Top tips to improve customer service

The role of the contact center is changing fast as organizations begin to focus on filtering customer queries and prioritizing at the initial interaction stage.
The new paradigm concentrates not just on the nature of the query but on information intelligently gleaned about the customer’s value to the business. The ultimate aim is to create an effortless interaction, making it simple for the customer to get what they need from the engagement process at a price that is affordable and sustainable to the business. Here are the top five ways that organizations can achieve this.
First, deliver customer expectations, but don’t exceed them.Businesses should be careful not to waste resources and money on trying to exceed customer expectations which, according to research published by Harvard, results in virtually no loyalty gains. The best indication of increased spending and loyalty is the effort the customer needs to put into the relationship.
Second, provide solutions to enable customers to self-serve and help each other. Different types of customers will be comfortable with different methods of engagement. The younger generation in the 16-24 year old age category will typically want to make contact via a smartphone or mobile device, and will often be looking for voiceless interaction.
Offering a one-time URL that enables customers to navigate their way into the system and solve their problem themselves is likely to resonate well with the customer and save the organization money.
These customers typically won’t want to talk to a business about their problems. And once they have their solution, they are much more likely than other generations to become actively involved in the conversation and help answer queries for other customers via online forums or social networking sites.
Recent research carried out by consultancy Davies Hickman Partners indicates that this kind of approach would be likely to resonate well in the Asia-Pacific region, where consumers are increasingly autonomous and able to manage their own customer relationships.
Of those surveyed, 68% don’t believe contact centers are equipped to handle more complex enquiries. The vast majority (79%) are “shopper swots” who use the internet to plan and research before purchasing, and over half (54%) prefer self-service to interacting with sales agents.
Third, reduce channel switching to reduce effort. Customer service needs to be evolving all the time. At the start of any engagement process, most customers want their problem resolved on their terms at a time that is convenient to them on the device of their choice, and most will want all this to happen with as little effort on their part as possible.
For example, the customer has a problem and, looking for a quick resolution, dials up the provider’s contact center. He or she is then put on hold, transferred to an interactive voice response system and asked for personal details, including contact information, account number and the purpose of the call. The customer is then asked to respond to further questions via the telephone key pad before getting put through to someone else within the contact center, who ends up repeating the same questions.
A bad customer experience was created, which may even push the customer to “defect.”
Fourth, minimize obstacles that get in the way of customers. Companies should evaluate what a typical customer service journey might look like and then map this to the profiles they hold on each of their customers.
There are typically fewer than ten basic objectives each customer has when it contacts a vendor or service provider. If a customer is phoning a utility company for example, they will almost always be making the call either to tell them they are moving house, to pay their bill, or to disagree with the bill they have been given.
In answering such enquiries, companies should focus on understanding the profile of the customer they are dealing with and the type of problem they are likely to have. They can then look to create an effortless pathway (with a few steps in it as possible) to make it quick and easy for that customer to resolve their particular problem.
Finally, focus on problem solving and not on speed. Ensuring a rapid resolution to the customer’s enquiry can sometimes be at the expense of the quality of the response. Organizations need to make sure they have systems in place to identify customers and likely types of enquiry and sort, and prioritize their interactions appropriately.
With the right technology in place, businesses can classify customers and organize their material and respond to customers in the way that they want quickly, efficiently and successfully.
Jeremy Payne is international group marketing director at Enghouse Interactive.