The Future of Customer Care is Multilingual & Socially-enabled

The business world is not immune to the force of globalisation and new trends pave the way for new opportunities.

Technology made our lives easier and its seemingly endless capacity makes it possible for people and organisations to connect in ways never dreamed possible. New venues and communication channels are advantageous to business endeavours but also provide challenges, ones which continue to shape the customer care landscape.

Tech-enabled interactions enable people to collaborate over long distances, thus digitally but also tangibly shrunk the world.  Multilingual contact centres are at the forefront of new communication trends and are able to tap into this potential and enrich the customer experience.

The whole process has changed as it’s no longer as simple as it once was, simply providing a service or selling a product is not enough as demand for implementing a coherent, effective and personalised customer journey is impossible to ignore. Brands need to ensure that every customer interaction is pleasurable, convenient and as a result, leaves a lasting impression.  Thus, turning a customer into a loyal brand advocate.

Multilingual, social media enabled customer care centres are the driving force behind customer experience change as they serve as a company’s ticket to success in today’s fast-moving, digital world.

 

Customer diversity is a fact

If you had to describe “The Customer of Today” what qualities would he poses and which traits would be essential for you to tap in order to provide a positive customer experience?

Today’s customers are first and foremost, highly mobile, constantly on the move and connected. Second, due to the popularity of e-commerce sites as well as their international reach more people are using their services.

Last but not least, global purchasing power has always been highly decentralised but the free movement, as well as e-commerce solutions, amplify this phenomenon and as a result, you’re dealing with customers from all over the globe.

All of the above factors influence the convergent of multiple cultures, which is quite the conundrum for businesses as each customer relationship needs to be nurtured differently. If you want to remain relevant, not to mention competitive you need to embrace this diversity with all the challenges it brings. This includes accommodating all your potential customers, no matter the language or culture.

 

Language is personalisation

Providing customer care services in your customers’ native language is the ultimate form of convenience as you make them feel special and show your appreciation for their culture (and part of the market). Most importantly, it clearly and vividly shows that you genuinely care about them as your company adjusted to their preferences and needs.

Multilingual contact centres are actively pursuing new ways to build strong customer relations, which makes them the perfect business partner in achieving your customer experience goals and building a personalised customer journey – no matter the language or geo-location.

 

Eliminate any barriers

If your end-game is to establish a global legacy then you have to do away with cultural and language barriers. In order to build loyalty and nurture relationships, you need to understand your customers, which can only be done if you master the art of effective communication. Which can be quite the daunting task when attempting to do it on-site as not every company poses the operational capability of that magnitude.

Social media enabled contact centres to excel at establishing,  maintaining and facilitating high-quality relationships between brands and their target audience. Social media networks (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn) and microblogging platforms (Instagram, Periscope, Snapchat), due to their instantaneous nature allow for real-time communication 24/7 but also enable enterprises to build real relationships with their customers by showing what’s going on behind the scenes as well as tapping into the unlimited potential of viral marketing.

 

The key to customer satisfaction

Considering my vast experience in the customer care solutions field I will let you in on a secret (pro bono naturally) to company longevity – make your customers happy.

There’s no one more important than your customers, not even shareholders it’s them who are the catalyst to your success. You need to accommodate their needs, provide convenient solutions to their problems and meet them on the communication channels of their choice by taking the proactive approach.

Creating an unforgettable customer experience is just the first step on your path to building lasting relationships with your target market but if you succeed, customers will be coming back for more. They will simply realise that on top of providing a premium product you also provide them with a premium service throughout every step of the customer journey.  Thus, not only meeting but exceeding customer expectations in a way no other company has before you.

But what if you already realise how detrimental to your success, going multilingual is or if you already are tapping into the limitless potential social media enabled contact centres provide?

Then, you probably want to improve your processes or implement best practices which will ensure high-quality customer experience for each and every one of your customers.

