More than a third of Americans (37%) admit that they’d rather eat year-old fruitcake than contact a customer service department. But times when customer complaints, questions or other issues spike doesn’t have to drain the quality from your customer experience. Heed the resounding majority of consumers (91%) who call for contact centers to be better prepared to make the experience painless. Enghouse Interactive’s contact center experts tackle some common questions to help contact center managers deliver excellent customer experiences all year long.
1. How can contact centers prepare for a surge in customer issues?
First, it’s important to note that the surge in customer issues is more than a hypothetical “What if?” It’s a reality happening in several industries right now. A recent study conducted by J.D. Power, for example, illustrates this point, noting that midsize banks are notably lagging behind larger banks in customer satisfaction, and they were even found to be declining in approval points among affluent customers. Can you guess what the number one complaint was among survey participants? It was not high fees or low interest rates that garnered the highest percentage of complaints —it was poor customer service (28 percent).
Additionally, a 2014 ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) survey of the airlines industry, which captured complaints ranging from checked baggage fees to uncomfortable seating, is another reminder of an industry that’s notoriously been an underperformer in customer service. What was especially noteworthy about this survey was what it had to say about the airline industry’s two customer service leaders: JetBlue and Southwest. Both airlines are exceptional at engaging their customers via multiple communication channels, including social media.
Whether a bank, airlines, or other professional service company is trying to improve its current customer service performance or prepare for a potential surge in customer issues, it’s important to note that choosing the proper tools and software is a critical component to empowering agents to be more productive, and enabling managers to better optimize the customer experience.
It’s also important to equip customer service agents with the tools they need to be efficient and productive across all customer communication channels. The adage that, “A happy employee equals a happy customer,” proves itself as your contact center gets busier, so it’s crucial that agents are empowered to solve problems they’ll encounter.
One of the simplest resources you can give agents is insight into similar scenarios by providing templates and examples for handling commonly asked questions. This will go a long way in saving them from having to reinvent prevalent replies during the peak season.
2. How can contact centers streamline agents’ activities across channels?
Traditional call centers have exploded beyond phone calls into email, live chat, video, social media, and more. Multichannel contact center solutions such as Microsoft Lync incorporate instant messaging, Voice over IP, video conferencing, screen sharing and rich presence capabilities into a single, user-friendly platform – providing a smooth conduit for collaboration. Contact centers can enhance those capabilities with native Lync apps, those that keep interactions on Lync every step of the way, but add so much more.
By eliminating the need for duplicative systems, servers and maintenance requirements, native Lync apps can streamline the contact center workload for organizations with limited resources of time, money and staff.
Additionally, the uniformity and omni-channel nature of Lync helps contact center team members deliver the best service possible. Compared to the Internet-based messaging services that suffice for many cash-strapped small businesses, Lync is a more secure alternative for business communications because messages stay within the corporate intranet. Whether users are at a desktop computer or working from home on a mobile device, Lync allows secure server access for smooth collaboration across boundaries.
So even when a mobile workforce is spread out across multiple office and remote locations, projects and conversations can keep flowing smoothly with real-time instant messaging and group chat. With rich presence capabilities, Lync displays availability indicators to show if contacts in your organization are busy or available, and EICC (Enghouse Interactive Contact Center) adds intelligent queuing across channels so that queries are directed to available agents who are best suited to assist – which cuts back on waiting times and runarounds when routing customer calls.
When combined with a native multi-channel contact center application, Lync boosts productivity by empowering users to manage customer interactions fluidly across channels, rather than logging in and out of multiple systems for each mode of contact. Options like callback allow customers to retain their position in queue without waiting on the phone. And with customer self-service options through IVR or web knowledge management, agent recording and coaching, and performance metrics and tools for supervisor management, the right tool set can actually improve, not just enable, customer experience management. This benefits customers too, as wait times are reduced and resolution rates and customer satisfaction is increased.
The flexibility of Lync doesn’t limit interactions to an initial mode of contact, either. What begins as a phone call can shift into a virtual video chat with a single click, allowing users the freedom to shift to a more effective mode of communication, mid-interaction. The multi-channel contact center gives agents and customers options to interact in the most effective way, whether through a traditional phone call, email, social media, or video.
Stay tuned for more best practices in Part II.