Thinking

COVID 19: Outstanding customer service from afar – start with the human

Taking the opportunity of today’s challenges to deliver a better service to your customers and make your agents happier.

Taking the opportunity of today’s challenges to deliver a better service to your customers and make your agents happier.

 

 

So everything’s gone wrong. What we thought impossible a few months ago is now our day-to-day life. Your business is facing challenges no one could have foreseen 6 months ago. But your customers and employees are still there, they still need you and they’re very much looking at how you will respond to this unprecedented situation to reassess what companies they’ll stick with after the COVID 19 crisis. To quote Frank O’Hara, “in times of crisis we must all decide again and again whom we love”; your customers will decide if they keep paying for your services and products, and your employees have the choice to keep working for you and carry on giving you their best effort. All of their decisions will be informed by the actions you’re taking now, during difficult times. 

A study by Tethr and HBR* found that the percentage of calls that were “difficult” to resolve have doubled from 10% to 20% during the lockdown. Did you have to stop answering your customers’ queries, or were they kept waiting for hours on hold when they most needed your support? Did it take weeks to answer their support question? Were your contact centre agents left to fend for themselves without the required tools and set up to be able to cope with the increasing demand? Did they feel so stretched and undervalued they will try to find another job as soon as the job market is recovered? 

When written in Chinese, the word "crisis" is composed of two characters, one represents danger and one represents opportunity. (John F. Kennedy). Although these are challenging times and can lead to dangerous unwanted outcomes for your company, these are also great times to look into your operations and customer experience and reassess. Is your company set up to deal with customer demand and treat employees fairly, not only now, but for the future? And if not, what can be done now to ease the pressure, get KPIs back on track and regain control over the customer and employee experience?

We’ve compiled a view of the top 3 actions you will want to take to tackle the current challenge and come out of it with stronger customer relationships:

1. Understanding what will really make a difference to your customers  - What are the top reasons for your customer to contact you in the current climate and beyond? How satisfied are your customers with their contact journey? What are the top pain points during that journey that they didn’t experience before? It could be the wait time but also the fact they were sent from one operator to another before anything could be done for them. It could be that they really need to speak to someone on the phone, and a simple address for them to contact won’t be enough to help them. Getting this insight will help you understand what is most valuable to your customer and, therefore, where it’s worth focusing your effort to make amends. Take the time to engage with your customers before deciding what to improve for them.

2. Truly enabling customer autonomy - When needing support we all yearn for something slightly different. Some of us will want to be taken step-by-step through the actions to the solution, others will want someone to do it for them even if that means waiting for longer, whilst many would be happy to independently find the right information and carry out the necessary steps themselves.

Where can you standardise, digitise and automate your customer support journey to enable some further autonomy and choice for your customers and reduce the cost to serve them? Instead of having to wait to speak to an agent to be able to progress with their query, some of the initial support steps could be automated, customers could be directed into the right team straight away via correctly set up IVR (Interactive voice response).

Can you set up customer communities for your customers to share their passion and knowledge of your product(s) and support one another? 

3. Putting your teams at the heart of the solution - As well as listening to your customers on their contact journey, listen to your employees. Do they feel supported in general but also specifically in changed circumstances like today’s? Do they have the right tools and environment to do their best work? When a customer gets bounced from one operator to another, there is also an impact to your teams. They pick up their phone to an angry customer who has explained their problem two or three times already and have to put in double the amount of effort to get a good customer satisfaction outcome. 

Looking into the three areas above should enable you to get a clear view of where you are today, and what vision for the future of your customer service you want to achieve. With this vision defined, you will be able to start identifying a list of opportunities to improve on and start delivering quick wins to your business in order to face today’s situation better, keep your customers satisfied and have a stronger than ever relationship with them in the future.

Look out for the second part of this series on contact experience, where we dive deeper into the actions you can take to optimise the way you are engaging with customers and strengthening your customer service teams.

 

If you want to speak to us about optimising your contact experience click here

 

*https://hbr.org/2020/04/supporting-customer-service-through-the-coronavirus-crisis