Tag: call center

01 Jun 2017
intelligent self service goes beyond expectations of call center deflection

Why Intelligent Self-Service is So Much More than a Cost-Saving Solution

High up on the list in every article about digital self-service is how much money it will save you as a business. Some say it will cut costs on hiring staff for low-level tasks, by streamlining and automating services. Others focus on around-the-clock hours for sales, or even reducing ticket inquiries altogether and improving customer retention and therefore profits. Bottom line? For many companies, it appears to be well and truly all about the dollars and cents.

But what if I told you that the financial incentives for intelligent self-service should not in fact be the primary reasons on your list of reasons to opt in?

Unparalleled Insights

A study by Demandbase has recently looked into how AI can improve the customer experience. 60% believe that AI gives better insights into accounts, 56% believe it offers more detailed analysis of campaigns, and 53% say AI can help with identifying prospective customers.

The sheer amount of data that can be taken in through self-service is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal. With the help of intelligent analytics, this data can be turned into actionable insights. The success rate is impressive, with results proving between “2-6x the improvement in marketing funnel conversion rate.”

Scaling your Brand Presence

Your brand is not just the colors and font on your company logo. It’s about how you interact with your customers and the image of your business to the outside world.

Whether visitors are browsing your website, downloading your mobile app, or getting in touch with customer service-one strong brand presence is essential. Intelligent-self-service can give one unified voice to your support channels, as well as helping you maintain the important elements of your branding, whatever those values might be. If your company is known for transparency, self-service can track the questions coming in, identify trends and pre-empt more inquiries by providing the answers on your website. If the tone of your business is light-hearted and whimsical, your support bots can mirror this style while going beyond tone to increase efficiency and efficacy.

The more customers engage with online channels and social media to reach out to retailers and businesses, the better a company’s ‘always on’ service has to be. If you’re not there when a customer is calling, they will quickly move on. Digital self-service is effortlessly scalable to meet your business needs, whether that’s at 1pm on your website, or at 3am on Facebook.

Maintain Optimum Quality Support

Sure, digital self-service can reduce the load on human staff. It’s true that it allows your employees to focus on more intricate tasks and feel greater job satisfaction in what they do, and it streamlines and automates repetitive or simple processes. But it’s so much more than that, too.

The support given to customers is guaranteed, not just in terms of round-the-clock service, but also the quality of the interactions themselves. With the help of a centralized knowledge base, answers are immediate and accurate across all channels. Wherever your customer reaches out from, support can answer queries from delivery and product information to opening hours and prices, and if the customer can log in, support has their order history and account information on hand and can take personalized and specialized answers even further. Customer service capabilities are boosted exponentially, and in situations wherein the query warrants human contact, the conversation is simply escalated accordingly.

Intelligent Self-Service: A Requirement in the Digital Age

Having an eye on the financial prize will always be necessary to make a success of your business, and if you’re looking for monetary reasons to adopt a self-service solution, you’ll find plenty. But equally high up on my list of business essentials is a strong and scalable brand presence, actionable analytics for success, and unparalleled customer service quality. Intelligent self-service is not a luxury intended to boost your profits, it’s a must-have to stay relevant in 2017 and beyond.

05 Dec 2016
travel site call center busy for the holidays

7 Killer Tips for your Travel Site and Call Center to Navigate the Busy Holiday Season with Ease

The holiday season has this uncanny tendency of creeping up on us, leaving holiday shoppers scrambling to make last minute emergency provisions. As a consumer, you can always take care of the problem by ordering last minute gifts on Amazon and “poof,” problem solved. But as a service provider, the results of inadequately planning for the busiest time of the year can be financially disastrous.

According to Zendesk’s 2014 Benchmark report, customer service rankings dropped to their lowest during the holiday season, with the travel industry experiencing the largest -7 point drop, the most drastic in comparison to all other industries.

