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Bad habits. How do they start and take hold so easily? We all probably have a few bad habits in our private lives. We also probably have a few occurring in our business lives, as well.

Sometimes we recognize these bad habits, but oftentimes we do not. And far too often, bad habits continue on because we don’t know any better–it’s how we have always done something (either personally or professionally).

Nowhere is this truer than in customer service.

Unfortunately, for many companies, mediocre customer service is the norm. It didn’t necessarily start out that way, but results from many bad practices. Organizations haven’t specifically decided this is what type of service want to provide, it’s simply the consequence of several bad habits that have made their service no better than average.

It’s time for a change. Let’s take a look at some of these bad habits, and how they can be broken.

Repeating the mundane

The first bad habit involves agents performing work that doesn’t make sense. Consider that much of a contact center’s work volume is consumed by common, repeated customer requests. These could be topics ranging from requesting more information about a product or service, payment issues, shipment status, etc.

These types of inquiries are ripe for answers delivered via self-service. Self-service can take many forms: knowledge base articles, automated solutions, chatbots, and online communities are all examples. Customers can help themselves and reduce or even eliminate the need for agents to address those issues.

One result is that agents will be happier. Though customers might still contact them with these issues, a greater share of those common topics would be addressed through customers self-serving. Agents can then focus on more interesting and challenging tasks, making work more interesting and reducing burn out.

Another result is customers will be happier. Remember, customers actually prefer self-service. They expect solutions at a time and place convenient to them. By not providing self-service options, you are technically doing them a disservice, which may, in turn, impact CSAT and NPS.

Ignoring the root cause

While automating solutions to common problems is a great habit to break, the fact remains that the issue is still present. The next bad habit to address involves identifying those common issues that could be permanently resolved and to work with teams outside customer service to solve them.

Consider the example of a customer calling for information about a product or service. Let’s assume it’s because usage instructions in the product manual are unclear: perhaps they are poorly written or have entirely omitted a step. While this is a fairly easy issue to address with self-service as updated information in a knowledge base article or making an updated manual in PDF format available for download, still it’s not convenient for customers.

With an issue like this, it would be easy for customer service to work with the documentation team to point out the problem. They can offer a solid business case for the reasons to address the issue in future product manual printings by sharing the volume of live contacts as well as self-service use by customers. The entire process of addressing the issue–from identification in customer service to the decision to reprint the manual, along with all collaboration, milestones, and tasks along the way–can be managed through workflow. By addressing the root cause in this manner, the business benefits in two significant ways:

  • Future calls, chats, emails and other live assistance is eliminated, resulting in cost savings.
  • The customer experience improves because customers no longer encounter this roadblock.

Neglecting to be proactive

The last habit to break might be hardest. Identified as a trend in 2014, it is still unfortunately minimally practiced. It’s a challenging one to address because it requires being ever vigilant and acting quickly. It means breaking from the reactive mode of customer service–waiting for customers to contact you with their issues–and instead taking preemptive action.

There are three phases to proactive service:

  1. Identifying and notifying likely-affected customers of a problem
  2. Keeping them aware of progress towards a solution, including setting expectations as to when a fix will be ready
  3. Alerting them when a solution is available

The key to all this is keeping customers informed. Sharing information with customers during these phases can take many forms. Customers can be kept notified via email. A recorded message might be played in the telephone queue. A pop-up message could be shown on the customer service website. An in-app notification could be presented. Consider what channels make sense for your customers and communicate accordingly.

Make the change

For human beings, change itself is never easy. Breaking a bad habit is even harder! Now factor in changing several poor behaviors inside a company which involves many processes and people (all very set in their ways). It sounds insurmountable, but it’s not impossible.

If your customer service is like others’, it’s not alone in suffering from all three of these bad habits. Start with addressing the common problems through self-service and automation. From there, move on to working with teams across your company to address the root cause of issues. Delivering proactive solutions becomes faster and easier when customer service is working beyond its walls to fix problems. In the end, when you have overcome these bad habits, you will find not only has your overall customer service improved but your customer experience, as well.