Customer service is no longer a band aid to cover up broken and inefficient customer value chains. Nor is it just some channel for customer interaction. It is now an essential orchestrator of customer interaction. Hence many organizations must change the way they understand customer service and digitally transform.
This does not mean that organizations must manage all customer interactions within call centers, but when a customer needs a more human and closer connection with an organization to get what they want, customer service must be top notch and white glove. However, with the tectonic shift in the way business is conducted today due to the pandemic, customer interactions are spread across disparate channels (i.e. digital channels) and organizations must have the right digital foundations to bring it all together.
Customer service is a significant lever in the customer satisfaction category, a catalyst to expanding revenue, and it keeps the customer relationship sticky to the organization. Understanding customer needs, the relationship, how a customer wants to transact, and being expeditious in resolving their needs are at the heart of success.
How can organizations build successful customer service programs in today’s digital world?
- Walk in the shoes of the customer
- Review and address the technical underpinnings that to need to change
- Re-imagine and pivot customer contact centers
Walk in the shoes of the customer
Customers are smarter and more active in various channels, and their demands are increasing as technology accelerates the methods for transacting businesses. At the same time, there are gaps in creating seamless transactions and customers are crying for help. No question -- there are customers who ignore the technical interaction channels and those who simply want to deal with a real person.
Customer service needs to understand the customer needs, context, and how best to remove friction from a customer interaction to enable their success. Service agents are struggling to address and resolve every issue that comes their way because of system gaps and knowledge of the way business must be transacted to meet internal operational needs.
This is a common and compounding challenge that always goes back to the same place: customers don’t feel seen, heard, nor understood thus digital transformation must set up agents to drive the customer forward not fumble with resolving issues. Agents are too overloaded and not underpinned with the right technologies or foundations to understand the customer. In turn, customers get very frustrated with how they are handled.
It’s time to go back to the basics by asking yourself some generic (yet deeply important) questions:
- What are we, as a company, trying to do?
- Who are our customers?
- What do they want and how do they feel?
- Are we successfully listening to them and solving their problems?
Agents often work from scripts, pushing customers through “simple” multi-step prompts to address the problem(s). These processes aren’t personal or intuitive, adding stress for both the agent and customer. Customer service needs to change from manually solving execution gaps and forcing customers down long arduous processes to eliminating friction in the processes. Can you imagine a customer service person as a citizen process developer?
Review and address technical underpinnings that need to change
Having contextual knowledge of the customer and the speed of getting to that point of customer interaction is the differentiator. Better yet, it is essential in customers’ minds. Why should a customer have to do all the work with customer service or a contact point within the digital channel?
Artificial intelligence (AI) greatly impacts the way we work by automating rote tasks and eliminating manual, time-consuming work. However, organizations can miss the mark on how to properly utilize automation solutions in customer service. While automation enables agents to focus on the more challenging requests that require a human touch, automation also breaks the human connection that many customers need. Additionally, organizations miss the mark of leveraging technology to set context and remove friction of process gaps.
When a customer calls a customer service number, they are immediately routed through a recorded menu of service options followed by soothing music as they wait to speak with someone. Customers want their solution seamlessly resolved in a short amount of time and waiting on the phone doesn’t always achieve that, especially for customers who are not tech-savvy.
It’s not enough to simply automate chat with pre-scripted questions and/or prompts options for the customer. It’s about how you use the chatbot and how you want the customer to experience those automated features. How many screens does the customer see? Why are they reaching out for support via chat? If automation isn’t utilized with these thoughts in mind, customers won’t feel seen and heard. Make sure that your internal teams are savvy enough to understand customer experiences and needs so that these automated features are properly implemented and deployed to remove process gaps and make a customer’s journey frictionless.
Low-code development is a great way to quickly implement technology without needing technical expertise. However, organizations must be thoughtful in how they utilize low-code development for customer service because it can lead to technical and business debt.
For example: You are a customer service agent for a bank and you want access to a customer’s loan process. All you can see is that they are in process, but you want to know the specific status of the loan. So, with low code, someone can quickly build you a bridge to access that data. Great! However, be mindful that these quick solutions do add up and should be seen as bridges rather than catch-all solutions that anyone can use anywhere.
Re-imagine customer call centers
Are call centers a ‘cost center’, a ‘last resort to the customer’, or a customer ‘advocate’ center? Whether it’s a phone call, online chat or an in-person visit, the way customers and agents interact must adapt. We are seeing this already as customers become more tech-savvy and less inclined to wait on the phone or in line. Customers are more sophisticated and demanding thus customer interaction channels must be steps ahead of customers.
Call centers are challenging for organizations because they are expensive and challenging to build and source. Organizations will get smarter about how they build interactions and services. Customer service centers will move from the one-to-one structure to more spontaneous or natural affinity-based relationships. And, organizations will outsource their customer service needs to other organizations that specialize in managing people and interactions.
We are already seeing this with the travel industry: An airline’s call center will service its own customer base as well as the customer bases for their affiliate airlines. This creates an all-in-one shopping experience for travel agencies. And, as travel agents advocate for customers to set up and book leisure vacations, financial services, insurance, and healthcare (to name a few) organizations, must also pivot their thinking relative to their customer interactions. These other businesses have more emotionally charged interactions because money and health issues are naturally more sensitive.
This emphasizes the point that when call centers interact with customers, they pivot to be advocates to their customers by getting call agents and interaction channels into the proper context with the expected speed and readiness to remove friction for customers. Orchestrating the customer journey with speed and empathy is essential for the modern-day customer. This has the potential for consolidating technology capabilities and resources as organizations figure out how to work smarter, not harder.
Customer service is here to stay
Customer service has become far more critical in today’s business environment which is contrary to many prognosticators. It is not going away. It will always be a key conduit for customers thus it’s all the more important that organizations position right. Technology will continue to evolve and improve, but if organizations can’t utilize these methods properly, they won’t be able to fully understand their customers’ needs. Customer agents and AI technologies must work together to create customer experiences that are convenient, seamless, and empathetic.
How AI and automation will radically change service delivery.
Download this report to find out the key to keeping young customers happy, how trends manifest in different industries, why it’s important to offer always-on service, and how to do all of the above without losing a sense of empathy.