I’ve had the pleasure to sit down with my customer care partner, who operates a multilingual centre in Poland and came up with these four basic principles which will strengthen any socially-enabled contact centre:

  • Quick and personal: Response times matter as they are the main selling point of providing customer service through social media networks, however, in your pursuit of the fastest response time you cannot allow yourself to lose sight of how essential personalization is. Drop the robotic, pre-scripted, near automaton sounding tone, even if it means slower resolution. Make your social media response quick, personal while maintaining company tone.
  • Lead by example: Only excellent leadership breeds excellence in service. Communication tone and style are only as good as the advice provided to your consultants by their managers. Remember, attitude is everything.
  • Tools of the trade: Multilingual customer care centres have adapted so well simply because they emphasised employee training more than their traditional counterparts. The ever-changing social media landscape demands that everyone, from agents, through team leaders, to managers be up-to-date with the latest social media trends as well as knowledge on how to apply it in customer service situations. The only way to achieve that goal is to embrace continues improvement and train your employees even more –don’t stop, ever.
  • Collect feedback: Proper methods of feedback collection are essential when maintaining a socially-enabled contact centre. The best approach (for both parties involved) to solicit feedback is short customer surveys, as they ensure you’ll get a response from a customer; ask quick, essential and most importantly, actionable questions, ones which will enable you to pinpoint key problem areas as well as highlight possible improvements in your overall processes. Just do not turn them into a tax return form and you’ll be fine.

However, what about the sceptics oblivious to the benefits socially-enabled contact centres provide?

Well, we think it’s only fair to provide them with basic benefits going multilingual and embracing social media as the customer care channel of the future provides and let them be the judge:

  • Monitor mentions: Build complete customer history by measuring your brand mention volumes; personalised to accommodate each and every customer. Thus, ensuring agents are seeing the full picture before responding.
  • Real-time response: Leverage the power of instantaneous response times social media platforms provide and enact upon the customer need for urgency. Depending on the value of the customer as well as the volume of mentions regarding a particular case you can dedicate an individual or an entire team to handle a certain case and respond to customer enquiries in real time on behalf of your brand.
  • Always be there for your customers: By harnessing the power of social media management you’re capable of answering customer enquiries 24/7, almost at the same time they ask them; overnight, on weekends and even during holidays. A dedicated socially enabled customer care team provides an always-on solution: from monitoring, through engagement and problem recognition, to a successful resolution.
  • Brand engagement: Pro-actively engage your customers by leveraging the capabilities social media monitoring tools provide. Keep in mind that not every success story started from a positive experience so do not be afraid to engage negative opinions. Embrace failures but don’t forget to learn from them and fix the underlying cause.
  • Build awareness: People trust their peers more than anyone else, which is why harnessing the power of online “word of mouth” is so highly sought after by enterprises of all shapes and sizes. Building and maintaining a reputation for timely response will turn your customers into brand evangelists; increasing your reach and further spreading your customer experience “gospel” to friends and family members.
  • Invest in customer lifetime value: Nurturing existing customer loyalty is more beneficial than new customer acquisition through targeted paid advertising. Keeping your current customers happy, will increase the likelihood of them staying with your brand, spending more money as a result but also providing free advertising on your behalf.
  • Free feedback is the best feedback: Social media networks provide you with free and actionable feedback in the form of likes, comments and shares. Previously collecting such vast amounts of insights would require costly surveys or focus groups but social media changed the rules of the game and as a result levelled the playing field for everyone. You instantly know if your campaign is a success or is it going viral, which makes tweaking easier than ever before.

Multilingual customer care companies empower global brands by widening their reach through omnichannel solutions and implementing cloud services.

Opting for a multilingual approach opens new possibilities for your company and amplifies your customer service efforts, while simultaneously allowing your brand to penetrate emerging and dynamic markets and disrupt stagnant sectors.

Make Continuous Improvement Your Ultimate Goal

We all know turning customers away is fatal for business but we can also agree that there is always room for improvement when it comes to customer care.

Top notch customer service skills are a given if you want to provide an unforgettable customer experience. Unfortunately, not many enterprises will admit that their inner processes or quality of provided services are the leading cause of steadily declining customer satisfaction.

Real-time customer support is essential

Gaining new customers is harder than getting new business from an established customer base, but established and loyal customers provide great opportunities in the digital age, such as customer referrals and word-to-mouth.

