Anyone who has dealt with a customer service representative knows it’s rarely a match made in heaven. In fact, it’s usually quite the opposite.
Between long hold times, mismatched agents and unresolved issues, it’s no wonder why most interactions with a company’s contact center get off to a rocky start. Neither party is totally at fault for this unhealthy relationship -- customers simply want their issues resolved in a timely fashion, and agents have few insights into the people and problems that they are expected to address.
So how do we as an industry prevent this seemingly endless cycle? With Valentine’s Day upon us, I’d like to share three ways to make every customer/agent interaction the proverbial “match made in heaven."
1. Invest Time in Your Agents
Ultimately, it is the contact center agents who have the biggest impact on the customer’s experience. Beyond ensuring agents are well trained and have the proper tools such as scripts and data, organizations should also have a deep understanding of their agents’ capabilities, strengths and weaknesses based on real performance data over time -- not just subjective hunches -- and use that information to connect the right customer with the right agent for best results.
Contact centers should encourage their agents to deliver a personalized and optimized customer experience, rather than placing focus on metrics around average handle time, service level, abandon rate, speed of answer and first call resolutions. A focus on quality always delivers more rewarding relationships than quantity.
2. Look at the Customer Holistically
In the world of contact centers, there is no better way to kill the customer’s experience than to silo their information. Customers engage with companies through a variety of different channels, and each channel typically involves a different set of systems and technologies. This results in the well worn relationship killer response, “I have told you this about me many times before, I can’t believe you don’t know it.”
It isn’t the agents’ fault -- their view of the customer is simply limited to the current or a few specific interactions instead of being armed with a deeper understanding of the customer and their journey. From the customer’s perspective, interactions across the contact center are one experience, not multiple distinct interactions. If companies can connect the dots between these interactions, they will undoubtedly secure the perfect match.
3. Prioritize the Customer Perspective
In a contact center, nearly every interaction with a customer touches multiple systems across the enterprise. A 2011 study by Ventana revealed that 34 percent of enterprises must obtain data from six or more systems to produce their analytics. A fault of most business software is that it captures data, but doesn’t put that data into context. This makes it virtually impossible for companies to get that ever-important holistic view of their customers. To achieve this, companies need to be able to make correlations across the different types of data to better understand the customer, his or her needs, and how to best serve them each time your organization engages with them.
This is becoming very possible. A recent Forrester report on the future of customer service revealed that the use of predictive analytics will play an integral role in helping companies recommend the right content to customers, and connect customers to the right agents in order to increase satisfaction. The report went on to say that in 2014, customer service organizations will be investigating methods to recommend agent “next-best actions” during the service resolution process to offer service tailored to the customer’s unique needs and past purchase history. Anticipating the needs of your partner -- now that contributes to a healthy relationship.
Flowers, Candy … and Big Data
This all adds up to big data playing a critical role in not only making sure our customers are happy, but remain loyal. In other words, being in it for the long haul.
Contact centers collect tons of data from their customers, but whether it’s the first time a customer picks up the phone, sends an email or interacts with a customer service representative online, this data is stored in a disparate system. By consolidating this information to form historical performance and real time context, big data allows contact centers to make intelligent, analytics based decisions on their customer relationships. These decisions are backed up with months and years worth of detailed data, and not just high-level summaries or snapshots of specific time periods.
By tapping into the power of big data, contact centers can make data based recommendations on which agents to pair with their top priority customers to get every interaction off to the right start.
With the right thinking, technologies and commitment, any company in any industry can mend the broken relationship between their customers and agents so both parties can remain in the honeymoon phase indefinitely.
Title image by Preto Perola (Shutterstock)