Published: May 16, 2017 | Comments
Exceeding customer expectations should be one of the highest priorities for a contact center. This is because happy customers translate into return buyers and excellent reviews, both of which help foster brand ambassadors. Eventually, your company will be known for exceptional customer service, which new customers long for. Of course, it goes without saying that this is no easy task. Each customer has different needs and expectations of what good customer service is, which requires customer service reps to constantly adapt and problem solve. Case in point: Millennials. This determined demographic often has unrealistic expectations for what they want, especially when it comes to high-quality service provided by a company.
The Millennial mindset is revolutionizing the customer expectation as a whole. This demographic is passionate, motivated, and incredibly tech savvy. There is a sort of entitlement to exceptional quality for goods, services, and products, which drives them to develop fierce brand loyalty. By no means is this a bad thing; in fact, every customer deserves the highest quality of service, regardless of age group or demographic. That’s why we believe Millennials are the perfect demographic cohort for building a customer relations strategy. Simply put, if you can please them, you can please anyone.
Consider the following points when developing a customer service strategy that can exceed the expectations of not just Millennials but any generational cohort or demographic.
Be Unscripted Yet Systematic
Millennial customers typically roll their eyes when they hear scripted, or rote answers. Avoid this by training representatives to know what to say in any situation (this is a massive, yet worthwhile undertaking). While training for this will vary vastly from industry to industry, allowing customer service reps to have the autonomy to address the problem will be a big first step in meeting and exceeding expectations. Immediately addressing their concern requires knowledgeable, quick-thinking representatives. Reps need to be trained to know the ins and outs of policies, products, and company values in order to efficiently respond to any customer’s needs. No, this won’t be easy at first, but creating an environment in which mid-level managers and higher ups sign off on allowing customer reps to be, do, and act for themselves will do wonders for meeting and surpassing customer expectations. This latter part--getting management approval--may be the hardest of all to achieve but can pay the biggest dividends.
At Signs.com, we take product knowledge seriously, making sure that all customer experience representatives (CXRs) know the ins and outs of each sign, banner, display, and material so we can effectively cater to our customers’ questions. CXRs are extensively trained on a wide variety of custom signs and their options, accessories, and applications. Further, because the autonomy to act, think, and solve problems for themselves has been instilled in the company culture Signs.com reaps many benefits that outweigh the desire to control front line employees who day in and day out build a brand and its reputation. These include, but aren’t limited to: less involvement and labor from upper management, greater loyalty and commitment by CXRs to the brand and the vision of the company, less time spent on drafting and finalizing comprehensive scripts, fewer reworks and cancellations due to happier customers, and an incredibly happy customer base who regularly refers new customers at no cost to the company because their expectations have been exceeded. Everyone, including Millennials, want to talk to a real person who has the autonomy to solve problems, but due to industry-wide practices, it's amazing how often expectations are exceeded by simply creating an environment where this can happen.
Be Real, Be You
Let’s not forget personality in this equation. Representatives are not robots programmed to solve problems heartlessly. We’ve seen effective customer service thrive due to real, one-on-one connections. Each representative should be encouraged to let their personality shine, whether that be over the phone, through chat, or face-to-face interactions. Millennials desire a less-formal approach to customer service. It’s the challenge of the representative to be casual in conversation without sacrificing professionalism.
Millennials communicate differently than other demographics in conversation. Communication in their eyes does not have fluff or sugar coating. It’s straight to the point, it’s clear, it’s concise, it’s meaningful. If it takes more than 20 seconds to explain a point, you’ve probably lost the customer’s attention. Putting a Millennial on hold is the last thing you want to do.
Quickly Communicate Through Multiple Channels
Patience is a virtue they do not have, so throwing them into a seemingly endless cycle of waiting is a deterrent for keeping them as a loyal customer. Develop a system to provide information without having to put a customer on hold for extended periods of time and trust your front line employees to have real conversations that build your brand and customer service reputation. Because Millennials consume information quickly, offering multiple communication channels will allow you to maximize the availability of customer service resources. Besides the typical call-in support, offer online live chat, social media, and mobile friendly channels.
Millennials want communication options that work around their schedule and lifestyle. Offering variety in how customers can connect with CXRs is one giant step towards meeting and exceeding their expectations using their preferred channel. Each channel must be optimized for immediate response. Live chats and social media are ideal for instantly responding to a customer’s concern without having a traffic jam of inquiries (multiple chats can be handled by a single representative). It’s up to the representative to be alert for incoming messages; again, leaving a customer hanging will deter them from further interacting with the company or brand.
When implementing multiple communication channels it is crucial that customers can seamlessly use any channel while still having quality and consistency in the service provided. This can be done using customer accounts that track when a customer interacts with one of your reps, giving the rep the ability to make notes on why the customer initially sent in an inquiry. Such a system will organize the response process and result in quick, efficient problem-solving.
Along with quick and efficient problem solving, CXRs should strive to connect with customers beyond a superficial personality. We believe that empathy is the key to unlocking excellent customer relations through developing instantaneous trust and comfort. Millennials crave emotional connection, which can be used to foster immediate trust (and brand loyalty) between the representative and the customer. Standoffish, brash, rude, unconcerned, and indifferent responses are completely, one-hundred percent unacceptable. It may seem obvious, but it needs to be emphasized that proper contact center etiquette is crucial for meeting any customer’s expectations. The critical part to remember is that this etiquette can be met while still connecting with customers. Good phone skills and connecting with a customer are not mutually exclusive!
Show customers you care by following up your response with clarifying questions to ensure they understand what you’re saying. A simple, “Was there anything unclear about what I explained?” or, “Do you have any additional questions about that?” can make the difference in satisfying a customer’s needs instead of providing information that is incomprehensible to them. Further, simple questions about someone’s day, interests, family or otherwise can express a personal interest in them when used with prudence and at appropriate times so as to not waste someone’s time when they simply want their problem solved. The ideal of both worlds is to show your customers you care about them as people and not just a number or dollar sign, while still providing a speedy and fair resolution of their problem or inquiry.
We firmly believe that embracing the Millennial customer experience is at the cutting edge for revolutionizing how contact centers and CXRs operate. This isn’t just some amorphous idea; we’ve adapted our customer experience model based on a Millennial way of thinking. This model allows us to problem solve at an individual level, giving every customer the one-on-one attention they need. This model merges traditional customer experience principles with new-age thinking (like the ideas presented above), to provide a solution and strategy far more likely to exceed expectations.
With these principles in place, it provides the framework to properly serve any demographic’s unique needs and expectations. A case in point is our business signage in contrast to our Signs For Home product line, the latter of which consists of custom photo prints geared towards consumers. Not only do the products and end uses differ tremendously, but so do the types of buyers for these products. The former consisting of every type of business who may or may not be spending their own money versus the latter, which almost always represents someone spending their own disposable income. Providing the same scripted, impersonal, slow service to both of these types of buyers would be a disaster. Rather, using the principles as outlined in this article has allowed our CXRs to adapt to differences in buyer behavior and expectations. This principle-based approach has helped Signs.com become known for its outstanding customer service, winning multiple customer service awards along the way.
So no matter what demographic your primary buyer is, or if there is a mix of demographics, putting these principles in place in your call center won’t be an easy task; but doing so will pay dividends that far outweigh the cost of implementation!