The most overlooked part of customer experience is one-on-one customer support sessions – it often gets substituted with almost rage inducing automated technology.

The rise of the multi-channel era made B2C communications easier: blogs, websites and social media. However, for most of your customers, social media and websites might be not personal enough. Nothing can substitute the satisfaction which comes from solving a problem though more personal communication channels. Make sure to focus your customer support effort on these three solutions:

  • The “old-school” phone call, it’s not going anywhere anytime soon
  • Live web-chat, it’s the “go-to” choice for the Y generation
  • Follow-up emails or other communication methods, to reassure the customer

It all comes down to embracing and nurturing real-time interaction channels. Once you do, you’ll quickly notice renewal rates rise up and you’ll gain a few more loyal customers at the same time.

Scout ahead

In order to successfully up-sell or cross-sell you need to scout ahead, going in blind, without gathering data regarding customer purchase habits is a recipe for failure.

Understand the needs and desires of the customer base; differentiate customer types (new, loyal, etc.). Customers will notice if you don’t do your homework which will result in lost opportunities.

Gathering intelligence and providing the customer with suitable options doesn’t always guarantee a sale, but it will leave a positive impression which in the future can result in a positive referral or a new sale.

Be flexible

Every company has a set of guidelines in place, especially for marketing or servicing customers – what most contact centre managers forget is that these are just guidelines, not set in stone rules.

Make these procedures more flexible for established customers as return business is good business – make it easier for them to give you just that.

Be flexible when it comes to pitching products or services – that’s it!

Broken promises

The biggest and most common mistake is over-selling your brand. Never do that as it just leads to broken promises and lost sales – oh, and bad press.

Learn to under-sell and exceed expectations; customer satisfaction does wonders.

Unfortunately sometimes, due to poor judgement, communication problems or “insert random excuse here” promises do get broken, and you fail to deliver. This is the time to atone for the sins and repair your relationship with the customer.

Common recovery tactics include these steps:

  • Admitting your mistake
  • Offering a genuine solution to the problem caused by the broken promise
  • Offering a refund to the customer
  • Offering free or discounted serviced or products, even if the customer took a refund

Leave personal problems at home

It’s hard, but personal problems should never interfere with customer interaction. Despite all the hardships you might be facing, contact centre agents need to remain polite, professional and most importantly reliable.

We at Opstalent think exceptional customer service is the backbone of a successful business, it’s time make it your priority as well!

All Aboard The Metric-train!

Obsessing over metrics is not necessarily a bad thing, especially in a dynamic and multi-lingual environment of a customer care centre.

However, if you use the wrong metrics, or use them in a wrong way, then the results will be skewed and not reflective of the truth.

 

Don’t be naive

Showing a lack of experience, understanding or at times idealism on the contact centre floor is the equivalent of prancing around with a “Kick Me!” sign.

As a manager or supervisor, you need to understand human nature. Don’t be naive.

Each time you implement a new metric, signal how important this is. Furthermore, attaching a target or an incentive to the metric will encourage the employees, and they will strive to improve their performance when it comes to that particular measure.

Just remember, in order to reap the benefits your contact centre agents will try to “bend the rules” in order to reap the benefits – the ends will justify the means. This has a tremendous impact on team morale.

It’s your job to pinpoint any problems these actions can cause and deal with them accordingly.

 

Can you measure greed?

It’s quite common for contact and customer care centre managers to implement more metrics then it’s actually needed. Going overboard with multiple measuring scales is what we at OpsTalent call Greed-metrics.

Why settle for a simple abandonment rate figure when you could also have:

  • the quality of service scale
  • average answer speed
  • and finally, the average time to abandon

And yes, you guessed it, each of these metrics comes with its own separate target.

This only shows the confusion among the management team, a complete lack of the ability to see the wood from the trees – one might say.

There always needs to be a clear reason for creating and using a specific metric. The agent team needs to know why metrics are implemented and how are they used to evaluate their work.

 

People will try to cheat

During the presidential election, we are bound to hear the common phrase “The polls were rigged”. The contact centre industry suffers from its own “outcome rigging” shenanigans.

