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PeopleTECH

Guest Blog, Gail Partridge: Holding memorable conversations with your customers…

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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?

Context/preparation

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.

Body language

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.

Be engaging

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.

Industry Spotlight: PeopleTECH – how to get the most out of social media in contact centres…

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The past decade or so has witnessed the astonishing rise of social media. It has changed the way we communicate with friends and family; how we consume news; how we share photos; how we look for a new job and much more – there are an estimated 1.65 billion active daily users on Facebook alone.

Social media has also changed how consumers interact with brands. Because consumers are so savvy and switched-on to the immediacy of social media, they know a few tweets can save them time spent on frustrating calls and long waits for engineers. Twitter and other social channels are plugged into marketing, PR and sometimes even the CEO; therefore issues will often get addressed as a priority.

This means brands have had to invest in social media, and bring that into existing customer experience channels. At times this has even meant that many brands focus on social at the expense of other channels. But while this is understandable in some ways, it is also a mistake. Organisations that provide omnichannel service will prosper far more than those who concentrate on social media channels at the expense of others – this is how to really get the best from social media in the contact centre.

Provide agents with the right training

When a consumer is expressing dissatisfaction with a service or just want a question responded to on social media, it requires a slightly different approach to other channels. With a phone call, live chat or face-to-face interaction, it is taking place in private. Social media interactions are taking place in public.

While the Millennials that make up a lot of the workforce within a contact centre have grown up with social media, there is a difference between how it is used personally to how it is used professionally. Make sure you staff are clear on what they can and cannot say on social media.

Don’t put all your customer experience eggs in one basket

Social media is an intrinsic part of both everyday life and also customer experience. But brands and their contact centres should be very wary about not over-focusing on social media. More than half of consumers who expect a brand to respond to a Tweet, demand that response comes in less than an hour, rising to 72 per cent when they have complaints.

When companies don’t meet these expectations, 38 percent of the public feel more negative about the brand. But is it realistic to meet those demands all the time? Social media is actually a limited channel for addressing customer queries or complaints, and interactions are often transferred to a different channel to be fully resolved.

So while any brand that doesn’t use social media as a customer channel looks to look at their strategy very hard indeed, it is imperative not to overlook other channels or over-invest in social media – it just isn’t sustainable.

Social media and the Single Digital Channel 

The best use of social media within a contact centre is as part of an omnichannel strategy, providing to consumers a unified, consistent and contextual customer experience, across ALL channels. In addition to omnichannel providing this seamless experience, the right tools can also give brands unparalleled information and data relating to that customer and their likely intent.

This data includes an awareness of what the customer has done previously, allowing frontline customer service staff to offer a better service to that customer, resolving issues quicker and offering help at the right time and via the right channel.

The Single Digital Channel (SDC) is also important and should be a customer experience goal for any brand. This gives an agent access to all media types from their desktop, with all contact interaction taken by customers – voice, email, chat, social media – waiting in one queue to be addressed by the right agent. The ‘right’ agent can mean the next available agent, one with a particular skill-set or area of expertise, or even one with a prior history with that customer.

Social media is a channel that can play a major role in delivering the right customer experience. But it shouldn’t be the sole focus. There can be a danger that brands will focus too much on this and let other channels suffer, when they would be far better advised to include social media as part of an overall omnichannel strategy.

 

Mike Hughes is a director at PeopleTECH consulting and one of the UK’s foremost customer experience experts, having worked with companies such as Thomas Cook, BskyB and France Telecom.

PeopleTECH combines experience working with some of the world’s biggest companies, with a deep understanding of digital transformation, helping to drive efficiency and profitability by offering a bespoke and agile approach to improving the customer journey. 

Guest Blog, Gail Partridge: Making self-service work for your call centre…

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The idea that customers can manage their own customer queries almost sounds like a contradiction. However, self-service has become a growing trend in the call centre industry for some time now, and is set further increase its status as consumers look to adopt convenient customer experience solutions. Gail Partridge, consultant at PeopleTECH, examines how the introduction of self-service in your call centre will benefit the business and, in time, become commonplace across the industry

When used to its full potential, self-service can result in a win-win situation for both the customer and the agent, allowing customers to proactively find solutions to customer queries and granting agents the opportunity to pin-point the queries that will need to be resolved over the phone. But how can a company effectively introduce the forward-thinking approach of self-service?

Remember your customer demographics

When implementing a self-service strategy, it is crucial to always have the target demographic at the forefront of your thinking. While self-service is portrayed as an invaluable option that allows agents to prioritise and manage their workload, for many customers, however, they will always want to directly speak with an agent to resolve an issue.

If this traditional method is ignored, your call centre could potentially lose a majority of customers. Therefore, it is important to make sure that contact details are easily accessible and clearly displayed alongside your self-service content. You can and should encourage self-service where possible and align self-servicing routes/journeys to call drivers is an important part of this.

Keep it simple

Simplicity and clarity are essential tools to the development of any successful self-service channel. All relevant information, such as what personal or transactional detail is required for a customer to self-serve – or where to go if a query cannot be resolved via self-service –  should be presented in a clear and easy manner to understand; managing customer expectations from the outset with the inclusion of the benefits of self-service.

These benefits include the round-the-clock availability, the speed of resolution, the lack of call queuing times and the sheer convenience to the customer. In addition, some interactions are simply not suitable for self-service – often for reasons of sensitivity and the depth of each query – therefore, a company should identify the queries that can be moved to and successfully handled via a self-service channel.

Self-service and omnichannel

A modern customer experience journey should always be about omnichannel, delivering to consumers a contextual experience. With this said, an organisation’s self-service channels should be completely connected and joined-up, allowing customers to effortlessly move between channels, retaining the context of that particular interaction as well as their prior history with the company.

This means they should be able to start an interaction in one channel and move to another without having to start the whole process again, and even use two or more channels simultaneously, allowing a company to meet customer requirements and not appearing to steer customers from the traditional voice channel. Any agent interaction following a self-service transaction should not require the customer to re-tell the story of their query as this can greatly impact on their choice to return.

 

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.