There’s no question that the digital wave has washed up on the deserted island of self-service. It’s been reported that, across industries, 81 percent of all customers try to handle their customer service concerns themselves before reaching out to a live agent.
At the same time, today’s customers are also proving the adage that it’s not what you say, it’s what you do – and, even more importantly, how you make people feel. This is borne out of research by Forrester, which found that how an interaction makes the customer feel makes up 50 percent of the equation for customer experience.
Businesses today must balance their self-service automation with human support in order to deliver the level of service that customers demand. But when customers begin their journey with non-human processes, how do companies ensure that their customer service values are clearly on display? Here are four places to make sure you “walk the walk” when talk is not the first option.
- Value your customers’ time.
Let’s face it: We are impatient. Customers say that resolving issues in the quickest way possible, and with the least amount of effort, is their top consideration for channel performance, no matter if that channel is agent-assisted or self-service. Furthermore, we are entering a phase when the proliferation of channels is adding confusion, not convenience. ICMI has reported that 87 percent of customers expect companies to clearly point them to the most direct and efficient channel, whether that be phone, email or online chat, and that they want a seamless transition between channels.
VHT recognized the need to eliminate long hold times as a key customer service goal more than 20 years ago. Since then, VHT Callback has given back to clients’ customers more than 1 billion (yes, billion) minutes of their lives.
- Invest in the tools your customers prefer.
In addition, we also like to feel in control. The expansion of AI into customer service, through chatbots and virtual agents, can help customers feel empowered, and this self-service is an important component of the omnichannel experience that customers prefer. However, as part of valuing your customers’ time, your omnichannel solution must include seamless integration between self-service and assisted service so that your customers aren’t frustrated by having to repeat information or spend time on hold.
To support the omnichannel experience, VHT created Conversation Bridge so your agents can quickly and proactively rescue any customers stranded in the self-service space. And, like Callback, it’s a tool that integrates into your broader management system.
- Maximize your own data.
So far we’ve discussed solutions that interact directly with your customers in some way. A great deal of passive assistance can also be gained “behind the scenes” as your own customer data is crunched by AI and machine learning technologies. These tools can capture information from calls, social media, and messaging, combine it with information in your CRM, and provide your agents with real-time customer information and past history with your brand. Having this information makes it much easier for agents to personalize each interaction, deliver quicker and more efficient service, and thereby improve customers’ emotional response to the experience.
- Invest in your agents.
Even customers who begin in the self-service arena are likely to arrive in front of one of your agents at some point, and consumers rate “live” phone calls as the second-best channel for eliciting the most positive emotions. However, many businesses today have prioritized technological innovation and underinvested in their customer service staffing – unfortunately at a time when their contact centers are fielding only the most complex customer issues. So, while self-service has kept up or surpassed customer expectations, the process of person-to-person interaction has not. In fact, it’s been reported that 41 percent of service teams say they don’t have the necessary agent training required to provide the personalized service customers expect today.
In other words, if you’re serious about impressing your company’s customer service values upon your customers, it’s more critical than ever to hire, prepare, and arm your agents with the best tools. The goal for the most productive contact centers is to hire the best problem solvers: agents ready to think on their feet, proactively analyze customer issues, mold their responses according to context, and effectively present a customized solution rather than an overabundance of options. One way to find these recruits is to determine what your top performers enjoy most about their jobs and then craft your job posting to feature this information. Along with updating hiring practices, companies should find new approaches to talent development and performance management, tailoring them to their teams’ needs. Finally, remember that AI isn’t just for self-service; when it’s applied to agent assisted interactions, humans and machines can work together to provide a better, more contextual experience.
When you give your agents the tools they need to improve their own performance, their own experience and satisfaction increases – and that, in turn, improves their ability to consistently deliver the exceptional experiences your customers crave.