Technology is evolving at a breakneck rate, and businesses must either keep pace or fail.
Whether it’s rolling out innovative products, leveraging tech-based systems to expand or, more recently, keeping connected virtually while employees work from home, technology has dictated the way businesses operate. It’s also been beneficial for employees, as more streamlined processes and increased automation allow teams to spend more time focusing on the most interesting parts of their job.
But where some business leaders fail to take advantage of technology is at the very heart of their business: the customer experience.
Customer service isn’t just managing inquiries and answering calls; it’s about building a relationship with customers. And while emerging tech — like AI-driven chatbots — has allowed member experience departments to resolve issues more efficiently and quickly, people still want to speak to a real person.
A 2020 study by Deloitte found that person-to-person service interactions were the most common factor cited by customers when discussing whether they felt "valued" by a brand. So how do you balance technology with human interaction?
Make Smart Hires
The larger the company, the bigger the customer service department. While employing more customer service specialists may mean faster response times, it can also result in more frustrated customers being transferred between different departments in a call center.
Rather than build a large team of specialists, hire smart generalists who can handle the majority of your customer interactions. Of course, you might still need some specialists, but training bright people who can help with a variety of issues will leave customers happy and save on your bottom line.
And don’t forget brand ambassadors, whose job it is to serve and delight your customers. As Maya Angelou said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” The way your employees make your customers feel will be far more impactful than a slogan in an ad campaign. This is what distinguishes a company like Southwest Airlines from their competitors: They demonstrate a genuine love for their customers, and they hire employees who make their customers feel that love.
Train Them Regularly
The customer service team should be equipped with everything they need from the get-go. It’s important that you train your team properly when they join, but it’s just as essential that you keep refreshing and reiterating this training, based on what they tell you they want to know.
And don't just focus on the technical side. Arm the team with the right training to face the emotional side of customer interactions and teach softer skills like solving customer queries with empathy and understanding. The best way to teach your outward facing employees to be empathetic is to exemplify this internally. If you value your employees, your employees will value your customers.
Invest in Technology
Automate back-office activities and lessen the time spent on searching account details. This will allow your team to focus on addressing your customers’ more complex needs as quickly as possible, leaving both customers and employees more satisfied.
It’s also worth investing the time to build internal tools that support your customer service team. Doing so will help solve inquiries more quickly and efficiently. According to a report by Zendesk, agents spend as much as 20 percent of their time just looking for information about customers. Think how much time you can save them by automation. It’ll pay off.
Keep Up With Social Media
Social media platforms are an easy place for people to say exactly what they’re thinking. So it’s no surprise that they’re a popular way for customers to get the attention of your customer service department. Lots of us use social media to let off steam, but social media can be a brilliant way to speak with customers in a less formal way than before.
If you employ a social media manager, it’s worth having them talk to your customer service team to share tips on how to engage with customers via different social platforms. In fact, you may find customers praising interactions via social media — which can be great for your customer service team to see.
Affirm Your Employees
Using a customer loyalty metric like a net promoter score (NPS) is one way businesses can measure the impact of their customer service. Keeping a close eye on success rates means you can recognize high-performing agents and give important insights into what’s working well and what isn’t. But remember: Not everything can be measured in numbers. It’s important to celebrate other wins, like interactions that left the customer feeling satisfied.
The pandemic has tested digital transformation strategies at organizations the world over. Companies have had to adapt to working from home overnight, while making sure the customer experience remains stable.
Customer service is an important moment of human interaction. Do it right, and the customer will be satisfied. Do it poorly, and they’ll go elsewhere. When brand loyalty and reputation is on the line, an empathetic, human-centered, data-driven approach is what it takes to keep a thriving member base.