Are You Managing Customer Expectations Effectively?

Your customer care strategy is nothing without evidence that proves its meeting your customers’ expectations. Many businesses, however, have trouble gaining insights about their customers’ expectations, and as a result important opportunities for improvement are missed.

According to an infographic from Sprinklr, titled “The Cost of Not Prioritizing Customer Experience,” 80 percent of companies believe they supply ‘superior experiences,’ despite the fact that only eight percent of customers say they actually receive ‘superior experiences.’

What’s more, only one percent of customers feel that vendors consistently meet their expectations. As you can see from the findings above, there’s a serious disconnect between what companies and customers think in terms of meeting and managing customer expectations.

So how can companies make sure that they are meeting customer expectations? Below are several ways in which contact center leaders can create a customer care strategy which not only meets, but exceeds their audience’s expectations:

Ask for feedback: Give your customers ample opportunities to provide feedback. Whether you distribute an annual quality of customer care survey or you simply encourage customers to share their feedback via more informal outlets, it’s important that you ask your audience how they feel about the service that you’re providing. After all, if you don’t ask, you won’t know.

Be transparent: Transparency is critical in effectively managing customer expectations. Customers want to know that they can put all of their trust in you. If a Communicator doesn’t know the right answer to a customer’s question, he or she should be open about consulting with other team members rather, than give the customer an empty promise— or worse the wrong answer.

Give clear timelines and meet them: If a customer calls in with a question that might require more time than usual to resolve, provide the customer with a clear timeline as to when he or she can expect the answer. More importantly, make sure that you complete the customer’s task within that amount of time.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA, SOCAP, and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He is a frequent speaker for national events and has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry.

Active Listening: An Agent’s Key to Customer Care Success

Being a contact center agent can be extremely hectic. Amidst fielding calls, finding solutions, answering questions and entering data, it can be easy to lose sight of the premier task at hand: helping customers solve their problems quickly and free of frustration. Regardless of how chaotic the business day gets, the No. 1 priority should always be high-quality customer care.

Making sure that agents listen actively to their customers can help ensure this critical objective is met. While agents are provided with a script to guide their customer exchanges, they must also be attentive to their callers, paying attention to small details and listening for cues in the conversation that can help them better resolve customer issues.

One of the best ways agents can demonstrate that they are actively listening to customers is to give them feedback. This can be done by restating and rephrasing things the customer says, summarizing their points and asking clarifying questions. The benefits here are twofold: First, such feedback reassures customers that they are being listened to and understood by an agent who is present and in the moment. In fact, according to a survey conducted by Hello Operator, this form of repeating was listed by customers as one of the best ways for agents to show them they really care. Second, by restating information and asking questions, the agent can iron out any points of confusion or miscommunication and make it easier to solve problems.

Working in a contact center can sometimes feel like an endless stream of tasks. To provide the best customer service possible, however, agents must slow down, take a deep breath and focus on actively listening to their customers. Doing so will make it easier for agents to resolve issues and make customers feel valued. Then you can accurately avow that your contact center provides high-quality customer care.

Steve Brubaker began his career at InfoCision in 1985. In his current role as Chief of Staff and as a member of the Executive Team, he is responsible for HR, internal and external communications, and manages the company’s legal and compliance departments. Brubaker is a member of a number of professional organizations, including the DMA and PACE. He also donates his time to serve on several university boards, including the Executive Advisory Board for The Taylor Institute for Direct Marketing at The University of Akron and The University of Akron Foundation Board. He has also been honored with a number of awards and recognitions for his contributions to the call center industry, including the ATA’s highest honor, the prestigious Fulcrum Award.

Going Beyond ‘I’m Sorry’: The Difference between an Apology and Service Recovery

Much of what is written on this blog is designed to help business leaders understand the importance of excellent customer service and the tools they need to provide it. But no matter what business you’re in, occasional customer service slip-ups are unavoidable. Sometimes the issue—like an airline forced to delay flights because of inclement weather—is completely out of your control.

No company looks forward to these incidents, but if approached with the right perspective they are actually opportunities for you to stand out as a business dedicated to providing the absolute highest quality of customer service. How? By going beyond “I’m sorry.” True Service recovery is more than a simple apology—it’s about making things right. Here’s how you can do it:

Listen closely for subtle clues

Oftentimes, if an agent remains silent while a customer vents they can gain better insight into his or her ideal resolution. For instance, if a customer calls a bank’s contact center because he was mistakenly charged a $30 overdraft fee on his checking account, chances are the inconvenience and hassle are more at issue than the money itself. Sometimes a refund or store credit is a good idea; other times a consumer might be pleased to learn your company is going to re-examine a particular policy. The key to finding the right course of action is really listening, not just hearing.

Be empathetic

You might be surprised to know how much customers value an empathetic response from a customer service Communicator. Everybody has had a negative experience at some point, so encourage your representatives to put themselves in the consumer’s shoes and think about how they would like to be treated in a similar situation. Coach your agents to validate the customer’s feelings by saying something like, “I can hear you are upset and I will work with you for as long as it takes to get this straightened out.” That kind of compassionate response can help calm the costumer and get the call going on a more positive track.

Take responsibility

Trying to deflect blame, especially back to the customer, only makes things worse. Even if the consumer did play some small part in a mishap Communicators should avoid mentioning it because it is simply not important anymore. What matters is getting the situation fixed—quickly. Agents should be held accountable for their individual actions and, brand representatives should be held responsible for the company’s mishaps, as well.

Use feedback to make changes

Consumer feedback is one of the most valuable assets for any company because it allows you to make changes to your best practices based on empirical evidence rather than guesswork. Leveraging customer responses will improve service overall and can be particularly satisfying for customers who see their suggestions put into practice.

Research indicates that 96 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain when they have a problem, so you can be sure the ones who do reach out feel strongly about their issue. Though they may be upset at first, if your customer service Communicators make consumers feel their problem is as important to your company as it is to them, you’re on your way to service recovery and loyal customers.