What Customers Actually Expect of Customer Service Agents

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How can you provide a memorably amazing customer experience if you don’t have a clear understanding of what your customers want when it comes to service? Leading brands known for their quality all have one thing in common. They focus on understanding what customers expect of them. This includes engagement with customer service agents.

Even with the best products and prices, service still matters. In fact, with consumers now having unlimited access to product information via the internet, service matters more than ever and has become the most important brand differentiator. So, what do customers want and expect today when they are dealing with a customer service agent? Here are some essentials:

Personalized Interactions
It’s ironic that as customers become more technology-dependent, they yearn for more personal interactions. With the addition of many fast, convenient self-service channels, customers who are calling into a service center are doing so because they have a more complex question or need to escalate an issue. In other words, they could already have reached a level of frustration that can be made worse by an agent who forgets that a customer is a person with feelings. Customers increasingly expect a personal contact center experience. This requires agent training, as well as the right technology to quickly give agents the information they need to provide a personalized experience.

Access to Journey Information and Account Details
Of course, providing a personalized interaction requires much more than having the customer’s name and account number. It also requires the knowledge of every step of their journey from visits to the website and social media channels to chat conversations, emails and calls. An omnichannel approach is necessary to connect every touchpoint and channel and give the agent access to real-time customer history and context. With this information, agents can begin to offer the effortless, knowledge-driven service that customers want and expect.

Great Communication Skills
The trend to outsource customer service to overseas contractors has slowed down since companies felt the measurable impact of customers becoming frustrated by communication challenges. Language barriers, cultural differences, and a lack of training resulted in miscommunications and plenty of churn to competitors offering a higher quality customer experience. Today, customers don’t appreciate an agent reading from a script or one that can’t answer questions in a clear, conversational manner. The fact of the matter is that agents remain on the frontlines of service, despite many advancements in contact center technology. Because of this, they need the training and freedom to speak in a logical, fluid way that resonates with customers.

First Call Resolutions
Among the top gripes that customers have about service is having to repeat their issue to multiple agents. The problem usually can be traced back to poor contact center routing capabilities. Too often, customers are placed in queues to wait for the next available agent. When the agent doesn’t have the skill set to handle the call, the customer is transferred. It only takes one transfer to launch customer frustration. With each additional transfer and wait on hold, the risk of losing a customer sharply increases.

Greater Accessibility
Today’s customers are mobile. They want to access an agent on the channel of their choice. This now means offering more than just a toll-free number and an email address. Customers want the flexibility to text, instant message, chat or use an app. They also want to be able to shift between channels or even use multiple channels simultaneously. If you’re not where customers want to communicate, they will take their business to those that are.

Decreased Wait Time
Patience has become less of a virtue in the age of on-demand. Customers don’t appreciate waiting on hold or lengthy pauses when they are working with an agent who is shifting between multiple desktops to obtain information. Once again, improved routing can help by balancing the flow of calls and by directing each call to the most optimal agent.

Above all other customer service agent capabilities, empathy is perhaps the most important. Every customer has had their fair share of rude, complacent and disinterested service. It can be strikingly refreshing to speak with an agent who cares about their customers and understands the inconvenience that a service-related problem can cause. While empathy is an inherent trait in some individuals, it can be honed through ongoing agent training. Role-playing and recapping recorded calls with customers can help improve rapport. A little compassion and courtesy can go a long way to promote a company’s service reputation.

Although technology is evolving at a tremendous pace, customers still are fundamentally consistent in what they want – fast, reliable, hassle-free service. With mobile devices and increasing digital channels, how this service is delivered is changing. However, by staying focused on keeping the customer happy, you’ll always have a strategy for success.


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