In order to hit the desired targets and receive bonuses, contact centre agents and managers alike will provide falsified data.

Supervisors and managers will be more sophisticated about their “rigging” methods. Pay attention if one of the following occurs:

  • Altering the calculation methods used in order to show a “more accurate” result
  • Being particularly picky about “how” and “what” metrics are used
  • Simple stuff like removing outliers or changing graph scales in order to conceal upward or downward trends
  • Questioning the validity of the data

Rigging crucial metric data is an attempt to hide performance issues – keeping a “good score” should never take precedence over facts.

 

Measure, adjust and act

Contact centre performance isn’t something easily predictable. Sometimes your agent teams can perform as if the sky is their limit, and other times it will get much worse, even dreadful.

But it’s your duty as a manager to quickly catch on to those rapid changes in performance and distinguish if they are really important issues that should be deal with (through coaching, training sessions, knowledge base implementation etc.) or are they simply noise.

Do not, however, overreact as overreaction conjures up problems, ones which didn’t exist in the first place.

Get to Know Your Customers

Mastering and gaining insights is essential in establishing a loyalty culture.

Customer loyalty is driven by multiple factors but mainly by the dissonance between how your company is internally structured, and what does the customer experience when communicating with your brand.

 

Internal factors can influence external outcome

It’s quite common for companies to ignore internal factors, and just focus on external ones when reviewing their customer loyalty options.  The following situation dissolves into a series of ‘knee-jerk’ reactions to customer satisfaction and loyalty scores, not focusing on fixing the root cause of the problem. Temporary ‘band-aids’ hurt customer loyalty and are reactionary in nature, it’s not what the costumers want.

 

Re-examine your inner-workings to fully understand what drives customer loyalty

Let’s get one thing out in the open, focusing on external fixes simply doesn’t work. If your management team’s fixes include one or more of the following ideas we’ve got bad news for you:

  • “We need to create a customer loyalty program to reward those customers that purchase more”
  • “We need to launch a brand new advertising campaign (yet another one) that highlights how great our product is”
  • “We clearly need a sale, let’s slash the prices that a sure way to increase our customer loyalty”

These so-called solutions are reactionary in nature, short-sighted, and don’t even scratch the surface of the real problem – why are you unable to gain customer loyalty.

Dismiss the concept ‘knee-jerk’ changes, your goal is to understand your customers, shift your paradigm of how you understand customer loyalty.

 

Create programs that fit your customers’ preferences

First and foremost, stop assuming that your customers understand what differentiates your products from the competition. Next, customer service and product development need to form as a result of knowing who your customers are, what do they expect from a top-tier product, and what will impact their decision-making process.

 

How to gain insights into your customers’  behaviour

You’re probably scratching your head and thinking “How do I understand my customers?” – well, it’s pretty easy, you simply talk to you customers. Conduct surveys, focus groups, engage them through social media, the possibilities are endless.

Find out:

  • how they perceive your brand
  • how they perceive products similar to yours
  • how do they rate your customer service
  • what matters to them

 

The fun part

Having collected required data, the time has come to analyse, and implement solutions that will satisfy your customers’ needs. You may find out that yet another customer loyalty program is not what they need nor want, maybe you need to ‘amp-up’ your customer service, or maybe it’s your website that needs to be more intuitive.

 

The journey will be an enlightening and fulfilling

Your findings will re-calibrate your focus and open a plethora of possibilities to gain loyal customers.

Gaining perspective is a life and business lesson that you can’t ‘put a price tag’ on.

Custom Built Agent Team

The perfect customer care agent is high-performing and engaged, at least according to managers but how does this fare against reality?

However, in reality, we’re capable of observing multiple ranges of performances from low, to average and finally high. Agents are doing the same job, but their performance varies so much simply because they’re all different people and we’re evaluating them with the same metrics. It’s natural that some will lag behind while others will excel above their peers.

Considering that everyone is different and has a plethora of experiences and expectations maybe the managers themselves should opt in for a unique personalised approach – recognise all these differences and accept them. Focus agent development and training around those, this will help tremendously with performance.

