The 5 key areas to invest in to improve customer service
Customer service directors face increasing challenges. They have to deal with a growing number of queries, calls, emails and tweets from consumers, who demand the highest levels of service, irrespective of channel. At the same time, they have to balance their budgets and ensure that they are delivering value to the business through efficient and cost-effective operations.
Meeting these two objectives, which can seem conflicting, requires a strong combination of people, process, and technology in order to deliver the right customer experience within budget. Luckily, most organizations now see the benefits that the increased investment in customer service can provide, both in terms of retaining existing customers and generating new revenues.
So, what are the areas that they should look to invest in? Obviously, activities will depend on a company’s particular circumstances, but here are five projects that are proven to deliver a fast Return on Investment (ROI):
1. Centralize knowledge
Many organizations have grown customer service on a channel by channel basis, with each channel having its own answers to consumer questions. Sometimes these sources aren’t even digital but contained in paper manuals that are quickly out of date. Customers hate receiving inconsistent answers across channels, and it causes confusion and lowers First Contact Resolution (FCR) rates. In some industries, such as financial services, providing inconsistent answers can breach compliance, leading to fines and damage to corporate reputations. By centralizing knowledge, and then making it available across all channels (such as to agents answering enquiries and consumers accessing information on the web site), companies benefit in two ways – they bring down costs and also ensure that service is consistent and seamless, whatever contact channel a customer chooses.
2. Integrate your email
Many organizations still rely on desktop email programs, such as MS Outlook and Lotus Notes to manage incoming interactions from customers. Desktop email programs are limited – agents share single mailboxes, leading to inconsistency, duplication of work and the potential of missed emails. Even with smaller businesses now receiving hundreds of emails per day, and volumes growing, this hampers their ability to respond quickly, manage queries or link email interactions to other channels. Switching to an email management solution that is designed specifically for customer service agents can double productivity, increase consistency and lower response times with the additional benefit of statistics and management reports which will allow you to continuously monitor and improve why way in which your agents work.
3. Reduce avoidable contact with self-service
Consumers want answers to their questions in the fastest, most convenient manner for them. Still, too many are forced to pick up the phone, send an email or tweet as they cannot find basic information on corporate websites. This avoidable contact pushes up incoming email and voice call volumes while also annoying consumers who are forced to switch from their channel of choice as well as having to wait for responses to their email or going through convoluted telephone options and listening to annoying hold music for lengthy periods of time. Installing self-service systems that provide answers quick answers to routine questions online, therefore, generates a rapid investment payback – companies save as the number of emails and calls reduces dramatically, while at the same time customer satisfaction levels improve.
4. Commit resources to web chat
With the rise of WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and other IM solutions, chat seems to be the preferred channel of communication for the millennial generation. Web chat is a proven channel that combines the immediacy of the phone with the ease of email communication. Consumers like it as they get the chance to have a conversation to get their query solved, in near real-time, while businesses benefit as it is more efficient than the telephone, with agents able to handle multiple chats at the same time. However, the 2015 Eptica Multichannel Customer Service Study found that only 9% of top brands had chat deployed when they were tested – even though 26% claimed to offer it when first surveyed. Essentially many seem to be switching off chat when resources are scarce, despite the advantages it offers. Often installing web chat can be relatively easy – what is difficult is ensuring that enough trained agents are available at peak times to meet demand, and therefore deliver the ROI.
5. Train and motivate your staff
Technology can only take a contact center so far. You need to ensure that your agents are trained on how to use it, understand the advantages it brings to their job and are motivated to use it to improve productivity and the customer experience. Essentially, by providing them with the knowledge and tools to underpin their job, they can focus on helping consumers, making the whole process more positive and boosting satisfaction for everyone involved. Invest in training and empower agents if you want them to perform at their best.
There are many areas where investment can improve customer service, and I’ve listed just five. Do let me know your personal ideas in the comments section below.