they fit in with and impact the company tend to be more loyal and own problems right away and seek to resolve them with more confidence and authenticity.
It goes beyond addressing only the customers pain points on the spot. Relationship building is based on a foundation of personal and professional respect for each other. Customer support agents who positively practice politeness, friendly attitude, and who pays attention to customers details are the ones who will succeed far above their peers. The simple result is increased numbers in loyal and satisfied customers.
Broken promises cost most companies millions annually. Following through with what was promised (response, follow-up on a ticket, special service etc.) goes much further than ignoring the situation. If a rebate is warranted, grant it quickly and include any extra charges or fees incurred. Ensure your support teams have easy to implement return and refund policies on hand at all times.
In a digital age where empowered customers make use of social media to have their voices heard, the blow-back from poor real-time customer care or ignored requests can be devastating to a company’s reputation alone, not to mention business loss of sales.
Customer support agents are the very voice of the company that many customers will eventually interact with. Regardless of who’s fault it was that brought the customer to make the call, accept it, apologize and restore the customers faith in your service or product by quickly and smoothly providing the best valued solution possible.
Appreciate the power of the word “Yes”. When your customers have a request related to their issue, tell them yes (provided it within reason of course). Remember customers don’t buy services or products. They buy solutions to emotional states or problems. By owning the problem, you will restore their faith in your brand once again.
Picture the last time you had a poor customer service experience. Do you remember how you felt? Frustration, disappointment, anger? Your customer is not only feeling that, but you can also include neglect, if you choose to ignore their emotions when interacting with them. Put yourself in their shoes and don’t let them go through the situation alone. It’s ok to apologize and you will soon see that you will gain more loyal and satisfied customers.
By simply saying “Thank you”, your customer base will be built on stronger loyalty. Customers feel deeper affection for companies extending sincere appreciation and will support their brands to a greater degree. There is no monetary investment to expressing gratitude, it is free, and the effort taken builds towards a long-term relationship.
Engaged employees who are in the loop on all customer experience goals and strategies will always deliver the best customer experience. Employees who have bought into the vision and mission of the business are more empowered to resolve customer issues and remain quicker to own the next problem that surfaces. Keep them up to speed on goals and results they generate as they are great motivators.
With the global trend moving toward automation, it is no small wonder how businesses are looking to improve customer service by adopting customer service automation.
So, do we embrace the old or the new way of customer service: yes or no? There is no one answer to the dilemma of resolving the perfect flow of customer service since every business needs to navigate the benefits and flaws of service excellence unique to themselves.
What we can point out though are a few of the advantages so you may be able to envision them in your company’s customer experience workflow.
Minimizing human error: Without a doubt, automation will minimize or remove altogether, the human element component in this specific area of service. You will be rid of the potential for idleness, futile efforts, human error and misdirected labor.
Redirecting staff to excel in other areas: Daily repetition of typing the same responses to the same problems is a waste of precious time and resources of employees who could be doing something else. This reduction of mundane tasks can significantly add up to hours and days over the course of time each quarter.
Wait times minimized: One of the pain points in the traditional customer service model are long wait times. You have options today over and above just adding more agents as adopting automated customer service can tackle overflows, queues easily while greatly reducing wait times to near zero.
Managing employee levels consistently: It is not always profitable to continually hire employees only for peak workflow times. It may also be difficult as the office space is limited or the labor budget isn’t quite meeting the needs. Implementing a very affordable live customer support help desk software can go substantially further in resolving this issue than before. This scenario works even better knowing that your company can bring on board as basic version of the software and allocate budget when ready for add-on modules as needed over time.
The generation that embraces automation is here: Most of generation Y is out there taking over the customer pool and these millennials are digital natives, who would rather go to a FAQ page before asking a question. They are very comfortable searching online for their information. Your new gen Y customers are coming to you already familiar with technology complete with a preference to use it as their primary choice of support communication.
If your business is willing to put forth the investment into planning and devising solutions for automation, the following tips can certainly help avoid any pitfalls along the way.
No need to automate everything right away: Just because you can automate almost everything doesn’t mean you should. Your business is unique and engaging feedback and studying which areas are in need the most will guide you toward your major pain points.
You may also discover that you can use differing levels of automation depending on the customer. For example, repeat customers, for the most part, do not necessarily need assistance when checking out or selecting a product. For first time customers though, having a chatbot interact with them to navigate the selection or payment process may increase conversion rates and sales.
Connecting the service channels: If a customer is assisted on one end of the service channel but cannot access another service channel from there, they will get lost in operational limbo. This is because the automated channels weren’t mutually connected to the customers service pathway. Ensure all automated processes are integrated with one another as well with human representatives in the customer support function.
Don’t forget you have humans still that are valued: Customer support agents are human after all and are company assets that need to be appreciated. Take a portion of time and expense savings from the transition to automation and invest this into additional training to back-up the technology. You can be guaranteed there will be customers who will always ask to speak to a live human because they value the empathy. Always giving them the option to choose is an excellent business practice to keep.
Test the service, ask for feedback, rinse and repeat: Automation is complex and perfecting it is not an easy task; not to mention definitely something you should not evaluate on your own. This is a matter of constant testing and collection of multiple feedbacks in order to improve. Where specific change is identified, implement it slowly and in small segments. By making the change, you will be able to assess its effectiveness and popularity of each upgrade individually. It is also beneficial to ask your customers to provide feedback. This lets them know you appreciate their opinion and are helping to make their experience even better.
Don’t overcomplicate things: In today’s world, most customers are tech savvy and attuned to digital life much more than any other generation. Regardless of our proficiency in tech-speak etc., it is important that customer support agents don’t make matters worse by getting too technical in their interaction. Most times, simple is best and keeping the conversation straight and to the point in a positive voice is all that is needed.
Being aloof is not a good look: Don’t be disinterested. Customers have amazing clarity in seeing right through a support agent who is unresponsive, detached, inattentive and unsympathetic. Alarm bells are sure to ring from angry customer feedback. Professional support means professional courtesy. The customer issue should be your issue as well.
Your customer is not a transaction: Customers are not a transactional commodity to accept the call and find the quickest solution possible to move them along in order for your numbers to look amazing. Use your human-centered lens when looking at your customers point of view on their issue and show interest in doing so. It is amazing how long-lasting relationships are built from just one party taking the time out to learn about the person and the problem together.
Don’t turn away from customer feedback: It isn’t rocket science to see that the only way you will get better at supporting your customers is by actually listening to them. Yes, you will always have outliers on each end of the feedback spectrum, yet it is vital that the feedback is reviewed studied and responded to.
Embrace complaints: The worst customer experience is the one you never heard of. Complaints from customers will never disappear. What can be mitigated though is the severity of complaints. The only that will happen is to gather as many complaints a s possible from as many customers as you can. Think of each and every complaint as an opportunity to fix a weak link in your business chain and provide your customer with a better experience in the future.
Customer service has been around as long as businesses themselves. It became more prevalent after telephones were introduced, followed by call centers, emails, social media and finally automation.
Regardless of the technology involved, customer service and support is les as much as department and more-so an attitude that comes from positive experiences with customers (yes even the complaints) because you know their next experience with your service or product will be rewarding for your customer and your company.
Remember, your customers expect fast response or service and an authentic explanation given in a genuine personable tone. Companies ignoring this principle risk both reputation damage and economic loss from word of mouth spreading like wildfire online through social media.
By taking the measured approach and implementing change when and where change is needed, will help overall performance, bringing your customer relationships to new levels, while simultaneously minimizing negative experiences.