Insert heavy sigh of relief here as we enter the final weeks of 2020. Everyone is probably ready to put this year behind us and move onward and upward–especially those in customer service.
To say it was a tough year doesn’t cut it. It started with initially transitioning the workforce home following stay-at-home orders. Employees caring for families sick with COVID-19 (or sick themselves) brought challenges. Add to this staff managing childcare, distance learning, and shared home workspaces. Organizations that could continue to function demonstrated agility, adeptness, and patience in navigating these and other hurdles. On even the best days, customer service is tough work. The fact that things are still functioning as the pandemic rages on should be chalked up as a giant win for customer service teams everywhere.
Enough on 2020, it’s time to look ahead to 2021. With two hundred vaccines in development around the world and early vaccines already showing promise, it will only be a matter of time before some semblance of normalcy begins to return to daily life. While there is work yet to be done to get staff back into the contact center, that shouldn’t stop customer service leaders from planning on how they will continue to improve customer service and smooth out customer experience wrinkles. Two methods in particular bear consideration.
Address the underlying issue
Customers rely on customer service because problems–both minor and major–are inevitable:
- A charge is incorrect.
- An item arrives damaged.
- A service–Internet, streaming, booking, etc.–is down.
Whatever the reason, customer service exists to assist. But the cause of that problem originated somewhere outside customer service. That incorrect charge arose because of an issue in the billing department. Products damaged-on-arrival were a result of poor manufacturing or faulty packaging. A non-functioning service might be as a result of a code change by development team.
These are just a few examples of large issues encountered by a large segments of customers, and they have two negative consequences. The first is a hit to the customer experience: customers want things to just work and not require time spent solving problems. The second is the cost to the organization of taking the calls, emails, or chats on that issue over-and-over.
The solution to these never ending scenarios is to identify the underlying issue and have the team or department responsible address it. Modern customer service platforms make this possible by associating the case volume for a particular issue to a single problem. Using workflow, this problem is routed to the responsible area, where specialists can triage and resolve it. Workflow provides complete transparency to all involved (even to customers), and the issue can be tracked to closure.
By working in this fashion, two benefits result. First, issues are permanently resolved and the customer experience is improved. Second, the contact volume (calls, chats, etc.) related to the issue are eliminated, saving costs.
Notify customers proactively
While addressing the root cause of an issue is the customer-centric course to take, getting to that solution may take some time. During that period, customers impacted by it may be attempting to contact customer service. This takes valuable time out of the customer’s day while unnecessarily adding to contact center work.
2021 is the year to break that cycle by adopting a more proactive approach to service.
This requires keeping tabs on customer issues and quickly recognizing problem trends on an ongoing basis. As patterns emerge, other customers also likely to encounter the issue are identified. All affected and likely-to-be-affected customers are kept in the loop as progress towards a solution occurs.
This may sound like a lot of work, but modern customer service platforms make it possible. Using a managed series of steps, analytics identify the problem and creates a group of currently and potentially impacted customers. Customers in this group are notified (by email or text message, for example) of the problem’s existence, ongoing progress to resolve it, and the solution when available.
The prerequisite to make this work is collecting customer data: the products and services they are using, how they use them (if relevant), and how to contact them. Also required is real-time issue tracking to recognize and act on trends as quickly as possible. By running some hypothetical scenarios, it can be determined if the information and tools necessary to deliver proactive customer service are in place.
Both customers and the business benefit from this approach. A better customer experience results because customers need not take time to contact customer service about their problem. And similar to addressing the underlying cause, customer service avoids work related to this issue since customers are provided with updates and the eventual solution.
Resolve to deliver better service
We can collectively agree that 2020 is largely a year worth forgetting. It doesn’t change the fact that delivering the best possible customer experience is still important under all conditions.
The two techniques discussed here–addressing the underlying cause of customer issues and proactive customer service–are game changers. They can have a profound impact on customer experience with the additional benefit of cost savings. As the world navigates out of the pandemic, set sights now on how these methods can become the norm for customer service in 2021.