Delivering a first-class customer experience should be the number one priority for any brand – it really is that important. It affects perceptions and memories of a business, and encompasses everything a customer goes through with that company. The contact centre is an important part of this, often called into action when something with the customer experience has gone wrong. When this occurs, a customer issue should, of course, be resolved as effortlessly as possible, but the experience is improved if the conversation – whether over the telephone, via email, Live Chat or social media – is a memorable one.
This is arguably even truer over social media, where conversations can take place in public. In addition to addressing the issue at hand, the representative must be aware that others can see the conversation and can share it quickly if they so wish. So what’s the best way of delivering those memorable conversations?
While to an extent this depends on the technology a brand is using in its contact centre, I would say that context is hugely important for any customer interaction and quality of conversation. An employee should ideally know the customer’s name, what the issue is and whether there have been issues in the past. This saves a lot of leg work upfront and means the customer doesn’t have to repeat information they may have shared via another channel previously.
It isn’t just what you say that leads to a memorable conversation it’s how you say it. When speaking with a customer, employees must have the right mindset during the conversation – the key to really listen to the customer and to respond in a personal way to show they care and want to help
So the way you show up and even your body language and the way you sit can have an impact on the customer experience. For example, if you were face to face with someone and slouching in your seat, would the customer think you are interested in what you have to say? Removing distractions and being fully present with every customer will give confidence and control which will all be reflected in the way you deal with the customer issue and your tone of voice will be one which shows that you really want to engage with the customer.
Although operational stats, e.g. average handling time, are important for monitoring efficiency and resourcing in a contact centre, this should not be down to an individual level as this pressure can stop the natural conversation and engaging with customers. To engage you have to be fully present and allow the natural flow of a curious conversation, where the customer is asked about not only what they problem is but also why it is important to them to have it fixed. Your people should draw out the other person, listen carefully to what they are saying and make the customer feel confident that their problem is in the right hands to be addressed. The more this can be done, the more positive experience the customer will have.
Taking genuine interest broader than the issue at hand can often prevent further issues occurring and the need to call back to have more problems resolved. If an employee can find some common ground in a natural, rather than scripted way, then that can only add to the engagement felt.
Signing-off in style
As the conversation draws to a close, it’s important to strike the right note as you finish – that will be the abiding memory. Some technology systems in a contact centre allow for a personalised follow-up – an email to enquire if everything was resolved to the customer’s satisfaction – others do not. But that shouldn’t stop an upbeat and positive end to the conversation.
Teach your staff how to do this
Providing smart and effective training to customer-facing people is a surprisingly overlooked element of customer interaction. This should include product or service information of course, and the ability to properly use whichever software and technologies are in play in that contact centre.
But it should also and always include tips and techniques on actually communicating with people. This can vary according to the channel – what works when speaking with someone might not be as effective via social media – but there are aspects that can be used whatever the channel.
As social media is a public forum, you should be clear about what an agent can and cannot say. This is especially so given that for most Millennials, social media is a way of life, and they use a tone in their personal accounts that would not necessarily be suited to a professional interaction.
Memorable and effortless conversations are a key part of delivering a good customer experience, something to bear in mind as the variety of communication channels broadens, from social media and beyond.
Gail Partridge is a consultant at PeopleTECH, a customer experience management consultancy that advises organisations on how to deliver the right customer experience via people, processes and technology. Gail has previously worked with brands such as Sky, Standard Life and British Airways, advising on all elements of call centre strategy.