Four Keys to Serving the Hyper-Informed Customer

Seventy-three percent of call center decision makers involved in a 2015 study noted an increase in the complexity of customer interactions. This comes at a time when customers are hyper-informed, diligently scouring social media, blogs, review sites, and more to know virtually everything about companies and their products and services, all before calling customer service.

This democratization of information presents a challenge for today's customer-facing employees. After hours of research on message boards and internet searches, customers expect contact center agents to provide knowledgeable answers to highly personal, critically important, and extremely complicated situations. But are organizations training employees to take advantage of these critical interactions?

Given that 89 percent of consumers will abandon companies for their competitors after just one poor customer experience, it's worth contemplating this question and designing a plan to optimize your contact center for hyper-informed inquiries. Organizations must position employees to deliver insightful service to increasingly knowledgeable customers by transforming them into expert problem-solvers, educators, and company evangelists. This might sound like an overwhelming task, but with the following four keys to serving hyper-informed customers, it doesn't need to be.

1. Know the new rules.

Veterans of the customer service industry are accustomed to old measures of service. However, formulaic approaches, including a cheerful greeting, friendly service, on-hold times, call volumes, and a wrap-up upsell pitch, don't work with hyper-informed customers. Instead, they seek knowledgeable answers and advice from company experts who can provide information that can't be accessed through a search engine.

To ensure that employees make providing these unique insights a priority, set key performance indicators that rank informing customers first. For example, instead of setting performance standards based on call length, set standards based on customer satisfaction, even if it extends calls by a few seconds. Customer-focused metrics like this incentivize employees to relay the in-depth knowledge consumers want rather than providing short, shallow, and scripted responses.

2. Provide expert training.

Throwing new agents on the phone with little information about your company and services is a recipe for disaster. Sticking to scripts isn't enough to satisfy customers who have already done their homework. When they take the time to call you, they expect to speak with agents who intimately understand your organization. Reevaluate your training programs, both for new and existing employees, to ensure that they focus on teaching agents in-depth product and service information.

Fortunately, you don't need to hire someone from an outside firm to do a workshop with your team. Invite team members from marketing, sales, engineering, and product development to meet with your contact center staff on a regular basis so they can learn the ins and outs of your products, services, and organization. This knowledge will come in handy when customers face complicated situations requiring the creative thinking that a manual can't provide.

3. Do the research.

Your organization doesn't exist in a vacuum. Conversations are happening right now across blogs, social media, and news sites, informing customers about your company and competitors. Understand what's being said, whether good or bad, and share this information with employees.

Don't simply inform agents about what's being said, though. Ensure that they know how to counter false and negative information while positively positioning your company's offerings. This will help them turn potentially hostile conversations into positive brand experiences where customers feel truly listened to and cared for. Given that 55 percent of consumers who intend to make purchases change their minds after poor customer service experiences, your contact center's ability to turn unhappy customers into happy ones is key to organizational success.

4. Establish the right environment.

Even with the best customer service agents and fantastic training, your work will be for naught if you don't establish the right environment. Start by investing in equipment that helps agents concentrate and deliver expert service. Keep computers up to date so agents can quickly navigate through databases without glitches and consider investing in a 360-degree CRM platform that provides agents with robust customer histories.

Wireless headsets are also an asset to agents. Given that typical workers spend 32 percent of their time working in a radius of up to 12 meters from their desks, going cordless allows agents to work more efficiently. Without wires, employees can walk across the office to get approval from supervisors or request additional information without interrupting or putting callers on hold. This ultimately leads to faster issue resolution and happier customers.

Organizations can't afford to overlook any customer, least of all the ones who've invested considerable time researching products and services. By understanding todays hyper-informed customers and adjusting service processes accordingly, you can ensure that agents are prepared to assist in even the stickiest of situations. Committing to research, training, and technology will prepare your employees to be true knowledge workers, ensuring that even the most hyper-informed customers remain loyal and satisfied.

Holger Reisinger is senior vice president of large enterprise solutions at Jabra, a provider of headset technology for contact centers.