wynand_2Customer service excellence is an essential ingredient to commercial success. It’s a challenge facing businesses across the board, including SMEs and other entrepreneurial ventures. In a competitive environment, your company can’t afford to keep burning customers by not providing resolution to those valuable customer interactions – it’s necessary to take a closer look at the pain points your customers and customer service teams may be experiencing, and to resolve them as fast as possible.

Here are some of the leading pain points and solutions to those:

Repeat contacts

Customers strongly dislike having to contact a business multiple times, especially for the same reason. This wastes their time, and adds to the frustration, resulting in a less than favourable customer experience. In addition, customers want to be able to start a conversation with the company on one channel and then continue it on another (without having to repeat information).

Fix: All customer interaction and account history should be updated in real time and be accessible in a centralised place, irrespective of the channels the customer used to contact the company (e.g. email, voice, social media). Customer service agents must be able to access this information so that they have a big picture view of the customer’s interactions, or account history, and are well-placed to resolve the query efficiently and timeously.

Please hold…

We all have stories to tell of being kept on hold for long periods, sometimes at great cost to our airtime or phone bills. While contact centres and support departments may have busy times, customers will tire of having to sit and wait. The standard message of “we are experiencing high call volumes, please be patient” will do little to appease those who are kept on hold for extended periods of time – even if the query is eventually resolved.

Fix: You can have a call-back response that allows the customer to request an agent to contact them. This is helpful in times of high-volume contacts, whether those are anticipated or unplanned. Customers will also appreciate the fact that the company is taking the initiative and proactively making an effort to initiate contact.

Self-service options can also be added to automate routine inquiries that can be resolved quickly without the presence of an agent (e.g. balance inquiries or increasing an account credit limit). This reduces the load on the customer service agents as customers are able to resolve their queries on their own via USSD, SMS, web portals, kiosks or numerous other options.

Another way to reduce customer waiting time is to introduce workforce management tools. This enables contact centres to forecast service demand based on the analysis of historical trends and data. Forecasts are then used to ensure that contact centres are staffed with the right number of agents with the correct skills during anticipated peak or lull periods. By effectively managing the workforce and agent workload, the hold time will be reduced, service levels maintained, and the customer experience significantly improved.

Wrong / inconsistent information or no information at all

Agents not being able to answer a query, or different customer service agents providing different answers is often cited as one of the most frustrating aspects of interacting with contact centres.

Fix: Throughout the company, across various channels and systems, there must be seamless integration that provides agents with a centralized place to access customer, company and product/service information. If self-service is being used to handle simple customer service queries, the agent must be armed with the knowledge and access to information to efficiently resolve those queries that are decidedly more complex.

Beyond that, ongoing agent training plays an important role in ensuring that the correct information is being continuously communicated to customers.

Streamlining processes can also bridge interdepartmental gaps and reduce the likelihood of a communication breakdown between the business, the customer service agents and the end consumer.

In conclusion, all interactions with customers along the customer service journey should ensure that the customer experience is seamless and well-executed. Where possible, all the different departments with which customers may interact should not work as separate silos. The more information that is available regarding your customers, the greater the opportunity to personalise the customer experience – the golden goose of the business-to-customer relationship.

Ask yourself, what would my experience be if I wanted to engage in business with my company? Are there areas where we could improve?

If the answer is yes, you’re ready to serve your customers better.

 This article was first published by Tech Smart on 21 April 2017.