Entries by Petra Seals
Consumers are facing an explosion of choices. In the 1990s, the average grocery store carried 7,000 items. Today’s grocery stores carry 40,000 items. The internet allows consumers to compare car insurance rates in seconds, discover a new makeup product by watching a social media star on YouTube, or get recommendations for plumbers from 500 of their closest friends. Businesses today don’t just have to overcome the many choices that consumers have, they have to stand out in an environment cluttered with information. What makes a customer decide to engage with one business over another?
Recent research reveals that 81% of business strive for the customer experience to be their competitive differentiator, yet only 22% of businesses report that they are exceeding customers’ expectations.
It is every customer experience business leader’s worst nightmare; a customer service representative engaged poorly with a customer, who then recorded the encounter and made it public. In today’s digital landscape, going viral can literally boost or doom your business in a matter of hours. How can companies proactively mitigate their risk to these viral situations in an omni-channel world where customers can reach out via chat, email, phone, or even social media? The answer lies in a quality monitoring tool called Mystery Shopping.
As the growth of technology and artificial intelligence permeate the workplace, few can deny the obvious benefits of computer-driven analytics. Computers can data crunch millions of records, solve complex equations within seconds and build widget after widget – without ever tiring. There are limitations to the abilities of a machine though. Ask a computer to understand sarcasm, or detect emotion and it will fall short every time. As Forbes contributor, Roger Wu, once described in an article, what’s often missing is “that secret sauce – the ability of humans to read between the lines, pick up contextual cues and insights from abstract concepts.”
Companies spend a lot of money, resources and time creating quality monitoring programs that enhance their customer experience, however much of their effort is wasted when guidelines are not reinforced properly and improving call center agent behaviors is not the focus. To keep employees performing at their best, it is essential to maintain a proactive coaching program that focuses on using the actionable insights from the QM program and coaching to the teachable skills.
A critical success factor for any Marketing team is achieving a clear line of sight into customer needs and preferences, which gives businesses the ability to make proactive, informed business decisions. But with customer behaviors rapidly evolving, it’s important to continue asking those fundamental questions – Do I know my customer? Do I know what their problems or pain points are? Do I have a firm grasp of my buyer personas? What’s often the case is that we may think we know the answers to these questions, but in reality, your customers’ problems, preferences and reasons for contact may have changed. So, what if you had a real-time data source that provided you the answers to these questions (plus a few others) and it came directly from your customers? Sounds like a dream marketing tool. The truth is, the dream can become a reality and it starts with your call center. Your call center serves as a critical touch point that creates and nurtures customer relationships with your brand. Tapping into those critical interactions through a quality monitoring program allows leaders at all levels of the organization in all departments, especially Marketing, to glean valuable customer insights. Let me explain.
Picture this: an angry customer is trying to resolve an issue that they are having with your company. After exploring your website for 10 minutes, the customer cannot find the information needed to resolve her issue on her own, so she opts to email you. In response she receives an immediate email back that tells her the question will be answered in the next couple of hours. When she gets the response, however it reads like someone just copy and pasted some information from a template and doesn’t have the specifics that will resolve her issue. She returns to your website but unfortunately, you do not have chat capabilities, so she digs around further to find your phone number and upon calling, realizes your call center is already closed. This is not a customer that is going to remain loyal to your brand.
In most contact centers, customer service agents have been thoroughly trained to handle a wide variety of customer inquiries on products, policies and services. However, as goods and services evolve over time to better meet the needs of the customer, strict adherence to corporate objectives and federal regulations should remain a top priority. Heavily regulated industries such as airlines, financial services, and healthcare are at even greater risk of government compliance audits that could result in costly fines and a wounded brand image.
A reputation for great customer service is built on many areas of business. In-store employees must be friendly, the website must be easily navigable, omni-channel customer service must be consistent across channels, and call center agents must be knowledgeable. One of the key strategies to providing a consistent customer experience in the call center is regular call calibrations, in which the call center agents and supervisors meet with the quality monitoring vendor to rate and discuss customer service calls.
The customer experience landscape is shifting. Self-service options such as apps and websites are making it easier for customers to resolve basic account inquiries and issues on their own. Instead, customers are contacting brands with more complex issues and frustration levels are often high. With recording devices that can capture unsatisfactory phone calls and the possibility of an agent interaction going “viral” on social media, the need for highly trained agents who can handle any situation while appropriately representing your brand is becoming more and more important.