“There is only one boss: the customer.” The man who uttered those insightful words was Sam Walton — arguably the biggest “boss” of the 20th century. Even from the peak of prosperity, Walton was aware of the cornerstone of his success: the customer.
If your company is struggling with customer retention, you’re going to want to address the matter as quickly as possible. How can your customer service be improved to avoid driving customers off — a trend that will ultimately undermine your entire operation if left unchecked?
Understanding the Modern Contact Center
Before diving into the specifics, it helps to make one vital clarification regarding customer service in the 21st-century. Once upon a time the concept of “customer service” consisted of face-to-face interactions. Eventually, this in-person care was backed up by a call center with a few dozen reps tethered to a telephone.
Over time, though, there has been a dramatic paradigm shift when it comes to caring for customers. Technology, in particular, has opened up a variety of different customer relationship management (CRM) channels that enable customers to communicate with a company via avenues such as phone calls, texts, social media, emails, and on-site chats.
This diversity has allowed businesses great and small to provide a seamless customer experience. However, it also dramatically complicates how to handle the various messages, texts, calls, emails, and so on as they pour in from different locations.
This has led to the replacement of the “call center” concept with the “contact centers.” These are elaborate systems, either on-site or cloud-based, that funnel all forms of company-customer communication into a single, centralized contact center experience. No matter what format is used, each message goes to the contact center, where a rep can respond in an appropriate manner.
Why Your Customers Could Jump Ship (And How to Address It)
Contact centers are useful for logistics and organizations. However, the complexity of a contact center can open up the doors for several different shortcomings. Each of these can chip away at your customer base if you’re not careful.
Here are a few of the most common contact center faux pas as well as suggestions for how to address them.
1. You’re Missing the Human Touch
With so many communication options organized in a clinical manner, it’s easy for a contact center representative to lose a bit of their humanity in their responses. This can quickly lead to ineffective, boilerplate interactions that leave customers aggravated and frustrated.
In order to combat this tendency, make sure personnel are trained in concepts such as active listening and empathy. You can also make “providing a human touch” a mission statement for your contact center.
2. You’re Not Timely Enough
Time is everything with customer service. An email should be responded to within hours. A social media post should never sit for days unanswered. A live chat needs to be addressed within minutes.
If your response time is erratic or, even worse, consistently late, it can quickly push dissatisfied customers away.
In order to maintain proper timing, make sure that your staff is well aware of the priorities as they tend to various communications. This can be done both through training and a code of conduct (more on that further down.)
3. Your Personnel Isn’t Properly Trained or Equipped
Even the most invested employees still require both the knowledge and the tools to do their job well. Not only that, but their equipment and training must be updated on a regular basis. This is especially important in the COVID-19 era where many contact centers are cloud-based and representatives are working from home offices.
Dropped calls, slow internet connections, and laggy computer equipment can hamstring operatives as they work. In addition, many contact centers utilize third-party software to consolidate their contact center efforts. If employees aren’t thoroughly trained to use programs of this nature, it can lead to inefficiencies and a failure to adhere to proper protocol.
In order to combat this possibility, create thorough training programs and equipment checklists. This ensures that every employee has what they need to properly help each customer that they interact with. Ideally, this should be addressed through company-provided hardware or a stipend to cover personal costs related to equipment. It’s also important to schedule regular training sessions to keep all personnel up to date on the latest updates and patches from your SaaS provider.
4. You Aren’t Providing Consistent Service
Finally, there’s the concept of inconsistent customer service. Responding to customer inquiries is hardly the time to make a “good cop, bad cop” or a “Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde” impression. If you find that the quality of your customer service tends to vary wildly, you may want to consider making a change not just in training and personnel, but in the very way that you go about customer service in the first place.
You can do this by codifying your ideal customer service behavior into a company code of conduct. This should include any relevant information that can help to create consistency in your staff’s responses. For instance:
- Clearly define your brand’s voice, tone, and style of communication.
- Outline the exact window of time in which each kind of communiqué must be responded to.
- Inform employees about subtle factors, such as company mission statements and beliefs.
Clearly delineating the format of your brand’s communication is an essential step. It can help provide a sense of consistency and clarity no matter who is speaking or which contact channel is being used.
There are many factors that can make your contact center sink or swim. Basic elements like timely responses and proper training are critical to address. Nuances such as providing a human touch and being consistent also factor heavily into consideration. The most critical aspect of all, though, revolves around the willingness of leadership to acknowledge the issue and identify the problem.
If you find that your contact center is pushing customers away, refer to the above possibilities and then search for the problem. Only then can you begin to craft a solution that will both satisfy current customers and maintain your brand’s reputation over time.
Interesting related article: “What is Customer Service?”