Five Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service

When making any strategic technology investment, thinking about next steps and results can often get lost in the enthusiasm for the project. But considering those end results is actually the most critical step, and can't be overlooked.

The value of any new technology almost always depends on one thing: the impact it has on customer behavior. Without asking how each investment will change the customer's experience, how they make a purchase, or how they interact with your company, a business might find itself changing executional or operational processes without becoming more competitive or customer-friendly.

While technology drives business forward, the fundamentals of attracting customers stay the same. For instance, customer service ideally provides an experience that meets customers' needs, right at the moment of need. Whether that means a fast result, a more hands-on service approach, or the ability to chat versus call, customers need to feel important and valued. So when looking at new technology to improve customer service, remember that loyalty is what's on the line.

For truly excellent service, following a few best practices can help you make better decisions between new technologies and tools.

Providing loyalty-inducing customer service is important because competitors are waiting patiently on the sidelines for opportunities to siphon away your customers. Whether it's a new upstart looking to bolster its customer base or a long-standing rival making a fresh push for market share, competition is fierce.

Customers are also aware that everyone is vying for their business, causing loyalty to waver. In 2016, 89 percent of consumers reported that they stopped doing business with a company after poor and inconsistent service. And unless companies become sticky, it's easy for consumers to switch loyalty for any reason.

Many businesses wonder how to practice excellent customer service when self-service has become so common. Searching a website or app for an answer might be a first step for many consumers, but a lot of responsibility still falls on the customer service agent. Customers will only spend so much time searching for an answer before they want live, human assistance.

When a customer reaches out for help, it creates an opportunity to gain or build loyalty. Five best practices that can help improve satisfaction include the following:

  1. Simplify the process of connecting with a live agent;
  2. Prepare customer service agents to handle a steady flow of calls;
  3. Work with the customer toward an optimal solution;
  4. Track customers' service and interaction histories to tailor multichannel service; and
  5. Give agents access to why the customer is calling and a history of previous interactions.

These five best practices can be adopted by every company with no technology required, though the strategic adoption of technology to support each of these best practices can make life easier. Simplifying how customers connect with a live agent, for instance, can be achieved by putting the contact center number on every external communication. However, customers would still have to call in and wait in queue for an agent.

To extend simplification, you could add callback across each of your customer service channels. That option would automatically put a customer in the queue, making a return call to them when the next agent is available. Not only does the customer save time, but agents don't feel rushed to complete their current call to begin with the next customer.

Do you see an insurmountable dollar sign when you think about how to satisfy customer service best practices? When some decision-makers think of robust customer service, rooms filled with rows of desks, headsets, and a sprawl of hardware come to mind, not to mention the IT team that makes it all work. In other words, a huge investment that might not seem worth the risk.

But modern cloud-based technology means that locking into a monolithic infrastructure investment is no longer necessary. A cloud-based contact center creates a better experience for your customers and makes more practical and financial business sense since the service is hosted online instead of onsite. Another major benefit of a cloud-based contact center is that businesses of every size have a solution tailored to their operations.

Businesses also have a variety of customizable services available when deploying a cloud-based contact center. The software-as-a-service model provides the ability to add on or remove capabilities and scale capacity as necessary. One of the quickest services to begin using is multichannel callback. With the cloud, it requires no additional hardware investments and can scale to meet your agent and incoming contact volumes.

Cloud-based callback is also an ideal starting point because the first three best practices all center on improving the relationship between customer and agent. Callback saves customers time and energy by enabling them to request a return call from any channel or device. It allows companies to harmonize customer needs with agent support, helping agents understand call volume, which increases the speed to answer and resolution time while demonstrating respect for a customer's schedule.

Technology is always changing, making what was previously a hurdle into an opportunity. For businesses that have recognized the importance of excellent customer service, the substantial investment in contact centers was once a hurdle to improving loyalty. By adopting new tools like cloud-based callback, you can better focus on the fundamental of attracting customers.

Jaime Bailey is senior director of marketing at Virtual Hold Technology.