Good customer service is the key to success in business. Social media might be changing how consumers interact with businesses, but Zendesk (2020) found that an overwhelming majority of customers still said they typically called in to resolve an issue. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft (2019) found that over 60% of their respondents said they'd stopped using a brand after a bad customer service experience.
Customers have high expectations for customer service, which means businesses must do the most to accommodate. Otherwise, they risk losing their customers over a single bad experience that could've been avoided.
So, what can you do to improve customer service in your call and contact centers?
Let's start from the basics and point out the importance of staff training. Your live agents should be answering the calls with their name and the business name (the common 'hi, this is Alison, you're through to XX Brand Customer Support). This might seem simple, but it can leave a bad impression if overlooked.
Listening and mitigation
The most effective training and plans will not just train agents to stick to a rigid script but to properly listen to the customer and understand what they're saying. Your agents should:
If you record your calls (which you should), you can go through them (manually or by using software) to see what customers are having an issue with, whether your agents are handling the calls like they should, and whether there is a recurring issue that can be resolved.
You can use also use exemplary agents as examples for new staff, or to show other agents how to answer calls by showing them the recordings.
From a business point of view, IVRs are great because they can save you a lot of time by instructing customers which department to reach and taking out the middle man.
From a customer's perspective, IVRs are not so great, and they might be doing more harm than good. A 2019 Vonage study showed that around 61% of customers reported that an IVR menu made for a bad customer service experience. Reasons included constantly repeating their query, the menu being too long, and being forced to listen to irrelevant options. As a result, over 80% of customers switched brands.
The takeaway from all those statistics is that an overwhelming majority of people don't like listening to an IVR menu. Larger businesses rely heavily on IVRs, but SMBs could simplify their menu options and make it easier for customers to get through to a live agent.
Last year, I called my phone provider to switch phone numbers. The call lasted a whole hour without getting to the point because the agent was going back and forth between, 'we can't do this,' and 'please stay on hold while I check this,' and then the call disconnected about 50 minutes in. I called back the next day, and the lady on the phone told me she could get it done immediately. It took 2 minutes. This happened twice with two issues before I switched to another provider. It was a frustrating experience not because it took an hour, but because it took an hour, and then I found out that it didn't need to.
And thus, a big issue for many businesses becomes 'the last time I called, someone told me something completely different,' which is an avoidable problem. Telling the customer, 'well, I don't know who said that, but it's not right,' doesn't help.
The best way to go about this, which customers also prefer, is to have the same agent call the customer back. Your agents should be giving out the same advice anyway, but having the same representative deal with one customer can lead to higher customer satisfaction and less confusion.
Customer feedback surveys can help you improve your call center responses. You or your quality assurance team can check how many customers were satisfied with the call and if their query was answered. You can do this by adding a small survey at the end with a few questions.
Customers don't like having to constantly repeat themselves if they are being transferred to a different department. It's frustrating, and it can be avoided. Let your agents communicate and pass on the relevant information so that the next agent can pick up where the last one left off.
Customers hate long queue times or being placed on hold for extended periods. Many customers will hang up, and the ones who are waiting will have high expectations. Instead of tedious call queues, you can try some of the following:
Your agent should have all the customer's information handy. If the customer has been repeating their account number and name before being connected, they will expect you to know who they are when you start talking. Make sure the agent can see the customer's past purchases and history.
Your staff training should first and foremost tell your agents the best way to resolve a customer's issues the first time they call. Up to 30% of calls are callbacks from customers because the agent couldn't fix the problem the first time. And as mentioned, repeat calls can confuse both the customer and the agent, who will probably not know precisely what the customer was told the first time.
If your FCR is low, you should look at the reasons behind this. Up to 60% of the time, it's because the agent didn't have access to the correct data or perhaps couldn't access the data. Ensure that your agents have access to everything they need and that everything is working correctly.