The impact of poor customer service on your travel site:

How does poor customer service impact customers? According to an American Express survey, 78% of customers have simply bailed on a transaction due to a poor customer service experience, and 59% of customers would be willing to switch brands just to receive better customer service. With the insane amount of travel competition out there, you definitely don’t want to risk losing a dissatisfied customer due to improper planning.

So how can customer support centers within the travel industry better plan for the 2016 holiday season?

The practical guide:

The following tips will ensure this year’s holiday call center costs and handle times sink to an all-time low, while customer satisfaction ratings soar to an all new high:

1. Plan ahead of time.

Analyze data from past peak travel seasons, so you can best estimate how many support handling agents you’ll need. You’ll want to pay careful attention to numbers such as: incoming cases, average replies per resolve, average time required to reach a resolution and tickets resolved within just a single customer support interaction.

You’ll also want to analyze which destinations were most popular, and which types of vacations required the most support, so that you can hire and train your reps accordingly. Certain destinations will require advanced training and resources, due to the high level of detail involved in the planning. For example: ski destinations require lift tickets, equipment, lessons etc. High adventure destination vacations also tend to require additional support due to the addition of: local flights, scheduling of day tours and treks, and booking of equipment and car rentals.
Analyzing and reviewing these crucial pieces of data in advance, will enable you to better anticipate call center requirements and provide customers with a quality experience.

2. Make sure you’re technically equipped.

The constant surge in tickets and inquiries can overwhelm your network and cause your system to crash – if inadequately planned for. Once you’ve reviewed last year’s numbers and have a decent estimation of this year’s incoming traffic, you’ll want to consult your IT provider and make sure your system is equipped to handle the anticipated increase in users. You’ll also want to order any additional office equipment required, such as: desktop computers, headsets, jacks and chairs.

3. Integrate a qualitative automated customer self-service solution.

According to research conducted by Forrester, 72% of customers prefer to find the answers to their inquiries themselves, rather than contacting customer support. Investing in a high quality customer support self-service solution has been proven to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty due to the self-empowerment it provides the customer with, to instantly locate the answer he seeks. It also has the added benefit of reducing your customer support team’s workload and improving the call center’s average handle times. If that’s not enough to convince you, well then there’s the average correspondence fee of $.10 per inquiry! Now there’s a win-win situation for everyone.

4. Make sure to assign the right agents to the right cases.

The more familiar an agent is with a particular destination or detail of the trip, i.e. flights, hotels, car rentals etc., the quicker he can handle the query. Make sure you’ve assessed your various agents’ areas of expertise, and be sure to forward customer travel queries to the agent who is best equipped to handle them. Doing so will save time, as well as improve the quality of your customer’s service experience. If you’re hiring extra personnel for the holiday season, be sure to forward the simpler issues to them, saving the complex ones for your better trained year ‘round staff.

5. Maintain a fun and enjoyable working environment.

Employees perform best under optimal work conditions. As a manager, you’ll want to make sure to provide them. While your agents may need to work long and grueling shifts, there’s no reason why the call center environment can’t be a cheery and exciting one. Make sure to provide all sorts of holiday perks to keep your agents happy, and working at maximum output. Invest in some basic holiday decorations, munchies and drinks. Be sure to build in joint coffee breaks for socializing, as well as rewards for achieving optimal ticket handle times, thus raising your employees’ motivation and morale.

6. Train your customer service reps to deal with difficult customers.

A difficult client calls up to complain. No suite upgrades available in their hotel of choice? That’s ok, teach your agents to soothe the customer’s ruffled feathers by acknowledging their distress and then offering a hotel of comparable standards, that does have a suite. No room left on the exact flight requested? Have your customer representatives identify with your customer’s complaint. Then reassure the caller that they’re doing the best they can, and offer them a selection of other comparable viable options. Remind your agents not to let disgruntled callers affect the quality of service they provide.

