Date Published: August 08, 2023 - Last Updated 156 Days, 18 Hours, 34 Minutes ago
In many industries, superior customer service is what sets a business apart from its competitors, fostering loyalty, attracting new customers, and driving growth. Whether it’s through the frontline contact center or self-service chatbots, here are some ideas to help you stand out from the crowd.
People have a misconception that customer service is always “inbound.” While inbound might account for the majority of customer service activity, high-performing service organizations will also have an outbound strategy. I’m not talking about telemarketing with a sales offer but rather proactive customer service. Often this means getting on the front foot before the customer even realizes they have an issue, for example, if water supply is going to be turned off in a particular area for a few hours, let people know in advance by SMS to avoid an influx of calls from confused residents. Or if an e-commerce shipment is delayed, notify the customer rather than make them log on to track progress and wonder what’s happening. Being proactive is not only a good approach to customer service, it also reduces call demand, cost and the accompanying strain on human resources in an inflationary, tight labour market.
Get the Human/Bot Mix Right
In the rush towards automation, one of the most common customer service complaints these days is to be caught in a frustrating loop caused by a chatbot or voice AI that does not understand the issue. The best customer service occurs when an organization pays a lot of attention to designing which customer service topics deserve a human response immediately versus those that are suitable for a chatbot, and builds in detection of customer frustration as a signal to transfer to a human as the conversation progresses. Not to mention always giving the customer the option to request a human! Unsurprisingly, a new category of AI-based CX testing software is emerging which helps companies diagnose the right human/bot mix.
Embed a Customer-Centric Culture
Over the last decade, contact centers have pleasingly shifted focus away from agent efficiency KPIs such as AHT towards more customer-centric KPIs such as first contact resolution, CSAT and NPS. This reflects a cultural shift in organizations recognizing the critical role of customer experience in business success. It is impossible to provide a stand-out customer service without a customer-centric culture – no AI or fancy tool is a substitute. So how do you create this culture? It starts from the top down and involves embedding a deep understanding of the importance of customer satisfaction among all contact center employees, from agents to managers. Every customer interaction is an opportunity to make a positive impact and build a lasting relationship. Typical elements of a customer-centric culture are:
- Invest in training, not only in product/service and systems knowledge but also in empathy, listening, and conflict resolution. These are the skills where humans excel over machines.
- Empower the frontline agents to make decisions that benefit the customer (within certain guidelines, of course).
- Provide regular feedback, recognition, and role modeling; positive reinforcement boosts morale so agents consistently deliver their best. Buddy up average performers with high performers in a friendly, motivating way, and give them the right incentives to continuously improve.
We live in such a fast-paced world. The rise of generative AI, which provides answers to questions within milliseconds, has only increased customer expectations for speedy service. There are a number of strategies which can help you achieve “nimble nirvana”!
- Budget does not always allow contact centers to scape up their workforce in line with rising contact demand. And when automation is not the answer, one of the best solutions is to offshore services, so you can afford to have a much higher headcount for the same or less cost as inhouse/onshore.
- When an unplanned event occurs that will affect customers, be ready to press the button on an outbound Voice AI or SMS notification strategy so you don’t get a deluge of calls you can’t answer in a timely manner (see above “Proactive” section)
- Use AI to spot social media comments which require fast action so you can prioritize service to customers that will have a big impact – it’s simply not possible for humans to manually monitor the online universe in a timely manner.
- Give back office teams the opportunity to join the contact center in surge situations so you can quickly upgrade your capacity and customers aren’t in mile-long queues – back office workers know your company and products, and with knowledge management software and AI prompts, they can help with little training for basic customer service.
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In summary, be quick, be proactive, get the human/bot mix right, embed a customer-centric culture, and you’re off to a flying start with a winning customer service proposition.