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The One Contact Center Practice that Could Redeem Customer Service

I recently came across a couple of industry trend articles that are highly relevant to our audience and worth discussing. The first one is, “4 Customer Service Trends That Will Impact the Contact Center,” by Donna Fluss, president of DMG Consulting LLC. In the article, she talks about how customers want the companies they do business with to make the buying process frictionless. And, acknowledging that the concept of “reducing customer effort” is difficult to measure, it is now one of the top five goals for contact centers, according to DMG’s research. She also identifies three additional trends in her article, including:

  1. Improving the Customer Journey — Knowing that customers view all channels of a company as a single entity, retailers will be making a substantial investment in improving the integration among their channels over the next five years.
  2. Improving the Customer Feedback/Surveying Process — Many retailers’ survey efforts yield low response rates. Further, the feedback that is captured often isn’t followed up. Innovative survey techniques that make use of passive customer feedback tools (using text and speech analytics to identify customer insights and sentiments, for example) are going to become more widely adopted.
  3. Employee Engagement — There is an undeniable connection between happy agents and happy customers, and companies are taking steps to invest in technologies and programs to improve employee engagement.

Kate Leggett, principal analyst at Forrester Research, also shared some important thoughts on this same topic, in her article, “Modern Customer Service Rests on a Solid Foundation of Knowledge Management.” In it, she corroborates Fluss’ earlier points, adding, “Our research found that 55% of U.S. online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. Additionally, 77% say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good online customer service — up 6% from 2012.”

Sadly, there appears to be wide gap between what customers want and what they are getting. According to the latest Sprout Social Media Index, only 16.35% of the online inquiries companies receive online are responded to. In other words, nearly 83% of online customer requests are ignored!

There is another trend, however, which Leggett notes in her article that I believe has the potential to offset the struggle retailers have responding to online customer inquiries: self-service.

At the heart of making the buying process easy/frictionless is knowledge management, says Leggett, which is what fuels self-service channels such as Web, mobile, and IVR. “Self-service knowledge, especially when it is proactively and contextually delivered to the customer at the time of need, gives you that effortless experience that consumers want.” This knowledge can be as simple as a set of FAQs on a portal/website, and it can be as complex as embedding knowledge into devices and proactively enabling customers to troubleshoot problems, she says.

As much as retailers would like to have one-on-one relationships with each customer and respond to every inquiry, it’s just not realistic. Taking the other extreme position — ignoring customers — isn’t a viable strategy either. The best option is to empower customers with knowledge, so that with minimum effort they can get their questions answered quickly. Out of all the strategies retailers must consider to improve the customer experience, providing self-service knowledge is the one that has the potential to make a big and immediate impact and should be at the top of more retailers’ lists.

Published in customer experience Customer Experience Management customer service customer support omni-channel voice of the customer