7. Provide Multi-Channel (or Better yet, Omni-channel) Support.

Each customer has their own individual preference for their preferred channel of support, when dealing with a particular issue. It’s important to be able to meet your customers wherever they’re at, be it: Twitter, Facebook, Gmail or more. You’ll want to ensure your company has a properly staffed presence across all the major channels, as well as some of the minor ones. To save time and resources, we recommend using an omni-channel customer service solution that can provide quick and instant automated responses across multiple channels.
General travel inquiries, such as popular daytime activities, dining, and tour guide recommendations tend to go through the major social channels, and the majority will receive an instant and accurate automated response via your customer service solution. This will free up your agents for some of the more complicated inquiries that tend to come in via phone and email, such as flights bookings, car rental and accommodation issues.

The importance of planning for and ensuring a quality customer service experience can be summed up in the age-old retail adage: “Customers remember the service they received a lot longer than they remember the price.” So don’t leave your planning for the last minute. Make sure the customer service experience you provide your customers with is truly a memorable one, and for only the right reasons.

30 Jun 2016
How Centricity Differs from a Customer Focused Approach

“Inside-Out” or “Outside-In”: How Centricity Differs from a Customer Focused Approach

How not to confuse Customer Centric and Customer Focused Approaches

If you’re involved in customer relationship management and the culture of customer experience, then you’re probably familiar with many of the various approaches and philosophies of how a business could or should interact with its customers. The lines between many of these approaches are blurred and it is often difficult to see the differences that exist between many of them. Two of these customer relationship approaches, which are often used interchangeably (and incorrectly so), are customer centric and customer focused approaches. You may have run across these terms yourself and, while they embody a very similar core philosophy, they offer different methodologies for their execution.

Indeed both are quite similar and even a simple google search will show that some of the most experienced CX veterans have been put to task trying to explain the differences. Both see the customer as the most important factor in the success of an organization and both recognize that an organization’s actions should revolve around meeting customer needs. It might be best to think of it as a difference between being reactive and proactive to customer needs.


The Reactive Mindset of a Customer Focused Approach

Customer-focused organizations will often structure their sales departments to maximize their conversions and, as a result, their ROI. These organizations observe their rivals’ actions and measure their own customers’ behaviors to see where they can optimize for greater sales. The idea is that by providing a level of service that is slightly better or perhaps lower prices than that of their competition, they can get more business from existing customers and generate sales from new customers. Organizations that apply a customer focused approach tend to be more reactive to fulfilling customer needs, making adjustments based on more obvious visible indicators such as those which arrive in the form of complaints, metric data, or search analysis. This often results in sales departments being designed and trained to discover buyer pain points, offering solutions that are pinpointed to those needs. Essentially, addressing customer needs and expectations only occurs when it serves the interests of the organization’s obligations and goals.


How Centricity Contributes to Proactive Engagement

An organization which embodies a customer centric approach anticipates what their customers are looking for. They want to immerse themselves in the process of thinking like their customers to understand how they can improve their products and services to meet customer needs. These organizations often explore ways to satisfy their customers’ needs while also providing good value in their services. This makes for a far more pleasant purchasing experience for their customers, boosting reputation and increasing customer lifetime value (CLV). Organizations who adopt this approach rely on the satisfaction of their customers to drive loyalty with existing customers, generate word of mouth, and provide a large influx of organic sales.

Essentially, these companies believe that by demonstrating to the outside world a customer-first culture within their organization and by investing heavily in refining the customer experience that profits will increase from an expanding and loyal customer base. This usually means that these companies also invest heavily in talent and in the people they employ, empowering them to make decisions and contribute in whatever way they can to addressing customer issues and needs. Everything about the organization’s culture resonates and surrounds the success of the customer and how members of the organization were able to help them succeed. By putting people at the forefront of the conversation, both employees and clients, the organization is able to foster an environment where customer needs area anticipated and problems are solved before they happen. Employees feel their role is to create innovative ways to make the customers’ experiences more pleasurable and exciting and customers are delighted by it as a result.


