Empowered customers today want to make their own choices in the way that they interact with companies that they do business with. That means that not only does the company need to provide the goods and services, but also the communication channels and culture to make the service experience one of paramount value to that customer and thus to the company in return.
Here are some key steps to take in order to maximize the service experience for a customer:
Know Your Customer
When a customer contacts a company, agents should have full access to the customer’s information. They should be able to view past and pending requests made across all available communication channels. They should have a full understanding of past purchases so that agents can tailor answers to the needs of the customer.
If a request has been escalated from a Web self-service session, agents should have access to the full session history in order not to repeat questions or searches that customers have already performed.
Couple Your CRM System with Others
CRM systems should be more than just the front end of a database of customer information and cases - they should also be integrated with back office applications. Real time data integration means the system can make calls to third party systems to retrieve a real time answer to a question such as “when did my order ship?”
Some companies deeply couple knowledge management with CRM. When agents are gathering the details of the customer’s issue, under-the-covers searches are being executed so that an updated list of relevant solutions can be presented to the agent. Agents should then be able to drag and drop solutions right into the case details.
Make Search Smart
In order to optimize the search experience, context driven search should be available on the agent’s desktop. The context of the interaction with the customer should be passed into the search – such as the product version being used and its operating system - so that only targeted information is returned.
To make the tight coupling of knowledge with CRM effective, agents should be able to easily create new knowledge, or modify inaccurate knowledge. Agents should also be able to bookmark knowledge that they frequently use, and be able to share these bookmarks with other agents, in order to help novice agents get up to speed.
In addition, some CRM systems can be deployed to be fully “context sensitive.” For example, if an agent is researching the customer’s history, only screens that contain this information are actively available to him. This helps focus the agent on the task by guiding him through a complex application to the right information.
Meet Your Customer’s Expectations
According to our latest Forrester data, voice is still the most widely used channel for customer service. This is closely followed by Web self service, email and chat. Customers are also embracing emerging communication channels such as virtual agents, Twitter, SMS and co-browsing.
Even though customers want to interact on an increasing number of communication channels, companies should not feel pressured to offer them all. Pick the channels that are aligned with your brand. For example, if you are a retailer targeting a youth audience, focus on the mobile, web and social channels. However, if you are an insurance company or bank, voice and web channels may be more important to your customer base. Once you narrow your channel choice, make sure that they are deployed using best practices in order to optimize the service experience delivered.
Answer Your Customer’s Question
We know that six in 10 customer service emails do not answer the customer’s question. Teach your agents to answer all questions – direct and implied - to reduce follow-on questions. For example, a customer asking whether shuttle service is available should receive an answer answering this question, as well as the cost and schedule of the shuttle service.
Follow up by asking if the customer’s question was answered, and give them alternate contact methods – like for example a pointer to the frequently asked questions on the Web site or access to a chat link.
Never force your customers to use a particular communication channel, or get stuck with a single channel for the duration of the service experience. For example, a customer should be able to follow up an email service request with a phone call, and the agent should have access to the customer’s information across all contact channels.
Also, allow customers to give you unsolicited feedback. As most of this feedback tends to be negative, strong focus should be given to addressing this feedback. Such interactions can be used as triggers to target consumers for proactive outreach.
These strategies put you on the path in engaging in a successful two-way conversation with your customer base. Customers will still influence the relationship that they have with companies. Yet companies will have a greater success in creating a loyal customer base if they respect their customers.