It’s a tough business environment out there.
Always-connected customers want – no, demand – that the companies with which they do business deliver solutions quickly and efficiently. One bad, or even mediocre, experience can mean lost business. So organizations are quickly waking up to the fact that customer service matters.
That’s why the term customer experience has recently come into vogue. And it’s why more businesses today (while still wanting to spend their dollars efficiently) now view customer service not just as a cost center, but also as a potential revenue center.
Many companies are responding to all of the above by formulating strategies to enable customers to interact with them via e-mail, text, the web, voice, or even video. That’s important. But with all the talk about multichannel and omnichannel strategies these days, it may surprise you to know that good old voice remains the preferred channel for customer service interactions.
“Voice is still the preferred channel, and InfoCision can help organizations answer that call with its personalized service solutions,” says Steve Brubaker (News - Alert), chief of staff at InfoCision Management Corp. “We offer multichannel solutions to meet a variety of marketing objectives, but we know that when people want to ask a question, they frequently pick up the phone.”
Because voice communications remain central to the success of customer service initiatives, organizations need to make sure they have helpful, knowledgeable, and understandable people in place to address customer concerns, says Brubaker. That, he explains, can significantly improve first call resolution, resulting in fewer callers being put on hold and strengthened customer loyalty.
It’s no secret that callers dislike being put on hold, which can lead to mounting discontent, and even customer churn.
“If the issue is not resolved in the first call, it may make an unfavorable impression,” says Brubaker. “People get frustrated if they have to be put on hold.”
Call center representatives who listen to caller concerns, express sensitivity to them, and have the tools to respond appropriately to their requests in a personalized way, however, can frequently achieve first call resolution. In the process, the customer typically senses he or she is valued, and that creates a positive outcome both for the customer and for the organization.
“When customers reach someone, and receive assistance right away, it strengthens their relationship with the organization,” says Brubaker. “And it lets them know that you appreciate their business.”
The importance of listening to customers cannot be underestimated, Brubaker adds.
“We teach that, not just by encouraging it, but through various exercises in which call center reps are challenged to use and then work with managers to analyze their listening and sensitivity skills,” he says.
Specifically, InfoCision (News - Alert) involves call center representatives in role-playing exercises, and then works with those individuals to evaluate the language and tone used in the interactions and their likely outcomes.
Training is just part of the equation that figures into delivering strong customer service, he says. Another key component is to hire the right people for the job in the first place. That entails finding individuals who already possess the basic skills of good communications, the ability to listen and quickly process conversations, and to use their own good social skills and company-provided information to identify solutions for callers.
“The call center is the front line and starting point for customers’ experiences; they can either choose to continue their journeys with your company or move on to partner with a competitor that is delivering the best customer experience,” says Brubaker. “This essentially makes your agents the face of your company.”
The ability to not just do problem resolution, but to deliver a customer experience that is above average is of the utmost importance, says customer experience expert and author Shep Hyken. To illustrate this point, Hyken refers to a Vanderbilt University study indicating that 40 percent of satisfied customers never revisit a restaurant or other business even though they are satisfied.
“It’s just ok, and just satisfactory isn’t good enough,” says Hyken.
Every time an organization interacts with a customer, it has the opportunity to create moments of magic, moments of misery, or moments of mediocrity, Hyken continues. Moments of magic don’t need to blow customers away, he says, but have to be at least a bit above average. To create the magic, he says, it’s important to create a good first impression, put in place employees who behave as if they have a stake in the business, use good communication skills – such as asking the extra question to ensure customer expectations are met, and avoid moments of misery.
This last item is particularly noteworthy, as a recent survey by Zendesk and Dimensional research indicates that a stunning 39 percent of consumers will avoid a vendor for two or more years after a bad customer experience. Meanwhile, 55 percent will simply switch to a different product or company following a negative interaction. This same study also reveals that consumers are far more likely to share experiences than they were even five years ago when things go awry with a brand, as Brubaker noted in a recent InfoCision blog.
To avoid such outcomes and build customer loyalty, organizations need to put people first – both in terms of their customers and their customer-facing employees, says Hyken, because the bottom line is that people like to do business with people who they know, like, and trust.
“If we don’t get the people part right, it doesn’t matter,” he adds.
Indeed. And that’s a key component of InfoCision’s strategy, says Brubaker.
“We have found that having knowledgeable people on the phone who can speak clearly and represent the product and the company makes all the difference in the world,” Brubaker says. “They understand?the company, they have been?trained properly, they have a good background, and they know how to make the customers happy.”
Edited by Adam Brandt