Understanding Your Customers’ Needs: Emotion vs. Observation

In the world of acting there are many styles and methods which actors use to hone and perform their craft. There is one in particular, aptly named “Method Acting”, which was developed by Konstantin Stanislavsky and popularized by Elia Kazan and Lee Strasberg. Strasberg’s version of “The Method” teaches that an actor must take on the external mannerisms of the character, such as movement and speech, and from this the character will eventually develop at least from an outside perspective. Stanford Meisner, who was also heavily influenced by Stanislavski and developed his own system, believed that an actor has to embody the emotions of the character and formulated a system of emotional exercises to assist actors in reaching this point. While their goals are the same, the two methods offer very different approaches and similarly to customer centric versus customer focused, one concentrates on adopting external behaviors while the other attempts to become the character from within. When it comes to business and organizational culture, it is the difference between giving the impression you care about customers by taking on external behaviors and empathizing emotionally with their needs. Only once you are able to empathize with your customers can you truly recognize, meet, and exceed their expectations.

28 Jun 2016
4 Examples of Successful Businesses Following a Customer-Centric Model

4 Examples of Successful Businesses Following a Customer-Centric Model

Guess what top companies worldwide all have in common?

Whether they’re service, manufacturing, or merchandising businesses, the most important shared element between them – a customer-centric model.

As companies transition from product-oriented to customer oriented, this process entails complete organizational planning and a long-term commitment to consistency.  The payoffs, which equal profits, often include one or all of the following: an improvement of operations, expanding of the customer base, and a securing and increasing of the Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).

By developing and executing a complete and effective customer-centric model, businesses are put in a greater position to align all strategic and operational priorities as well as enabling lasting and continuous structural growth.

Successful Companies that Live By a Customer-Centric Model

Many established organizations have come to realize that in order to maximize the customer life-span and CLV, it is not suffice to simply place customers at the top of the priority list.  The priority list itself has to revolve around meeting the needs of their customers.

There are a variety of innovate approaches, methods, and software platforms used for development and execution of customer-centric models across various industries. The following are four examples of organizations that exemplify this customer-first approach and prove the effectiveness of delivering exceptional customer experiences.

  1. Intuit drives customer delight with core principles

    Intuit has long maintained their reputation as a company focused on customer needs. From its earliest days, employees were encouraged to observe customers and look for ways to solve real-life problems for them. Testing and observation would be done to see how customers reacted to products and what problems they ran into. They would even do these product tests beyond the work environment and see how well the product functioned in the home. The company also instituted annual surveys to gather customer insights on an organization-wide level.

    At one point, Intuit launched “Design for Delight,” a major initiative meant to instill a culture of customer centricity using core principles as its basis. As outlined in Harvard Business Review, these principles were as follows:

    “Deep Customer Empathy – Immerse yourself with customers to know them better than they know themselves. To understand what really matters to customers, you should watch them, talk with them, and put yourself in their shoes.

    Go Broad to Go Narrow – Create options before making choices. There are lots of possible answers, so to get one great idea, you need to create lots. The first idea is rarely the best.

    Rapid Experiments with Customers – Get customer feedback early and often to understand the pros and cons of options. Watching customers react to prototypes through trial and error is better than relying on our own opinions.”

    With these principles in place, Intuit has become a leader in customer experience and innovation. These core principles have defined a culture that is constantly looking for ways to improve the customer experience, taking on initiatives, and consistently putting the customer first in every regard.

  2. Amazon defines the customer-centric model

    The fact that Amazon is mentioned here shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone. They are a model of customer-centricity and maintain practices that keep them leaders in this arena:

    • Did you know that the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, will often leave a seat open at his conference tables to remind all those present that the most important person in the conversation is “the Customer.”
    • Amazon installs practices to maintain excellence in customer experience by rewarding those who “raise the bar” for the organization.
    • From Kindle to FireTV to Echo, Amazon develops products that are meant to address consumer wants and needs. Their   rather than their development team’s opinion.
    • They cultivate a “culture of metrics” where they routinely engage in head-to-head tests of customers’ reactions to different features or site designs.

