Not a day goes by when a company isn’t trying to pretend it’s more than just a vendor but rather your friend. Whether it’s a credit card firm stating how much they miss you (code for: why aren’t you spending lately?) or your local airline offering you a “friendly” reminder that it’s been a while since your last vacation (code for: you work too hard, how about spending some?), all companies are lately obsessed with appearing human. And yet, despite today’s emphasis on customer service there seems to be quite the disconnect between what companies want to deliver and what inevitably ends up being reality. Where are all the real people?
Whether you are stuck in an IVR recording or speaking to an actual agent, the distinction is not always obvious. In today’s ongoing attempt to provide a unified experience, companies have inadvertently turned the very agents designed to instill customer loyalty and foster long-lasting relationships into two-dimensional versions of their IVR counterparts. Whether the exact cause is due to a lack of training, lack of access to the proper technology, or a basic lack in skills, the problem is very real. So what’s the solution?
A few suggestions to consider:
Recruiting: No matter the technology, if the end-goal is to foster a connection, you need to hire representatives who are capable of doing so, whether over the phone or via some other multichannel form of communication (i.e: email, text, social media, etc.). In the end, hiring the right individuals is as important as providing them the right tools with which to offer premium-level service.
Training: It’s no big secret that training is an important component to any successful business, especially if you want to increase employee retention. While some may argue the gift of gab is born with and not learned, the reality remains that quite a bit can be accomplished if you take the time to mold your employees. Remember, any company representative is an extension of your brand so its important that they all represent the business in the same manner you would yourself. So if you are using an advanced contact center solution, make use of the barge-in or whisper features to help with quality control and training.
Dynamic Scripting: Perhaps one of the most understated tools in the contact center repertoire but easily one of the most important, scripting is the roadmap by which reps should live and breathe. Of course, if the script is too scripted, than chances are it will come off as such during a client interaction. However, using dynamic scripting, a company can guide its agents, in real-time, while promoting a unified image. The key is having the flexibility to keep your representatives informed of any relevant news and changes to company policies, while providing the proper fixed guidance to deliver the expected level of service. As it relates to fostering long-lasting customer relationships, dynamic scripting can allow supervisors to “tweak” the information in a manner fitting the skills and expertise of the very team delivering on the specific service (i.e.: customer support, sales, etc.)
Multichannel communications: Offering and utilizing different means of communications is an excellent way to stay relevant but carries its own challenges. The simple act of having a company Twitter feed or offering chat as an alternate means of communication is great as long as the intention is to improve the client experience and not a poor attempt to stay “cool” (in which case, you could be doing your company more harm than good). One also has to treat these channels as they would any other, although many of the latest means of communication (notably chat, email, and social media) provide a unique opportunity to bond with clients on a more personal and informal level. That being said, no matter the platform (phone, email, chat, social media, etc.), representatives need to be aware that regardless, the same level of scrutiny to customer service must be adhered to. For example, chat generally lends itself to a more lax type of environment and response, despite the fact that the customer may have the very same standards and expectations as any caller. So be careful and certainly monitor your representatives.
With the ongoing pressure to always be ahead of your customer’s needs, automation and repetition seem to be the only scalable means by which to deliver. However, with automation, the “human” aspect to customer service can easily be lost in the fray and with it your client-base. In the end, it’s a matter of striking the right balance, which certainly lends itself to an art despite the attempt to make it a science.