Published: July 21, 2020 | Comments
Perspective is everything, especially in the customer service industry. The phrase “The customer is always right” can be a difficult concept to grasp, and easily rejected from the service side of things. We have the training and the knowledge, so how can the customer know best?
As contact center professionals, it’s our responsibility to understand the customer’s perspective and address their needs accordingly. The customer does know best, in the sense that they are the ones experiencing our products and services. If their experience is unclear, complicated or poor, it doesn’t matter how efficient and clear we feel the processes are from the contact center perspective. It’s important to understand the consumer’s view of things in order to improve their experience.
For this purpose, I asked a group of consumers what their biggest customer service pet peeves were as it relates to contact centers. This is a topic consumers feel passionately about, and there are some simple ways to address their biggest grievances.
Addressing System Issues or Equipment Quality
While quality representatives and training are at the forefront of good customer service, your customers also care about the quality of your equipment. Every once in a while it’s a good idea to call/email/chat your own team, and go through the motions from the perspective of your customers. Listening to call recordings is a good way to ensure the quality of the interactions between reps and consumers, but you want to test the full experience, as well.
Starting with your IVR, customers get frustrated when the audio is staticky, hold music is too loud, or the prompts don’t function correctly. When asked, people indicated that they would stay on hold for longer if the hold music and prompts were not difficult on the ear. Something as simple as updating your hold music to a softer song with no static, and spacing your prompts out to a less “annoying” frequency, could decrease your abandon rate and ensure more customers get the support they are looking for.
One of the biggest indicated grievances when it comes to equipment quality was hearing too much background noise on a call. Consumers dislike when they can hear other agents in your center, because they feel it’s distracting and makes it difficult to hear their rep. One customer mentioned that if she hears too much background noise on a call, she will hang up and reach out through a written channel, which affects the brand’s ability to have first contact resolution.
We’ve experienced this concern in our own center at Callzilla, and we found three ways to address this: first, invest in some good quality noise-canceling headphones. Second, if you have low cubicles and your reps are standing up while on the phone, their voices may be carrying across the room. You can either ask your reps to remain seated, or extend the cubicle walls to standing height. Lastly, if you have a 24-hour contact center like we do, you can reorganize the seating arrangements so agents who work on the same shift are spread throughout the center. Also, instead of grouping phone agents, email agents, and chat agents in separate areas, you can mix the seating so multiple phone reps are not seated next to each other.
This era of automation is exciting for the industry, but also came up numerous times as a grievance for consumers. Your customers may be frustrated when your IVR doesn’t quite understand them, or when your chat bot doesn’t have all the answers, but that’s not necessarily a reason to scrap the project. Of course there will be some bumps in the road when testing new technology like voice and chat bots, but it’s important to keep in mind that AI is a work in progress. For continuous improvement, assign someone to quality monitor your customer’s interaction with these systems and improve the AI’s bandwidth on a daily or weekly basis.
In addition to updating the quality of your equipment, there are also improvements to be made in the processes in which we use them. Hands down, the biggest complaint I’ve heard from consumers is the long wait times before reaching a representative. Of course, a likely fix to this would be adding additional staff, but that’s not always economically or logistically possible. Something we offer to our clients at Callzilla is implementing a callback option with the brand’s IVR. You can assign business rules (custom for each company) indicating if the customer is waiting x amount of time in the queue, they will be given the option to “press 1” for a callback. The IVR will then confirm the customer’s phone number, and put them in line for a return phone call by the next available representative. Some customers mentioned that they would even prefer to wait longer for a callback than wait on the line for a representative to answer.
Consumers also find themselves frustrated when there is not an immediate opt-out option of the IVR to speak directly with a live agent. From the contact center standpoint, it’s understandable to have this as an efficiency tactic. However, there is a balance between offering efficient customer care through automated services, and giving quality/meaningful customer service. If it’s possible to offer a direct line to a live agent, it may be beneficial to offer it if customer satisfaction is a top priority for you.
Next, audit your IVR options to ensure that the prompts you’re offering cover the array of reasons why your customers are calling. If the options aren’t clear or missing based on prominent dispositions, your customers may find themselves in the wrong department, which increases their wait time and in turn, frustration. As your business grows and changes, remember to reevaluate the support your automated systems are offering.
Once the customer reaches a representative, they expect efficient service. If this is not their first time calling, they will look for the representative to be familiar with their case and not have to repeat information given on a previous call, chat, or email. In this new omnichannel world, it can be easy to let interactions fall through the cracks, and CRMs don’t always sync well with each other. If it’s not possible to sync consumer interactions from multiple channels into one CRM, consider implementing a documentation process on the agent side. Agents should have a uniform way to document information from each channel in a central location, so their peers can pick up right where they left off. Your agents will be able to more quickly pick up on case notes if they are documented the same throughout each channel and rep.
Agent Level Support
A common complaint, which I’m sure we’re all aware of, is when an agent appears to have an attitude or is condescending to a customer. It would be easy to write this off as an agent issue, but let’s look at the bigger picture.
What is it that may be causing your agents to feel frustrated or short tempered? It could be that they’re feeling overwhelmed or overworked, and more frequent breaks or additional staff could help lighten the load. Maybe there is a system you could automate to make their lives easier. The solution could be as simple as implementing a bottom-up feedback form so agents can propose efficient solutions to their everyday problems, and have a better outlook on coming to work every day.
Consumers also dislike when agents interrupt them or rush them off the phone. This could be a training issue, but could also be pressure to meet KPIs. If consumer satisfaction is a top priority for you, you may want to take a look at what metrics you’re pushing most. As an example, if you expect your agents to have an AHT of 5 minutes, is that a realistic amount of time for your customers to say what they need to say and build rapport with their representative? If possible, build in some extra time to solve their issue and also provide a meaningful customer experience.
Creating or Updating Company Policies
Consumers are averse to hearing scripted statements from an agent that may come from your legal or PR team. Uniform messaging can be important, especially when it comes to legal lingo. However, when an agent repeats the same line over and over, it can be perceived as an attempt to hide something or be deceitful. We can’t always avoid the use of scripted responses, but we can teach agents to empathize with the customer, and build rapport. Also, ensure agents are addressing each customer question individually (whether it be a phone call, chat, or email), and not using blanket statements that don’t necessarily fit each inquiry.
Another concern that can be perceived as an agent issue is when an agent gets defensive or does not take responsibility for a situation because they did not personally cause it to happen. It’s generally understood by the public that individual representatives do not have their hand in every part of the customer experience. Each time they call, chat, or email, they are likely interacting with a different person. However, consumers look at each agent as a representative of the bigger company, and expect them to conduct themselves as such.
It’s important for your agents to identify with the brand they’re representing so they feel a sense of responsibility to be part of the solution. There are a few ways to cultivate a brand culture in your outsourced contact center, and this part should be fun! Request swag from your client to give to your agents, put up posters with the brand logos on the floor, or throw a pizza party on behalf of the brand to celebrate the agents’ good work.
There you have it from the consumer’s point of view! Customer care isn’t easy, but hopefully this gives you an idea of some small things that could go a long way.
Photo courtesy of WOCinTech