    Amazon is consistently mentioned in conversations surrounding the most customer-centric companies in the world. This approach has moved beyond just a philosophy, it has become their culture and it is working tremendously well for them.

  3. REI takes a stand and gains a following

    REI has become synonymous with outdoor recreation gear and services. The company is built on a consumers’ cooperative model where the majority of customers have membership that provides discounts and other benefits. The company fell into the annals of customer centricity when they began their #OptOutside campaign in 2015 by announcing that they would be closed for Black Friday. Instead, they erected a mini-site dedicated to providing information on hiking trails that would encourage families to go outside and enjoy the holiday weekend together. While most members of the Seattle based retail chain have been strong advocates of the brand, this move specifically (publicity campaign or not) resonated greatly with customers around the country.

  4. Hilton uses innovation to maintain customer satisfaction

    For almost a century, Hilton Hotels Worldwide have defined the hospitality industry, excelling at maintaining one of the most recognized hotel brands in the world. Hilton Worldwide employs a wide range of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to gather and evaluate customer data from all sources, including: guest feedback, social media, and online review sites. These methods provide insights for achieving their target of continuously catering to the customer, which increases long-term customer loyalty.


Making a Customer Centric Model of Your Own

Sounds like an over-whelming task – revamping customer relations every step of the journey.  Let there be no mistake, the challenges can be great, but the goal is attainable. Most of the challenges include investing time, money, resources, and manpower. Implementing a customer-centric model requires fundamental changes to every angle and aspect of the business, not just the way it interacts with customers.  Nor is it a one-time project; it involves building trust, relationships, and dedication to customers and services and for the long-term.

15 Dec 2014
Thinking is Bad, Drive Customer Loyalty by Simplifying Your Service Experience

VIDEO – Thinking is Bad, Drive Customer Loyalty by Simplifying Your Service Experience

In case you missed out a couple of weeks ago, here is a video of the webinar we hosted with Jim Tincher. Jim is the principal and chief mapper of Heart of the Customer, and frequent keynote speaker, consultant and blogger on customer experience. Jim reviewed case studies from T-Mobile, Jiffy Lube, British Telecom and more.

What is Customer Effort?

Many companies follow the false assumption that by focusing on better training to improve the call center experience they can delight their customers and keep them coming back. This strategy may improve your quality score with customer service, but when it comes to churn, your company will hurt.

“Valuing your customer’s time is the most important factor in good customer service.” – Understand Communication Channel Needs to Craft Your Customer Service Strategy, Forrester Research

The truth is that delighting your customers does not create loyalty, but making them work does drive them away. When your customer calls, the best result for you is to maintain the same level of loyalty. The truth is that you are 4x more likely to drive disloyalty!

It is a fallacy that if someone calls in with an issue and you manage to offer a great call center experience, you’ll actually generate greater loyalty. There are a few instances where this is correct, just a few.

According to CEB, callers go to your website first, but often can’t solve their problems.

  • 58% started out on the website before calling customer support.
  • 59% of customers are annoyed when they can’t solve their problems in their preferred channel

So let’s break it down, those 58% of customers (roughly 3 out of 5) who already went to your website, scoured it looking for answers and eventually had to choose a channel to contact you they didn’t prefer, are annoyed. The likelihood of these customers finding an easy resolution from a customer service call decreases and so does the chance of creating loyalty.

Self-Service is Critical

Ask yourself one question – How hard is it to be your customer?

British Telecom reviewed their customer care efforts by measuring simplicity, ease of use and ease of effort. They found that if their customers rated their experience as “simple” they were 40% less likely to churn. The bottom line if you provide a simple experience to your customers, they will renew.

This is what makes self-service a critical opportunity. Once your customers call you, it may be too late to make it a simple experience for them. By helping your customers serve themselves, you are giving them a simple experience and preventing opportunities to create disloyalty.

Be sure to watch the entire webinar video to learn the 4 steps to target and remove effort from your customer experience.