Personalise agents coaching sessions, adjust them to their needs and performance level.

In order to reach peak performance use these 5 steps.

 

Job description

Everyone has a job description but most of the time those are ignored or even forgotten about completely. Someone once told me “My job description is like a fairy tale; In a filing cabinet far, far away”. Dust the job description off, it is the most common denominator of your agents. It’s the best starting point, in won’t help you with performance issues but will let you learn what expectations your team has.

Put that knowledge to good use.

 

Expectations

Make sure all the agents in your contact centre are on the same page when it comes to performance expectations. The job description is a great starting point, but each team member can understand it in a totally different way and that is the way their performance will vary.

Communication is the basis of an effective team.

 

Diagnose performance

Agents need consistent metrics and performance evaluation methods those won’t substitute day-to-day coaching and performance management but will let you benchmark current performance and competency levels for each individual. You simply need to know what to tune up.

Pick the best tool to gauge their abilities and be aware of potential risks involved with each method.

 

Devise a plan

After carefully analysing each agent’s strengths and improvement opportunities, create a tune up plan. Create a custom made plan of action for each agent, do not generalise but make it relevant and specific to each person. The plan needs to be practical, be sure to include activities, online learning and company training.

Whatever you plan for your agents make sure it all ties down directly to the evaluation.

 

Implement the plan

Now the tune-up begins. The plan itself is a great topic for discussion between agents and managers, it will fuel their thirst for knowledge. No more wasted training and resources.

Your team is ready to reach its peak performance.

 

The cost associated with the aforementioned custom tune up is low while it provides great value. Tune up your staff and see them soar.

How to Deliver Great Customer Care with Live Chat

Live chat became the norm for customer care delivery but no matter the support channel of choice, customer experience must be positive. 

One of the benefits for the client is the ability to multitask during the session which allows those with busy schedules to continue with their daily tasks and routines.

Though the quality of the service itself can be less than favourable since at times the agent will overuse scripted lines, fail to personalise comments and ask irrelevant questions.

When moving agents from the traditional channels of communication to live chat you should consider training them in proper etiquette.

Be Proactive

Smart companies know the benefits of live chat. Tough you need to keep in mind which method of delivering the service you should pick. You have two options; either include a button on your site that opens up a session or set a timer that will automatically open up a session after a prolonged browsing period. The second option can be a little annoying for the customer. Remember that instigating communication is a proven method of increasing revenue.

Customize Messages

Most life chat sessions begin with a scripted welcoming message. Those are a time saver but frequent overuse can lead to negative interaction with the customer simply because they might make him will unimportant. Be understanding, show the empathy you have for your customers’ needs and be sincere about the desire to help. This is the first step in building brand loyalty.

Don’t Over-Personalize

The information most systems let you gather on your customers should never ever be revealed to them, use the data only to add real value to the conversation. If the client gets the feeling of his privacy being invaded he will consider going to your competitors.

Communicate Clearly

The style of communication matters, this might be the customer’s first glance at the company. Pay attention to grammar, be precise and don’t ever use emoticons. Keep in mind that when hiring for a web chat position the agent has to be able to express empathy through writing. The safe approach would be monitoring your employees for the dozen or so first sessions.

Be Positive

The two key elements are positive attitude and service knowledge when these two are combined they form the perfect customer service experience. Be responsive and reassure the customer that you’re here to help him.

Use those five tips and you’ll quickly notice:

  • Happier customers.
  • Reduced cost of operations.
  • Improved profits.

These simple, yet effective guidelines provide a steady framework for your customer care team; a base which can be adapted and modified according to your personal observations and for the best outcome. Now go out there and deliver exceptional customer care!

The Real Value of First Contact Resolution

The more satisfied customers are, the more loyal they’ll become – embrace customer centricity.

It’s not a mystery that first contact resolution is one of the main drivers for customer satisfaction.

Even the smallest improvements to first contact resolution (FCR) have an impact on increasing customer satisfaction, at an astonishing rate of 1:1, which quite frankly is huge.

 

Cost Effective

First Contact resolution not only increases customer satisfaction but improving FCR in your contact centre should be the top priority, simply because it greatly reduces costs.

