Innovative technology and training can help you build consistent and highly effective customer service interactions
Many consumers believe that customer service levels are at an all-time low. Those of us in the industry would likely disagree, but perception is reality. If public perception says your organization provides poor customer service, it can undermine everything else your organization is doing, no matter how well you do it.
Every time a person receives outstanding customer service, their threshold for anything less becomes smaller. A hundred years of “the customer is always right” has slowly but steadily raised expectations for customer service, and it is our job as professionals to see that those expectations are met or exceeded. With internet and mobile technologies providing instant access to products, services and information, consumers have come to expect their needs to be filled immediately. The solution to customer issues shouldn’t only be right; it needs to be right now.
How technology can enhance your customer service
There have been great advances in the way consumer information is collected and applied, especially in the contact center environment. Through data acquisition, you have the unique opportunity to listen to them.
But how can you take everything you know about a person and use it to speak to them in the most effective way? That’s where technology comes into play.
There are several analytics applications that can be used to drive more efficient and effective customer service. Using the data you collect to create profiles for each unique customer from your consumer database gives insight into who they are, when they make purchases and how often they need customer service. You can utilize data enhancement to apply demographic information from your consumer database. Additionally, predictive modeling allows you to take the information in consumer profiles and determine when and how each customer should be contacted, as well as provide customized offers based on their unique characteristics.
On the telephone, using technology to determine service level differentiations can help you increase customer value and drive long-term growth. You can use the information you know about customers from their profiles to score them instantly when they call for support, a technology known as “real-time scoring.” Utilizing this tool, you can direct calls to agents most likely to provide quick first-call resolution for the specific products or services they have purchase, and even recommend other products or services. It allows you to boost conversion rates by creating more satisfied customers, and improve customer service through prompt resolution of issues. You can even customize call center scripts to lead the conversation in one of several directions based upon their personal preferences and characteristics. For instance, if a cell phone service provider receives a call from a customer who regularly upgrades his or her cell phone, the script would cue agents to let them know about deals on the newest phones the company offers. This customized approach to individual customers can help companies drive sales through traditional service calls.
Accelerated lead conversion
As more and more people adopt the Internet as a standard method of communication, organizations are seeing web-generated leads double or even triple. That’s good news. The problem arises when companies lack the capacity or strategy to effectively respond to increasing online lead intake. This can be a critical oversight. These days, a lot of people use the Internet to make initial contact with an organization. This is their first impression of the organization, and the speed of your response can make all the difference.
We’re not talking hours here; rather minutes – maybe even seconds. By waiting a day or more to contact a web-generated lead, you essentially negate your chances of ever qualifying or converting them.
Despite the importance of a quick call, speed is not the only difference maker. As always: people matter. Even if you contact a lead instantly, it will only be effective if the right person makes the call. By “right” person, we mean someone who is knowledgeable about the specific program/service/product in which the individual is interested. Even if the person making the call is just the first contact, the answering agent should be able to answer initial questions and reinforce interest in the organization and the product or service. The focus cannot just be on getting a sale today; we need to ensure a positive customer experience, leading to a long-term relationship.
Integrated multichannel communication
Advances in technology have made it feasible and cost-effective for most companies today to develop one-to-one customer communication strategies. Being able to integrate traditional channels with emerging channels through a multichannel strategy is the best way to serve the vastly different mix of people that make up your customer base. For instance, a younger consumer who makes most of his or her purchases online probably does not want to communicate through phone calls or receive traditional “snail mail,” but would be open to communicating through online chat or a social media platform.
We’ve reached an age where technology can actually bring businesses and customers closer together. A marketing piece delivered through traditional mail might prompt a customer to check out a personalized website. In turn, that website might list a phone number the consumer calls to get more information and ultimately make a purchase. After the customer makes the purchase, he/she might become a fan of the company’s Facebook page and follow it on Twitter (News - Alert); and use those avenues to talk about products with other customers or even seek customer service help. However, if a company is going to initiate a multichannel campaign it needs to leverage collected data so that when it reaches out to the customer, it is through the preferred channel.
How innovative agent training can improve the customer experience
All the above tactics are aimed at putting your customer service agents in the best position to succeed. But there must also be focus on the agents themselves, because no matter how great the position we put them in, they must ultimately be trained well enough to effectively deal with any of the myriad of issues a customer might face.
Unfortunately, branding – the cornerstone of all customer contact efforts – can get lost in contact centers because representatives concentrate on completing specific tasks – taking orders, quickly resolving customer issues – rather than fortifying your brand. So even when an order is submitted successfully or the customer’s issue has been resolved satisfactorily, you may miss out on a golden opportunity to bolster brand perception. However, by employing Brand Ambassadors on the phones rather than traditional agents, companies can enhance their brand value with every call.
Brand Ambassadors differ from typical call center representatives in that they are trained to be extremely knowledgeable of your company and your products – not just the specific task in front of them. They not only help customers accomplish goals, they reinforce your brand identity.
Customized hiring and training
This isn’t your dad’s customer service job anymore. As a result of the trend toward multiple communication channels, so goes the need for agents to be able to free flow conversations and not always work off a script. Agents continually will have to evolve and be expected to interact at various levels, blending email, chat, phone, social media. They need to be versatile and have the computer skills to manage several platforms in order to be true Brand Ambassadors, in addition to soaking up the in-depth training.
Training agents to be brand ambassadors involves agents actually getting to know the products by touching them, testing them and getting to know how they work. This gives agents more of a personal connection. The biggest investment involved in this specialized training is time; and spending time is a necessity if you truly want your agents to be Brand Ambassadors.
Employing Brand Ambassadors offers companies benefits that are both immediate and enduring. And while they require more training time up front, Brand Ambassadors generate results that ultimately give you a higher return on investment. Perhaps most importantly, Brand Ambassadors build customer loyalty, cultivate repeat business and lay the foundation for future success.
The bottom line is that customer service will continue to change in scope and become more and more challenging. However, by making a commitment to utilizing technology and people to maximize the potential of each interaction, we can continue to build outstanding customer interactions that will enhance brand value and keep customers coming back well into the future.
Edited by Alisen Downey