3 Big Steps To Improve Customer Service

September 8, 2014 John Gorup

steps

Don’t you love calling for urgent help from a company, and you get a robot voice saying “Press 1 for this…Press 2 for that?” No, nobody loves that. And of course, the professionals that help set up customer service systems don’t love it either. Still, faced with financial pressures, companies continue to put in place systems that frustrate their customers. These frustrations get magnified over social media.

Gartner Analyst Michael Maoz writes in his report Adopt Customer Engagement Strategies to Drive Growth, “The need to reduce expenses and meet the needs of the mobile customer continues to lead businesses to introduce lower-cost support channels such as websites, portals, interactive voice response (IVR) and other forms of self-service.” The problem seems to be not with the lower-cost channels themselves, but in how these channels fit into the bigger picture of customer experience.

The balance businesses are looking for is to lower-costs while increasing customer satisfaction. If done with the proper analysis and application of technology, companies can achieve these goals. In fact, companies may find avenues for higher revenues as a result of better support channels. The following three “big steps” represented in the infographic below can get you on the road to lower costs without alienating your customers:

1) Map out the customer experience

This step doesn’t involve new technology, but looking at how customers interact with your company and products. The answers may be surprising. For example, the static FAQ on your website might not be as valuable as you think. Another discovery might be that customers are getting their problems solved through social media. Companies need a strategy to foster this organic support channel without trying to over-control it. Salesforce.com, for example, has done a great job harnessing this reality with their MVP program and the #AskForce hashtag.

One last discovery may be that employees who are not formally in the customer support role are solving customer issues. This is not a bad thing in itself. But this discovery should tell companies they need to make customer, product and issue data to all employees.

2) Decide on what can be automated, and what needs more human touch

Maoz writes that implementing lower-cost support channels “…leads to a disengaged customer because 80% or more of customer interactions now no longer involve an enterprise employee.” Instead of blindly pursuing lower costs, companies need to apply technology more strategically.  This means increasing automation where customers want speed. And likewise, increasing human interaction where customers need guidance.  To answer the question do companies need more automation or more human interaction, the answer is “Yes.”

3) Build a knowledge center with solid processes and technology.

A good knowledge center as a key to improving customer experience. A Gartner survey has shown “an average 12% increase in customer satisfaction” after a knowledge center project. Another key benefit the report found is that “CIOs can reduce customer support costs by 25% or more when a proper knowledge management (KM) discipline is in place.” Introducing new knowledge base technology and process will make all customer support channels better.

As this infographic shows, the landscape of customer service has changed. Customers expect more than ever out of their experience. If you can keep up with them, your new customer service center can be both a loyalty powerhouse and a major profit center.

 

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