For an exceptional customer service experience to happen, many elements need to come together and the contact center serves as an important platform for engagement and support; with people, processes, and tech investments optimized. Unfortunately, as the figures show, there's still a lot of room for improvement in the realm of customer service and businesses might need to challenge their old notions of ‘not great but ok’ if they’re to maintain their competitive edge.
Conventional assumptions that an ‘adequate’ call center will suffice in the modern, digital era is clearly not good enough. Businesses content with adequacy will not only lose disappointed and frustrated customers but there’s a risk that call-center agents might also grow dissatisfied with their jobs and quit.
A study by the International Customer Management Institute has found that “businesses are doing an “adequate” job of resolving customer inquiries with an average of 60% first-time resolution rate.” While some may see that 60% customer satisfaction rate and pat themselves on the back, visionary entities will look to the 40% of dissatisfied customers and see it as an opportunity for growth.
Getting the most out of this 40% means it’s time for companies to rethink the way they approach contact center operations and optimize customer support using a focused strategy. The more inquiries resolved during the first engagement, the more you stand out from your competition and reap the benefits of customer and agent satisfaction on a sustained basis.
Specialization Boosts Productivity
Specialization and its close cousin, division of labor, has been a dominant feature across most industries for decades. Adam Smith, the 18th-century Scottish economist who is considered the father of modern economics, believed that progress was intrinsically tied to the division of labor. He held that a system’s total output is increased when workers specialize in certain fields and then trade with each other. In short, specialists, not generalists, are the key to increased productivity.
This division of labor is especially prominent in the field of marketing. Marketing “generalists” do not have the luxury of a sure spot on the playing field anymore. Instead, marketers with roles such as below-the-line specialists, social media specialists, and conversion specialists are now the in-demand hires.
If you want to considerably enhance your customer service operations while boosting productivity, you too should aim to specialize. You can divide your customer success teams by areas of focus, such as by separating voice agents from digital agents, technical support from billing support, and customer acquisition from corporate accounts.
ContactBabel’s 2018-2019 US Contact Center Decision-Makers' Guide report reinforces the point: “While it is theoretically possible for an agent to cope with four or more [chat] conversations at once … it is far more realistic to expect a well-trained agent to deal with perhaps two or three conversations concurrently.” This means that instead of having two agents working in the same four areas, consider having each agent specialize in two of the four areas instead.
What this division of labor does is cut down on unnecessary multitasking while enabling greater knowledge in a specific field. As the American Psychological Association says, “Doing more than one task at a time, especially more than one complex task, takes a toll on productivity.”
Specialized skillsets aren't a new idea, though. When Henry Ford created his Model T in 1908, he realized that delegating specific tasks to specific people could significantly improve productivity. In a few years, he instituted his now-famous assembly line, which saw Ford’s assembly time drop from 12 hours to 2.5 hours, increasing efficiency by more than 20%.
Move Towards the Cloud
In today’s digital landscape, one would be hard-pressed to list reasons why brands should not embrace and harness the power of cloud-based technology. A cloud-based solution allows for comprehensive integration between client and customer support providers allowing for issues to be resolved efficiently, boosting customer satisfaction and loyalty.
A customer support provider utilizing cloud technology allows for flexibility. Systems like interactive voice response (IVR), computer telephony integration (CTI), automatic call distribution (ACD), and management structures for email, chat, text, social media, and quality are all operated by the provider.
By only subscribing to technology owned and managed by a provider, companies are afforded the flexibility to instantly scale or contract to meet customer demands and business needs. This flexibility includes the facility to add on or reduce the number of agents, acquire additional capacity, upgrade software licenses, and increase storage. With cloud-based technology, you only pay for what you use.
By seamlessly integrating email, social media, mobile, and real-time chat into a unified platform, cloud technology supports deep information tracking. It allows businesses to track data regarding wait times and high call volume periods to ensure optimization of resources. This ultimately results in a more enriching customer support experience.
To achieve this enhanced level of customer service requires the services of a company specializing in building customized teams for modern businesses. From tapping talent to training to sustained success, Helpware ensures that your customer services platform is customized for your business needs.
