There’s a disconnect between what businesses know about delivering exceptional customer service and what they actually achieve.
In a February 2014 report, Forrester Research noted that companies are moving toward new customer service delivery strategies, emphasizing “context, personal information, and predictive intelligence to generate proactive experiences.”
Businesses are evolving their approach because they recognize that a more mobile, connected consumer expects a more personalized, relevant experience. Companies know they have to engage and empower their staff to meet new consumer expectations. They understand that customers and employees alike want to feel engaged, empowered, and noticed. But according to the research, more than half of the surveyed companies fail to provide the type of customer experience that generates strong brand loyalty.
What’s behind the disconnect? Lack of knowledge about how to design and deploy a new customer service strategy with current resources is the primary culprit. What’s needed is a way to ensure that customers and employees both have an excellent communication experience that is painless, proactive, personalized, and productive. Here are four ways to achieve that:
At its core, productivity is about making the most of your resources. Every company has opportunities that can be leveraged. For example, businesses that generate customer data can use the information to personalize the customer experience. Companies that have customers who opt-in to company communications have a great opportunity to make contact and form a connection. Businesses that have built trust have an opportunity to create customer loyalty. Being productive means identifying your company’s unique resources and making the most of them. When you do, it benefits your staff and your customers.
Today’s consumers are used to two-way conversations rather than top-down communication. If they’ve reached your agent via an automated phone menu or web form that required them to provide information such as their name and account number, they don’t want to have to repeat that. Make sure your employees have a record of the customer’s prior interactions with your company so they can be more proactive. Coach employees to keep it simple and friendly when talking to customers. The more natural the interaction, the more pleasurable the experience will be for both the customer and the employee.
Everyone likes to have choices, and accommodating even small preferences can go a long way toward creating greater customer and employee satisfaction. For example, when building a loyalty program, give customers options–even something as simple as a choice of touch tones. Give employees an array of options to personalize calls to action. Empower them to reach out to customers by providing a thank-you note or sending a small gift. When you give employees and customers choices, both groups will feel that they are empowered to make the selections that are right for their unique needs.
Just as in ordinary non-business communication, customers should be greeted by name. Customers pay closer attention when employees know their history with the company and understand their needs. To engage employees and incentivize them to properly engage customers, consider setting up a friendly competition, such as a contest to see which agent can gain the most opt-ins to a loyalty program or collect the most employee contact information. Set up a leaderboard so staff can monitor progress. And always make sure your staff is fully informed before any upcoming promotions go into effect so they’ll be a part of the strategy.
As the Forrester Research report shows, customer service delivery is changing as consumer expectations evolve. Businesses want to provide an exceptional customer experience, but too many report that they are falling short of the mark. They may grasp the concept, but many don’t understand the practical steps they can take right now to improve their current approach.
The good news is that companies can enhance their customer service strategy without making a huge investment. They can make the most of the resources they have on hand to be more productive and focus on interactive communication. Businesses can give customers and employees alike more choices and maximize engagement across both groups. In this way, companies can deliver world-class customer service to next-generation consumers.
—Tara Kelly is CEO of SPLICE Software.