So there is without a shadow of a doubt a business case for improving first contact resolution, as a result, many companies are investing heavily in customer service training and analytics tools, to measure and improve this voluble metric.

But is focusing mainly on FCR sufficient in order to maintain customer loyalty?
Most certainly not.

 

Keep It Balanced

There are many vital aspects that correspond and impact customer satisfaction thus shaping customer loyalty, these “what-if’s” are:

  • What if; you encountered a poorly trained contact centre agent?
  • What if; the representative didn’t have sufficient product knowledge?
  • What if; you had to be kept on hold for 20 minutes while listening to some ungodly music track?
  • What if; the issue was resolved but the agent was rude and interrupted the conversation numerous times?

 

Diversify

Overly focusing on one metric is a sign of bad management. Embrace the balanced scorecard tactic and evaluate your employees and customer service process’s using these criteria:

  • First Contact Resolution
  • Post contact IVR survey, ask the customer how would they rate the experience
  • Customer retention metric to evaluate the likelihood of a customer leaving within 4 weeks
  • Include Average Handle Time; despite all the hate it gets if you wish you could keep it hidden from the contact centre agents
  • Cross-selling abilities
  • Average time spent on hold; waiting on hold is despised by the customers
  • Number of appropriate escalations
  • Employee satisfaction; happy staff = happy customers

 

First contact resolution is a vital metric which greatly impacts customer satisfaction and helps reducing costs, but focusing on FCR alone is simply not enough.

Take all variables into consideration when trying to increase customer loyalty and act accordingly, ask the customers what parts of the customer experience you provide do they cherish and which ones do they despise, and get to work.

How to Align Employee Training with Customer Expectations

Email is the most popular communication method for customer care delivery and with more contact centres embracing the multi-channel approach, proper monitoring is essential in achieving high productivity.

Bellow, you’ll find tips on how to get the most out of email communication channel and deliver exceptional customer experience.

 

Conduct grammar and spelling checks

Emails to customers have to be professional, just being readable won’t cut it. Your contact centre agents can easily undermine your companies image with poor spelling and bad grammar. This step while being fairly easy to conduct will pay off tremendously in the long run and will save precious time while avoiding confusion.

 

Pick the right tone

When monitoring emails, set a central set of rules and guidelines, or even a template. Just don’t be too restrictive, let the agents choose the appropriate tone – one that suits the specific customer query.

An overly formal email might be too hard to understand for most customers, a chatty one, on the other hand, has the potential to alienate the customer.  Also, you wouldn’t address a senior in the same manner as you would a typical college “bro”, now would you?

Simply, let the agents adjust the tone to suit different situations.

 

Coach and review independently across all platforms

When conducting quality checks, use a larger sample pool than just a couple of interactions. This applies to single agent evaluation and team evaluation process as well.

If agents work on multiple communications channels score each one independently and coach accordingly. Good coaching will improve performance, but sometimes agents aren’t meant for some particular channel.

Pay attention to their skill sets, and assign them to projects that will utilise those to their full potential. This will drive productivity even higher.

 

The mystery shopper

Email is no different than a traditional call or even retail when it comes to mystery shoppers. This is a quite simple, yet often overlooked assessment technique that provides valuable data.

Having an external entity grading your staff is a smart move.

 

Answer the question – don’t “copy & paste”

The number times this simple step is overlooked makes us at OpsTalent cringe. Has the contact centre agent actually answered the customer’s query, or did he just send a prescripted response that has nothing to do with the question and provides no resolution what so ever?

Measuring success and first contact resolution will help you identify potential problems, and when these metrics improve it will be a clear sign that you are on a clear path to exceptional customer experience.

Make sure that any potential answers are consistent across all communication channels are consistent and relevant.

Also, personalise the email, it’s a small yet often welcome touch that embraces the vision of brand loyalty.

 

Don’t obsess over response time

Yes, response times do matter, and contact centres, as well as customers, rightfully care about them. Keep in mind tough, that customers understand that email isn’t used as the go-to “real time” channel, that’s what web chat is for or even the conventional phone call, or in some cases remote access.

