Delivering the stellar service that protects a brand, increases customer lifetime value, and supports new business models requires a new approach.
Fifteen years ago, the only thing businesses wanted to know about customer service was how to spend less money on it.
It’s a measure of how things have changed that today the main thing businesses want to know about customer service is how it can solve customer problems and keep customers coming back.
The philosophy of customer service has changed. It’s no longer a cost center, but a means of improving the way an organization is run, and of protecting the brand. The best way to put that philosophy into action is by creating an intelligent service operation for connected business benefits.
Here, intelligent doesn’t mean artificial intelligence, machine learning or anything directly related to technology and devices. Automation and technology play an important part in creating intelligent service, and in helping human agents do a better job, but they’re elements of a much bigger structure.
It means an operation that works in an intelligent manner, something close to the dictionary definition of intelligence: “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.” That’s essentially what defines an intelligent service operation – the ability of service teams to acquire and apply the knowledge they need to solve the customer’s problem.Your organization already has the knowledge and skills needed to solve your customers’ problems. Turning this resource into an intelligent customer service operation requires giving agents access to it and allowing them to use it.
Connect your agents to the rest of the organization
Acquiring the knowledge needed to solve a problem means agents need to talk to other parts of the organization. This means customer service is not just a job for customer service agents. It requires the involvement of anyone whose job has an effect on customers.
To achieve these connected business benefits, agents need to be able to reach whoever can help the customer and access information that can help. They need to be able connect to the rest of the organization.
And the rest of the organization must be willing to help. Just like a customer, agents do not need to be passed on to someone else or to be put on hold or to be told to call back later. They should be treated like customers by the rest of the organization because, as far as the rest of the organization is concerned, they are the customer.
Intelligent customer service plays a huge role in e-commerce revenue and the overall customer experience, boosting loyalty and reducing churn.
Use automation to make agents’ jobs more fulfilling
The greatest benefits of automation aren’t saving money or replacing humans. They’re the ability to take over repetitive tasks that make jobs boring and to speed up processing information.
When a human doesn’t have to do those tasks, they do a better job and have more time for complex tasks, such as talking to customers and solving their problems: jobs that help to build a better relationship with the customer.
Employee turnover is a big problem in customer service. US pre-pandemic agent turnover rates were between 30 and 45%. Nearly half of your workforce could leave every year. That situation hasn’t improved – in the UK, 45% of agents in this survey said they were thinking of “leaving within a year.”
Yet without skilled, empathetic and efficient agents, you don’t have a customer service operation. You have people answering phones.
Two of the most common reasons for job dissatisfaction are having too much to do and not enough time to do it in, and lacking the knowledge required to provide a better service. Both can be solved with automation.
Agents want automation to quietly and quickly make it easier to understand a customer’s problem and give them the information they need to solve it. Solve agents’ problems with automation and you’re helping them solve the customer’s problems, which in turn improves their job and makes them happier.
What makes a customer service superhero? Help your customer service agents activate these superpowers and see customer satisfaction soar.
Find the right person to help for connected business benefits
Connecting agents to the experts is one thing. Making sure that they’re connected to the right experts, and that the experts can actually help is another (and arguably as important).
Collaboration within organizations is often fragmented and inefficient, and finding the right person to talk to turns into a protracted back and forth. Imagine a customer is calling because of a piece of critical machinery has failed, and it needs sorting out as soon as possible. The customer expects your agents to have the solution and if they don’t know the answer, then they’ll know where to look.
They’re not expecting to wait until tomorrow while the agent calls around trying to find the person who can help.
An intelligent customer service operation connects agents to the right experts and the right information.
Agents might not even need to contact anyone else, because the information they need is right in front of them. But when they do, automation helps connect them and make sure the right expertise is used to help the customer.
With the shift to remote contact centers, companies are taking steps to help customer service agents collaborate. The results are amazing.
Ask your customers what they think (and then tell the agents)
Customer experience feedback should be standard. It won’t tell you what every customer is feeling, and many customers won’t respond, but if you don’t ask, you can’t begin to tell.
At a basic level, it gives customers a chance to vent or praise, and means they’re being listened to. You need to give customers a means of expressing their feelings about your service — as long as you then use the feedback to help them.
But it can do much more than help solve individual customer problems. Feedback should be used as a competitive advantage: if you know what your customers think, want and would like, you can do a much better job than a rival that doesn’t.
Anything that allows you to adapt quickly in today’s ever-changing business environment gives you an edge. And asking customers what they think is one of the most valuable, real-time methods of measuring performance and finding ways to improve.
Why improve your service experience? 80% of customers say they’ve switched brands due to poor CX. Here are three ways to fix it.
A philosophy, not a system: Real connections, real business benefits
Intelligent customer service isn’t one system. It’s a way of working, a philosophy that uses technology to give your agents the knowledge and power to solve customer problems, and your organization the resources to adapt quickly when circumstances change.
At its most practical, it’s an answer to the continued challenge of solving customer problems quickly and efficiently. At its most conceptual, it’s a chance to connect every part of the business to its customers for real benefits.
And at its most fundamental, it’s a means of making customers happy, and happy customers mean better business. With more repeat business and more retained customers and increased efficiency, it could even save you some money.