Contact Centers: The Customer Experience Frontline
- Christa Heibel
- 18 May 2018
There is no way around it. Your contact center and the agents that staff it are your essential customer experience frontline. Your contact center is often viewed as the face and voice of your brand, and is typically the first responder to your customers’ crises. In a time where more and more companies are opting for a digital presence as opposed to brick and mortar, it is crucial that your contact center provides timely, professional, and friendly customer service. Here are 3 major reasons why your contact center is a very important cog in your PR machinery:
1. It’s the First Impression Your Customers May Have
Social media is here to stay, but nothing replaces the value and warmth of human interaction. Customers appreciate the personal touch and are more likely to call in if they are having issues with your product or service. Bear in mind that your contact center will also probably be the first point of contact or introduction for a potential customer to your business. An article from Entrepreneur outlines recent research that shows that first impressions are so powerful because the human brain processes data sequentially. This means that the first impression you give to your customers sets the tone for the rest of your relationship. Negative first impressions can be especially tough to shake even with the best intentions, so it is important to always have your best foot forward.
So how do you make sure your contact center is providing an excellent customer experience and a great first impression? It starts with your agents! Virtually every contact center offers trained agents, but you need more than just a cookie cutter training program. What distinguishes you from the pack is how well your agents relate to customers, can go beyond the pre-scripted material and inspire genuine loyalty and appreciation for the brand. Therefore, the first impression is key for starting things off on the right foot with customers and helping to ensure that they will want to return.
2. First Call Resolution for Brand Loyalty
In an age where people can get the information they need almost instantaneously, customers want their problems to be resolved as quickly as possible. With the vast amount of your competitors out there that are waiting patiently to snatch up your unhappy customers, it is crucial that you resolve complaints as promptly as possible in order to retain customer loyalty. Long hold times? Transfers to multiple departments? Days, weeks, and even months to resolve a single problem? You might as well wrap your customers up with a fancy bow and hand deliver them to your competitors!
Aim to have first call resolution as the priority. The chief reason why customers call in with complaints is to have an actual person deal with their problems and solve it for them as quickly as possible. When your agents are trained well in empathy and are empowered to make decisions that will enhance the customer experience without having to escalate it to a supervisor, your customers will be more likely to turn into brand advocates.
3. Your Agents Are Your Brand Advocates
Do all points of customer contact, specifically your contact center, reflect the image your brand wants to convey? Ask yourself whether your agents, on a very basic level, know the following:
- How to listen without judgment
- How to display empathy
- How to resolve complaints and what to do when they can’t
- How to take ownership of complaints
- How to make sure the customer is satisfied
- How to be a brand ambassador
It is important for you to define goals, measure results, motivate and develop your agents, and solicit feedback. When your agents see that you are vested in their success and growth, they will quickly become your brand advocates. Their satisfaction will likely shine through the service they provide to your customers, which is a win for everyone.
Let’s Go Back to The Basics!
There are several factors that your contact center should consider if you want to create the best possible brand impression and customer experience:
- Do not have agents multitask – they shouldn’t be handling emails while on the phone. Customer service requires dedicated attention.
- Do not overlook agent development – It is common in many contact centers to have their agents work endless hours without much feedback. To help improve agent retention, customer service, and cost efficiencies, it is important to ensure that you are consistently training and coaching your agents.
- Ensure agents have extensive product knowledge, understand what different departments can do, and know how to deal with customers effectively. If you don’t have all your systems well in place with great organization, customers will lose confidence, fast.
- Genuine warmth, concern and problem resolution skills far outweigh following scripts to the letter or ensuring calls are resolved within a pre-set time limit.
- Having one person to deal with and take charge of issues is infinitely preferable to being moved around from one person to another or a complete lack of ownership, which cause the resolution of issues to take much longer and can result in the customer having to call back more than once.
- Is your call center accessible across multiple devices to make it easy for your customers to contact you? An omni-channel platform for your customers is no longer a nice-to-have. It’s a necessity!
- Have you yourself tested and triple-tested the technology to make the customer journey a seamless experience? There may be gaps that could be leaving your customers upset and you may not even know it. Take the time to re-create and understand the customer journey so that you can proactively address your customers’ issues.
- Does your technology incorporate self-help tools where customers can be guided to resolve issues themselves, saving them and yourself time? Some calls (ex. paying a bill or checking account balance) can be handled by an IVR, which will ultimately help free up your agents’ time so that they can deal with more complex issues.
Your contact center is the brand image and backbone of your business. Time invested in ensuring that it creates customer goodwill and appreciation will pay huge dividends in your profitability over the long run. If you are looking to work with a trusted industry partner to improve the customer experience in your contact center, please contact me directly.