Just make sure that customers know their request is being processed and that the response will be accurate and delivered in timely fashion.

Set up automated acknowledgements that set realistic response time for each query, this will help in managing customer expectations and your enterprise will avoid possible “clogs” caused by additional mail enquiries – this is especially vital during the festive season or during a new product/campaign launch.

Measuring email quality is easier than you might think,  just make sure that your training and quality expectations are fully aligned – that’s the recipe for exceptional customer service.

Core Traits of Customer-Centric Employees

If you ignore customers, they’ll ignore you back.

If you respond to customer support tickets well past their average response time you’ll send a clear message – you ignore users issues and product queries. You can observe a similar phenomenon in retail, a customer left standing without anyone coming to assist them will simply get up and leave as they’ll figure it’s a standard practice.

You need to remember that “How can I help you?” is the most crucial sentence in terms of customer engagement.

It’s really easy to turn away potential customers.

All it takes is one bad experience with your product or a slip up from your staff, and they’ll be leaving through the nearest exit. Unfortunately, it’s the polar opposite when it comes down to winning over new clients, which makes losing potential sales due to lack of employee engagement, plainly wrong.

You need to map out your customer journey and focus each and every aspect of it on the customer, be it social media, cell phone or help desk. The rules of the game changed, providing a great product or service is simply not enough, you need to create lasting and positive experiences.

Customers can be annoyed in a multitude of ways, including but not limited to costly fumbles such as your help desk not being all that helpful, or your sales team just dropping a pre-scripted pitch while the customer is asking actual questions about the product and is expecting factual answers.

Tools of the Trade

Your employees need to possess the customer skills listed bellow and leverage them to your business’s advantage:

Empathy

Showing a lack of empathy or understanding for a customer complaint or query is the fastest way to losing them as it vividly shows them that you’re not interested and simply don’t care. Usage of negative words and phrases needs to be kept to the bare minimum as it can be perceived as a sign of disinterest on your part. And let’s not forget about the tone of your voice.

Every customer deserves your full attention and empathy and it doesn’t matter what type of customers (we know some can be a handful)were you dealing with previously

A customer’s journey starts with the very first interaction with your staff and it’s irrelevant if their query is major or minor as you should care about creating positive experiences and not triage tickets.

Product Knowledge

Customers get in touch with your brand to ask questions and receive factual, intimate answers regarding the product or service you provide. Any hesitation or uncertainty will leave them with a sour taste in their mouth. Ensure you leave a positive impression be letting your passion and knowledge shine through – you’re the expert.

Furthermore, your employees are your greatest asset and potentially can become your brand’s ambassadors; if you provide a SaaS product they have to use it, and tell their peers how great of an asset it is.

Because, what message do you send to potential buyers when or if your own employees do not believe in their own product?

Ask the right questions

Problem facing customers can often be unable to clearly articulate what their issue is. That’s where experienced support agents come in as they will instantly decipher what the customer means and will respond accordingly. Which is even truer when dealing with customer support tickets, as the sheer amount of tickets agents go through makes them accurate to common issues, thus enabling them to pinpoint the cause on the spot.

However, every once in a while you’ll come across a customer who’s overwhelmed by the number of options your product or service provides – they’ll be unsure which one is best suited to their needs.

They might not even need the most expensive one, which is why it’s key to provide them with the solution they need. They may come back, solely because you were honest – it’s that simple.

Patience is a virtue

Yes, being patient is key. We’re not going to sugarcoat it, customers can be a handfull to deal with, especially when they wind themselves up, are vague in their descriptions of their issues or plainly dismissive of your support prowess. However, please keep in mind, that despite all of the above they are the ones in need, they’re the ones contacting you with their issue and their demeanour is a non-issue.

Your goal is to provide them with a positive experience, even when facing impossible odds.

An absence of patience betrays your disinterest, take a deep breath and do the following:

  • Keep your focus
  • Stay calm
  • Maintain control

Remain Calm

On a rare occasion, a customer will adopt an aggressive tone. Yes, such customers do exist. However, think before you respond and put yourself in their position. How would you react if you weren’t able to find a product feature you paid premium for or were unable to figure out a problem for an extended period of time?