Train Effective and Personable Operators
Product training is an integral part of a company’s success. Without it, marketing teams wouldn't be able to identify their target market and salespeople won’t be able to answer the most basic questions customers ask. Deficiencies in product training can cost a company dearly so it’s vital that they have the pulse on what's being taught and how.
Having your team completely immersed in your products or services is critical for creating strong, durable customer relationships, building a positive brand image, and outstripping the competition. In-depth knowledge of your company’s offerings gives operators the confidence to help customers promptly and appropriately. An operator who knows exactly what your business offers can make informed suggestions to customers that perfectly cater to their unique contexts. An added benefit being that they can effectively upsell your products.
An agent that is abreast with the ins and outs of your product line ultimately enables them to spend less time thinking about your offerings and more importantly, how to serve the customer concrete solutions. This entrenches positive brand perception while outperforming your competition. A knowledgeable agent means that customers won’t have to be left hanging on the line for the right person to address the issue, improving the overall customer experience.
Businesses must also choose agents who are suited to their specific industry. For example, medical or legal practices will require operators who are calm and composed. Other industries such as hospitality and lifestyle call for someone more personable.
Industry and Customer Knowledge
Possessing detailed product knowledge is one part of the equation, having a firm grasp of industry and customer characteristics is another. Agents need to understand how a product is used by customers, what problems it solves, and what are the current trends and changes in the industry.
Equipped with this knowledge, operators are adequately prepared to address any customer complaints or queries. Understanding their customers will enable agents to connect clients with the specific product, service, or solution they are looking for.
Businesses and their customer service agents need to have in-depth competitor knowledge to stay ahead of the pack. This entails identifying your own products’ strengths and weaknesses as well as that of your competitors. Creating a shared communication space where people can post key competitor observations is one way of building competitor knowledge.
These insights allow operators to sell their own product’s unique value. It further enables them to win over customers who have come from or are considering a competitor.
Clear Value Statements
Once you've determined your target customers, distilled industry insights, analyzed competitors, and instilled the product knowledge it's time to develop a value statement that delivers.
An important part of training effective customer service agents entails providing them with a clear value statement – the promise of your product or service that entices customers to engage with your brand. This promise could be a specific benefit of your product, how it solves a problem, improves a situation, or stands out from the competition.
A value statement should be clear, concise, and above all, one that delivers on your promise. You don’t want to make promises to your customers that you can’t keep. Creating a value statement that has impact and resonance requires a thorough understanding of your products, industry, customers, and competitors.
Work with a Customized Team
It can be a difficult balancing act to train your outsourced operators in the service skills required while focusing on your business's overall operations. This is why it is especially important to partner with a company that serves as an extension of your team when looking for a business customer service provider.
Founded in 2015 serving over 150+ clients through 9 offices across the world, Helpware specializes in building customized teams for modern businesses. Our recruitment division has considerable experience in combining sourcing and headhunting to interviewing, testing, and ultimately, curating a customized team that’s tailor-made for your business. This removes the costly pitfall of partnering with a customer support provider only to realize down the line that the company and its agents aren’t suited for your needs.
Developing a Culture of Service
When you and your customer service operators share the same values, it’s easier to grow together. Smart leaders often give desirable traits such as personability and initiative more weight than experience and skills. After all, skills can be taught, a personality cannot.
If you wish to foster a strong customer service culture, you need to find agents with a natural disposition to serve. Not only should they be natural problem solvers, but they should be excited to do so. Truly exceptional operators seek not only customer success but also display traits of continuous self-improvement of their approach and the impact they can have on enhancing customer service.
Finding strong and efficient service operators is a big step towards creating an effective customer support system, but you also need to create a climate that allows agents to take initiative and be creative.
You don’t want an army of ‘robots’ solving your customer’s problems - that’s a sure way to make clients feel, well, robot-like, just another entity that is a means to an end for your business. Instead, you want to give your operators both the power and leeway to take positive, creative action.
Employees should not be viewed as interchangeable cogs in a company. Smart companies, while providing comprehensive guidance and training, don’t excessively script or regiment employees in how to carry out their interactions with customers. Your agents should always be treated as people who have both the right to and expectation of autonomy over certain aspects of their work-life and should be valued for more than just what can be ticked on an accomplishment list at the end of each day.
