Last week I wrote – in Part 1 of this three-part blog series, – about providing real-time guidance to tech support representatives, and how this is the next big thing for contact centers. In fact, on-screen guided support is already provided to the reps of many brands that garner high customer ratings.
Whether it’s break-fix or product installation support, the contact center plays an indispensable role in making sure a customer is happy from the start. A single call or chat interaction can set the tone for how the customer feels about the brand, and whether or not she keeps the software/device or returns it (along with a scorched-earth review on the brand’s social sites). It’s really true that a successful interaction can boost repeat purchases, which can then directly impact the bottom line of the brand. And while we all continue to be squeezed on improving our cost per interaction, the challenge is ensuring balance between that and a great customer support experience.
Many consumers of these products haven’t thought much about the person on the other side of the call or chat. But being a successful contact center technician requires a rare combination of skills: patience, technical knowledge, the ability to multitask, and the empathetic desire to better the customer’s experience. And it requires something more: intuitive, detailed, guided support for the representative himself, and the ability for contact center managers to accurately and easily analyze and operationalize successful interactions.
Means and methods to better the customer’s experience
In my efforts to engineer success, my top four must-haves are:
1. Guided customer support
As we discussed in depth in Part 1, providing on-screen tools with best-practice guidance enables the technician to navigate the most efficient process to reach faster resolution. This guided support must be carefully engineered to balance a linear flow with a non-linear-thinking customer. Let’s be honest: Many customers call in with a variety of symptoms, and technicians must jump from one path of inquiry to another in order to hone in on the source of the issue. Additionally, guided support tools help current and new technicians focus on the customer as much as the technical complexity of the problem. This helps improve call quality and reduce repeat calls.
2. Remote support and innovative related services
Any service that helps reduce the distance – physically or virtually – between the customer’s device and the technician is extremely helpful in ensuring problem resolution. With customer permission for remote access and related services, contact centers can radically reduce the frustration involved in trying to get a technician to “see” what the customer is looking at and the problem he is experiencing. And when the rep can see the problem rather than depend on verbal descriptions of it, she is able to resolve it in a fraction of the handle time. This faster interaction reduces frustrations, and a very desirable side effect of shorter calls and reduced frustration is increased customer happiness, loyalty and repeat purchases.
3. Effective self-service tools
One of the trends we’re seeing in customers is the increasing demand for self service. I’ve found very few companies that offer self service and those that do, don’t do it in a customer-centric manner. When delivered effectively self service becomes a win-win-win – for the customer, the brand health and the company.
When a customer navigates through self-selected options unsuccessfully, he perceives the time as wasted and frustrating, especially if he then has to call in and start over. In our continuing attempt to reduce customer frustration, giving the technician the history of what the customer has already done utilizes the customer’s invested time. Next generation self service technology provides ease of navigation for the customer, but when that’s not enough, this new technology creates a bridge between the self service effort and the technician’s troubleshooting.
Many customers, once set on the right path by the technician, would prefer to end the call and continue their self-service efforts.
4. Analytics tools
The ultimate quest of contact centers is preventing the need for customers to call in at all. But for those calls that do come in, the goal is to understand the problem and solution details thoroughly, in an effort to improve other current and future interactions.
Many contact center software packages have analytics capabilities for activities outside the customer-technician interaction. But analytics capabilities should track and make available to the technician – in real-time and post-mortem – all issues and outcomes with the same interaction driver, be it call, email or chat. And this should specifically include the history and experiences of the customer, the device and the technician. Equally important, analytics should be able to alert contact center managers, product managers, engineers and executives of abnormalities. All of the above analytics capabilities are vital.
To wrap up Part 2 of our three-part series, let’s conclude with this thought: Customers are happiest when technology does what it’s supposed to do. But when technology fails to meet expectations or just plain doesn’t work, we need to make available to customers the channel of their choosing, when they need it, whether it be self service, or a contact center utilizing guided and remote support. When we do all of this, we reduce cost per call and we engineer a delighting customer experience.
Join us next week for Part 3 of this three-part blog series: “Top 3 Key Trends and Habits for Successful Customer Support.”