Interested in accessing the very latest wisdom of the web concerning all things customer service? But not confident where to find it? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Join us as we present the latest and the greatest in customer service know-how… hot off the press!
In this, our fifth installment, we present a range of articles. We guarantee to get you thinking about how to reinvent your own customer service strategy. Enjoy.
1. AI and the New Customer Service Experience
Artificial intelligence promises to transform the customer service experience of the future, Vala Afshar writes for The Huffington Post. Afshar points to the growing number of companies relying on AI and the significant funds being poured into its development by investors. These are signs that it is a technology that has truly come into its own.
According to Afshar, the power of AI rests in its potential. It has the ability to extend traditional business intelligence capabilities out into new pastures, in the process vastly increasing the ability of companies to personalize approaches to their customer base.
Beyond this, there are also significant gains to be made with respect to self-service, with AI potentially underpinning much future capability in this arena.
We say: AI has had a bit of a bumpy ride when it comes to customer service; a few bad “bot” experiences, particularly on social media, have tended to upset the apple cart.
However, true progress is rarely made without some teething difficulties, and many technological leaps have seemed pretty crude at first (think back to the first computers for a case in point)! It’s pretty much a “wait and see” game at this point.
2. Evidence-Based Ways to Improve Customer Service
The gap between what companies think they are doing for customers by way of customer service and the actual level of service perceived by customers can be remarkably wide.
In a guest blog for customer service and experience expert Shep Hyken’s website, digital marketer Steven Macdonald comments on this disparity and offers some suggestions drawn from research on ways to go about closing the gap.
Based on a comprehensive survey of 500 companies worldwide conducted by SuperOffice. Macdonald has this advice for would-be customer service improvers let’s start with
- Let customers know you have received their customer service request (a whopping percentage of firms apparently don’t do this, leaving the customer hanging)
- Response as quickly as possible
- Follow-up afterwards to check that customers were happy with the level of service they received. Seems like sage advice.
We say: There’s a lot to be said for experimentation, and for exhortations which “fail rapidly” and have become a commonplace within the small business (and particularly start-up) world.
However, there’s also something to be said for good old evidence-based business practice. For example, strategies and systems that are based on carefully planned and implemented research.
It’s not always easy to dig out research findings that are directly relevant to your situation. But if you do come across them, it is worth spending some time thinking about what they could mean for your company and your team.
3. Ideas for Common Customer Service Responses
Stumped for fresh approaches to customer service issues that seem as old as the hills? Just how do you make it sound like every phone call is a matter of great import, while inside every fiber of your being may be rebelling at the blandly repetitive nature of the call?
Well, Helpscout – true to their name – are here to help. Their recommended approaches to common customer service questions may well have something to offer those who’ve become a bit jaded with the regular routines.
They don’t suggest sticking with scripts, but rather drawing on established wisdom and examples in order to come up with a new response, and offer plenty of options for getting out there and mixing it up.
We say: It’s easy to fall into the same-old. The same-Old team’s response to customer service issues, particularly when your reps hear the same issues over and over again.
But for your customers to get that feeling of personalized customer service, your team will need to work hard to make every call feel “fresh” even if it is the umpteenth time they’ve been through it.
Try to help them by looking elsewhere for inspiration. Never stop benchmarking your company against how others in your industry go about it. After all, why not aim for excellence if it’s within your reach?
4. Measuring Call Length? Think Again
It’s the HBR to the rescue again, this time saving you all from yourselves! If you are a company that has been using call length (or to be technically correct, average handle time or AHT) as a proxy for the quality of your customer service experience, HBR (in the guise of writers Pete Slease, Rick DeLisi and Matthew Dixon) would respectfully beg you to reconsider.
The reasons, according to the writers, are numerous for moving to jettison. The AHT from your measurement arsenal (although they maintain that it can be useful in other contexts).
Also, the fact that AHT is a sort of dinosaur relic from an earlier time (i.e. when customers reporting service issues were seen as an intrusion); that customers can tell when you are “hurrying them on” and that using these sorts of metrics as measures can destroy the hard-won culture of effective teams.
We say: We all know measurement is critical to customer service improvement. After all, you can’t improve what you don’t measure, or so the old saying goes. That’s why it is so important to invest some time, effort and head space into choosing your metrics wisely.
Think about how each potential metric could be interpreted (or misinterpreted). What other alternative and supplementary information could be gathered to support it. Review your metrics regularly to ensure they are still meaningful to your customer service objectives.
5. Are Your Customer Service Reps Letting You Down?
Your customer service reps are truly the face of your company. That’s why it’s so disappointing when you overhear someone representing your company to customers in a manner that you would be less than happy with.
Micah Solomon covered this issue recently in an article for Forbes.
The reasons why employees can fall below par in customer service performance are many and varied, notes Solomon. This ranges from lacking the right skills and knowledge to the right through to lack of empowerment.
However, the clincher (in his opinion) is that, customer service reps have forgotten what it is like to be the customer. He goes on presenting a range of innovative solutions that will have you itching to implement these within your own team.
We say: Despite your best intentions, all the training you can throw at them and extensive in-the-field experience, there will come a time when one of your customer service reps – or yikes … potentially all of them – let you, the team and the customer down.
Mistakes are unfortunately mostly unavoidable. It’s whether you take the bull by the horns and turn them into learning opportunities that count.