In a great company culture-not only do employees feel empowered enough to take proactive steps that may inconvenience them or cost money, like helping out busy shoppers even when it might seem less efficient – they also thrive on creative control over how they complete tasks.
“A great customer service culture can’t be static. Happily, employees within a positive culture, simply due to their pro-customer inclinations, will find multiple areas for improvement, each shift they work, each day.” -Micah Solomon, bestselling author recently named the “new guru of customer service excellence” by the Financial Post.
Best-selling author and popular speaker Skip Prichard tells the tale of engagement with a Southwest Airlines flight attendant which exemplifies what it is to have pride in your company. Prichard recalls that on a Southwest flight he told the attendant what he does for a living. He says she asked for his address and mailed him her own copy of Nuts!, a book about the airline that she had personalized with notes throughout.
“Inside, scribbled throughout the book, were forty or so of her own notes, comments like ‘So true! We really do try to do this for our passengers,’ and ‘Yes! This is exactly how we aim to treat each other!’ and ‘This is what makes working here amazing,’” Prichard writes.
This wasn’t Southwest’s public relations team trying to curry favor, but rather an authentic representation of an employee promoting her own company on her own initiative, and at her own expense.
A strong customer service culture can only be sustained if those who are a part of it take pride in their company. If an operator believes in the products and services they’re handling, you can bet that their belief will shine through and impact customers, as so vividly illustrated by the Southwest attendant.
Regularly engaging on company mission and values, recognizing achievements, and encouraging initiative get staff in sync, secures buy-in, and lets employees feel that they’re part of the family, out-sourced or not.
Prichard says the same companies that elicit pride from their employees are also, “paradoxically, humble in ways that keep an organization both solidly rooted and open to learning and growth.” By extension, you’ll often find that staff who are truly proud of the company they are working for are also humble. They are not closed to suggestions for improvement, but rather, they welcome them as an opportunity to how professionally. When praised for their good work, a likely response would be something along the lines of: ‘Thanks for the recognition. We’re just striving to provide the best service we can and to improve every day.’
Analytics Inform Strategy
Analytics grants businesses deep insight into customer behavior and patterns. This information is invaluable in guiding and informing company strategy in terms of sales, and marketing, facilitates growth, and helps with winning new clients while retaining existing ones.
Investing in customer analytics gives you a huge advantage with global management consulting firm Mckinsey & Company noting that businesses using customer analytics are twice as likely to outpace their competitors’ profits.
Analytics also aid internal problem-solving in the case of a businesses’ customer service. If there’s a snag in sales or reach, using analytics to understand communication breakdowns and deficiencies is an important first step towards ironing out these type of problems.
Know What You're Trying to Achieve
The amount of data made accessible through analytics is immense. To render this data useful, you need to first understand what it is you’re trying to achieve. This guides you towards information that is actually pertinent to your objectives. Once you know what it is you’re looking for, you can hone in on the specifics and implement actionable solutions.
Tools to Gather Data
A web portal is a common tool offered by customer service providers to provide real-time access to valuable data which businesses can leverage to inform critical decisions. Web portals allow companies to:
- Track the number of abandoned calls
- Obtain context-sensitive call scripts
- Receive alerts when operators use questionable or ambiguous words
- Review calls to identify communication breakdowns and deficiencies
- Manage scheduling
- Send messages to teams
- Monitor customer wait and problem resolution times
Not only is this data important in generating analytics, but also useful for keeping your customer service operation flexible as well as for quality control purposes.
Good Customer Service is a Great Investment
Boosting business growth through enhanced customer service requires a number of elements, including specialization, instilling and nurturing a culture of service, ably aided by the smart use of analytics.
Harmonizing all of these steps to boost growth is a tricky endeavor, but partnering with Helpware, an omnichannel customer service provider will help you navigate the hazards by delivering a custom recruited Customer Support team, 100% dedicated to your business.
Want to build an innovative team that’s customer-focused? Get in touch with Helpware today and discover how innovation thrives when a progressive approach is supported by cutting-edge processes and systems to drive growth and enhance your brand.