This is the third step in the deployment of a world-class customer contact strategy. Read More >
My hometown has recently experienced a boom of “roundabout,” or traffic circle, construction in many major intersections, a practice that doesn’t sit well with several people in the community. I was in the car with my father the other day when he was complaining about them:
“Ugh, I hate these traffic circles. Nobody that I know knows how to use them.”
“Well, what about younger people?” I said. “Are they figuring it out?”
“Yeah,” he conceded. “But older people don’t get it.”
“But in a few years, there will be a lot less older people on the road, and the younger people, and their kids, will be cruising through this with no problem. Sounds like the state built these thinking about making things easier for the future.”
(Grumble) “I still don’t like it.”
My dad can be bit of a curmudgeon.
It becomes too easy to reject something just because it’s not worth your time today. When it comes to the technology to handle a new generation of customers doing business on a new playing field, change can be hard to adapt to, especially if your business is thriving now. Looking toward the future is a goal of almost every company’s communications, but embracing the future can be a more arduous task.
Connected Customer Experiences
Customer contact in 2013 is a more complicated task than it used to be. While good people and high-quality cellphones are the standard, it’s necessary to embrace the other ways the next generation of customers will want to reach you. So many people, some older but especially younger, are putting their smartphones, tablets and laptops to work for them to do so many things, from paying their bills to inquiring on their orders to inquiring where the heck their orders are and why they aren’t in their hands yet.
Interacting with someone on the phone, for some, feels like a waste of time, especially if the technology is already staring them in the face while they’re already multitasking. And, having a channel of convenience for them to work through is a heck of a lot more productive than allowing them to twist in the wind and “go viral” with their friends if something about what your company did isn’t making them happy.
Your customer care agents can multitask, too. The telephone is their first priority, but it may not be forever. If they can handle a request through a text, chat or even a smartphone app just as quickly, then the new technologies are doing what you’re paying for them now for — benefitting the next generation and improving the process of customer contact. Implementing software and systems that facilitate those needs and controlling the flow of traffic are key. The next generation will adjust and navigate it every bit as easily as many of us who might still pick up a phone to reach out.
Don’t be afraid to build it, and let people know how it works. The next generation of customers will prove the value of it for you. And, don’t be afraid to hear people grumble a little bit in the meantime.
We all know that smartphones are changing many industries. From books and periodicals to music and media, the landscape is changing. But have you stopped to think about how your customer service contact center needs to change to fit into this increasingly mobile world? Here are three of the biggest changes the industry has seen in the last few years:
1. More complex call types are being routed to the contact center.
Customers demand self-service options, and most of the simple calls can be handled by an app, through the company website or through an automated IVR system. What remains to be routed to the contact centers are the complex situations that require human intervention to resolve. It’s less likely that a customer will call to ask how much their bill is. It’s more likely that a billing call will relate to disputed charges, confusion on pricing, or a request for credit or deferred payment.
These more complex call types require more research, more back-and-forth discussion with customers, and better judgment on the part of the customer service agent to find the right solution. Since typical training generally focuses on the most common call types, we’re seeing training lengths increase significantly as the complexity of the call intensifies. Additionally, average handle times go up as the more simple call types are filtered out and more demanding call types remain.
Your overall costs may not go up (it’s cheaper to send easier transactions to the Web or an app, and you can reduce your overall headcount), but recognize your investment in training length needs to increase to support these changes, and old average handle time targets may no longer apply.
2. Customer satisfaction results need to be received and managed in near-real time.
Just a few years ago, it was standard to teach agents that a customer who had a negative experience may tell 10 to 20 of their friends about it. With social media, as soon as a customer hangs up with you, they can use the device they called you on to let their Facebook friends and Twitter followers know about it. Their reach isn’t contained to a small circle of friends and family. Now, hundreds or thousands of friends or followers will know about the experience.
Because of this, companies today are abandoning the traditional quality assurance programs where agents are evaluated a handful of times each month. Instead, they are investing with partners that give near-real-time feedback from the voice of the customer. Post-call surveys that immediately gauge satisfaction levels are invaluable to help keep the image of your brand intact.
3. Adjust your recruitment and hiring processes.
With more complex call types and the need for ensuring a call experience that protects your brand image, you need to take a look at your recruiting and hiring processes and make sure you’re keeping up with the times. Companies are no longer hiring people capable of conducting a transaction; they need to be capable of an interaction. Traditional call flows are gone with many of these more complex calls, and agents today must be empowered to do what’s right for the customer and the business. Good judgment skills, ownership of an issue to conclusion and an empathetic tone are all required for success. But how do you screen applicants for that?
We’ve tested our successful employees on a number of behavioral points for benchmarking that can then be used to predict the success of our applicants. With increased training lengths, this is an investment you can’t afford to not make.
The expectations of a contact center are changing in today’s mobile world, and companies need to be ready to meet those changes. We’ve worked with our clients to adapt hiring, training and voice-of-the-customer feedback tools to make us ready for the challenges of a 21st century call center.
Having a bucket list has become a popular thing to do in recent years. One of the things on my husband’s bucket list is to see his beloved St. Louis Cardinals win a World Series baseball game. He attempted to cross that off his list back in 2004 when they were in the World Series playing the Boston Red Sox. He had two tickets for Game 5, but the Red Sox swept the series — and, alas, Game 5 wasn’t played.
My husband is a little bit superstitious, so he believes he is a jinx. He has resigned himself to the fact that he had to adjust his bucket list and never ever plan to see a World Series game again. The next best thing, of course, was to go to opening day and watch the St. Louis Cardinals receive their 2011 World Series rings during the opening ceremony.
So, that’s what we did. It was a rainy April morning, but we were there, rain ponchos and all, with all of the other rabid fans. I have to admit it was pretty exciting watching the 2011 season players and former players, sans Pujols, of course. We also got to watch a few great games that weekend.
On the way back to Omaha, a big storm was brewing, so we decided it would be better stay in Kansas City for the night and not risk the drive in bad weather. Good thing we did, as there were a couple of tornadoes that night along I-29. While on the road home, I decided to use my trusty iPhone to book a hotel room right off the Interstate. Little did I know how frustrating and difficult that would be.
Disconnected Customer Experience
I tried to log into the Marriott website since I couldn’t find an app in the app store. That was the easy part. You would think it’s a pretty straightforward task to book a hotel room by providing the location, number of rooms and people, and credit card number. Oh, no — the website kept timing out. I had to repeatedly close the browser and start over again. Then, when I finally got to the area to fill out my information, the site was difficult to navigate and booking a room was a very, very lengthy process.
It was so frustrating (and I was getting carsick) that I decided to just call the hotel directly. I had to start all over providing information, of course. The agent at the desk had no idea that I had just filled in almost all of my information on the website. She had no context, other than I was on the phone with her now and she needed to book a room for us.
Not a good experience on many fronts. First, it was a lot of work to give Marriott my business. Why don’t companies think about the entire experience their customers have when trying to do business with them, including mobile apps and websites? Why couldn’t the information I had already entered on the website be accessible by the agent? Why was the website completely not user-friendly? It certainly left a bad taste in my mouth for Marriott.
Think of how much more revenue companies could make if they worked to streamline the customer’s experience. An investment in technology that would assist them with some of these things would be well worth the cost.