Consumers appreciate experiences that spark delight. They love experiences that spark hope.
-- Forrester's Predictions 2020
Customers are increasingly interacting with retail, travel, and entertainment activities in digital-first and digital-only ways for everything — from the convenience of online banking, to hanging out at home binge-watching the newest hit show. Customer service teams are faced with more work than ever before and require tooling that will keep up with demand.
As businesses focus more and more on customer experience, user-facing organizations like customer service and support are experiencing greater overlap with their technical counterparts when it comes to challenges and opportunities for real-time work. Both are learning that they need to transition from a reactive state to a more proactive, preventative posture in order to meet the growing expectations of the customer.
For digital businesses, customer service teams provide more than just response to tickets or customer reports. They are the customer’s perception of the company when they experience problems, issues, or questions. In a digital-only environment, stress, confusion, and anger that might be met with a smiling face and a calm voice at a physical service desk are increasingly met with chatbots, confounding phone menus, and robotic voices. There is opportunity for organizations to set themselves apart from competitors by strengthening their commitment to empowered and knowledgeable customer service teams.
Focusing on the customer experience builds brand loyalty and creates return customers, even when incidents happen. Organizations with rigorous commitment to their customers will center customer needs in every interaction. Amazon famously borrowed the “andon cord” concept from the Toyota Production System to enhance customer experience. Originally, the andon cord was implemented on manufacturing lines to empower any worker to stop the line if there was a problem with the products being manufactured. Amazon adapted the concept for their digital operations. When a customer service agent notices that a product has repeated problems, they “pull the cord” and place a hold on the item, rendering it unable to be sold until all issues are resolved.
Your customer service teams should be empowered to pull the cord in your organizations as well. Customer service agents see issues just as the users see them, are able to aggregate and correlate reports, and gather additional information from reporting users to enhance the response process. They should be encouraged to escalate issues to the appropriate technical teams when the user experience is jeopardized.
Creating a customer-first or customer-focused culture can provide more positive outcomes than any marketing campaign. The now-legendary story of a Nordstrom store refunding a purchase of tires from the shop that had previously stood on the Nordstrom location is nearly 50 years old but still boosts Nordstrom’s reputation and customer loyalty. Providing exceptional customer service, customer support, and customer experience is a part of your product and increases its value.
Digital interactions change the available options to create exclusive experiences for your priority customers. What is the chef’s table or personal shopper experience in a digital-only world?
Customers not constrained to regular business hours might have questions, problems, or other concerns about your products or services at any time of the day or night. Providing your key customers with the kind of responsiveness they deserve can be challenging if it means fully staffing a response desk 24x7 for just a few strategic accounts.
Moving your customer service to a real-time response solution gives your organization the flexibility to provide personalized and creative solutions to your key customers. A specially trained team can be on call for your strategic accounts, empowered to solve problems, and make customers happy. Having a team that can be notified as-needed — rather than fully staffed at all times waiting for incoming requests — allows you to scale your customer experience more efficiently as the business grows.
Customer Service Agent Experience#
Improving the day-to-day work of your customer service team improves the experience they can provide for your customers. It seems like everyone has a horror story about contacting a customer service department and being met with someone who is clearly miserable; that interaction does not create a positive experience for the customer. Customer service teams need the same management attention any team does, especially since their roles contribute so much to the customer experience. In a nutshell: happy agents translate to happy customers.
Empowering customer service teams to reach out to other teams and advocate for customers creates new communications channels and opportunities. Your customer service team can serve as a gateway into your organization for technical personnel who are still building skills; a close relationship with engineering supports their career growth. Customer service agents who transition to other departments bring with them their customer focus and dedication to the customer experience — a valuable addition to teams in your organization.