Listen carefully and most importantly, be polite. You can’t allow yourself to be provoked not antagonised. Keep it cool and remind yourself that you’re dealing with a customer on behalf of your company.

Use clear language

There’s no room for vagueness nor ambiguity, be precise and tone done the industry lingo and buzzwords to the bare minimum – especially if you feel the customer is not tech-savvy or up-to-speed on the latest trends.

Confusing customers with your responses will get your nowhere as they will walk away from the time spent with you with either an unclear message or a flat our wrong one.

If you’re unsure what the customer means, then ask them to specify or probe for an answer by asking careful questions – use common sense. Be tactful, always.

Empathetic employees, who possess deep product knowledge are capable of remaining calm and coherent in each customer facing scenario in the book, and are a big asset to your enterprise.

They are a stepping stone on your path to customer centricity by providing your customers with positive experiences which last.

The Perils of Customer-Centricity

Committing to customer experience continues to be a significant challenge organisations will face in 2017.

It is becoming virtually impossible to find a company who has not tried to become customer-centric by embracing customer experience, however, not many were capable of transitioning fully.

The inability to commit to customer experience or to sustain focus on the process at hand, including the numerous challenges it presents, is the reason why consumers have so many negative experiences. Ones, which leave them unsatisfied with the service or product but also the varying level of customer service which accompanies it.

Few organisations have been capable to truly transform the way they operate, and it’s still hard to cite actual names of companies who managed to fully “take on the mantle” of customer centricity apart from the obvious brands. Are companies simply unwilling to fully transform or they commit to the cause but once challenges appear they’re not “equipped” to deal with them properly?

Bellow you’ll find 5 reasons we at OpsTalent think are the biggest obstacles in becoming customer-centric, and putting customer experience at the forefront:

 

Leadership
We all know this, “talk is cheap” – nothing changes from just talking about the need to change. Unfortunately, businesses seem content with this practice.
Organisations are eager to hype up the importance of customer experience but when the time to take action comes they fail to operationalize customer experience. Thus, making it impossible to embrace customer centricity.
If leaders have the desire to transform their brands, then they also need to possess the drive required to make customer centricity the top priority.

 

Stability
In the corporate landscape the word “restructure” makes every employee tremble in fear – executives and managers included. This coupled with the fact that a lot of organisations restructure annually makes you wonder, and doubt how successful these processes are.

Each restructures causes instability, a possible change of priorities as well as company vision realignment. Which makes sustaining a customer-centric strategy through each consecutive restructure extremely challenging.
Stability is a necessity if you want to achieve sustainable, long-term success – including strategy and approach reinforcement.

 

Strategy
If you want short term results, then, unfortunately, customer experience transformation is not the valid way to achieve them as it’s a long-term business strategy.
Transformations require patience, tenacity and a firm belief in achieving success, only when you possess these three traits you’ll see your vision come to fruition.
Oftentimes stakeholders who are not on board with the customer-centric approach, apply too much pressure to switch focus to short term gains. Thus, bringing your customer experience efforts one step closer to failure.

 

Competencies
Lack of knowledge is what holds many businesses back from becoming customer-centric.
Without the required skills and competencies, shifting your companies focus on customer experience, not to even mention sustaining it, will prove to be a futile effort. You need people to drive the change by incorporating their abilities into the transformation process.
Developing operational knowledge needs to be a top priority (not limited to customer-centric companies mind you), at all levels of the organisation. Most importantly, leaders should not be exempt from this rule as they too need to continually develop in their role by acquiring familiarity with relatively new skill sets and lead by example.

 

People
Businesses are failing to put people first – both employees and customers at the forefront of their strategy.

You need to put your own people first, failing to do so is a surefire way to void your organisation’s chances of becoming customer-centric.
Only happy, highly motivated employees are capable of delivering excellent service – become people-centric and you will succeed.

 

We do hope that the text above didn’t dissuade you from embarking on the customer-centric journey.
The path ahead is a perilous one, however, it’s not only filled with challenges as it provides plentiful opportunities for your company to grow.